Jerusalem O! Jerusalem May You be Magnified and Sanctified in Its Midst… Forever and Ever (Summer 1994)
JERUSALEM 0! JERUSALEM
May You be Magnj/Ied and Sanctified in Its Midst. . .Forever and
expressions excite the imagination and the soul of the Jew more powerfully than
those having to do with Jerusalem.
the sake of Jerusalem I shall not be still!
forget thee 0! Jerusalem let me forget the cunning of my right hand. Let my
tongue cleave unto the roof of my mouth, if I don't remember thee, if I don't
place Jerusalem at the head of my joy!
year in Jerusalem.
again, and, largely owing to our own actions, guided or misguided as they may
be, Jerusalem is back on the front burner of the Jewish agenda. Its Jewish destiny
hangs in the balance once more.
had hoped that the issue was settled finally and forever by the Six Day War in
1967. And, we still pray fervently that that will indeed prove to be the case.
is our charge today? What does Jerusalem expect of us? I write this only
several days after we've completed the reading of the third Book of Moses, the
Book of Vayikra (Leviticus). The completion of a Chumosh evokes the
Hurrah - Chazalח Chazak V'nischazeik. Be strong! Be strong! And together we shall be
stronger yet! Actually in all the chumoshim - Bibles, we
only find the one work Chazak -Be strong and
according to the Shuichan Aruch - The code of Jewish
Law- that's all that's really required. Nonetheless, it is universal tradition,
whatever practice we follow, to shout out Chazak. Chazak. V'nischazeik!
seems to me that the origin of Chazak is found in the Talmud (Baba
Metziah 32:B) - Four need strength (encouragement): I - Torah;
2 - Good Works; 3 - Prayer and 4- Derech
Eretz - which means to be involved in the world - particularly
in earning one's livelihood and that that involvement should be characterized
by sensitivity and plain good manners.
and Good Works we know! Because we find
in (Joshua, 1:6) Chazak V'Ematz - Be strong and be filled with
courage! Chazak refers to Torah and Ematz to Good Works.
we know! Because the Psalms proclaim Put your trust in G-d and Chazak - be strong! (Psalms,
finally, we know strength is needed for Derech
Ezetz as we find in (Samuel 2:1)
CHAZAK V'NISCHAZAK B'AD AMAYNU
U'B'AD ARE! ELOKAYNIU Be
and thereby we shall be together strengthened for our people and for the cities
of our G-d.
other city exemplifies more surely the city of our G-d than Jerusalem. It is
there where the Shekhina - The Divine Presence - dwells
when the Temple is in its majesty or, G-d forbid, when it lies in ruins as
is a story told of Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer, the Rabbi of St. Petersburg, when ft
was the capital of Czarist Russia, and who was affectionately known throughout
the Jewish world of his time as Reb Itzele Peterburger. He was wont to recall
with much effect his most unforgettable Yom Kippur.
Petersburg was closed to all Jews except for a select few who by virtue of
wealth and/or celebrity were granted special permission to live there. Even for
this small privileged group certain parts of the city were off bounds save for
the cantonists who were allowed to reside wherever they willed
because of their lifelong service in the Russian Army.
represented a sorry Jewish chapter in nineteenth century Russia. They
were the young Jewish lads who were snatched from their parents when only 9 and
10 years old and were forced to serve in the Czar's army for stints of thirty,
forty and fifty years. And the only synagogue in that part of St. Petersburg
built by the cantonists. One year, Reb Itzele Peterburger, who was one
of the legendary disciples of Reb Yisroel Salanter, who founded the Mussar
movement, that powerful moralist strand still profoundly felt in the fabric of
our religious life today, incredibly found himself on the eve of Yom Kippur in
that part of town. Unable to return to his own home he had no place to daven
except in the cantonist synagogue!
so he prayed there - on Kol Nidre night and the day of Yom Kippur itself.
When they reached Neila - the closing prayer of that
solemn day, Reb Itzele asked the congregation if they would allow him to lead
the Neila service. Although they held him in the highest esteem, they
explained to him that they have a tradition of long standing that that honor is
reserved for the oldest cantonist among them. In that case I withdraw
my request. Quite properly you must maintain your tradition. Whereupon the
gentleman upon whom this honor fell went up the Bima.
just as he was about to begin, he turned to Reb Itzele and asked his permission
to say a few words before he began Neila. to which the Rabbi quickly
assented. At Neila. even as during the entire day of Yom Kippur, we ask
principally for three things, the cantonist declared, Bani, Chayay.
U'Mezonai. We ask for children, for life and for sustenance. But for us cantonists
these have little meaning. Army regulations don't allow cantonists to
marry so we don't have children. And what kind of life do we have, forcibly
sundered as we were in childhood, from hearth and home, and, most importantly,
from the observance of our faith and sent to serve in the remotest areas of our
motherland to suffer the brutal cold of winter and the stifling heat of the
summer? Finally, sustenance doesn't mean much to us either. We're not now in a
position to become entrepreneurs amassing great wealth and for our daily bread
all we have to do is go to the army commissary. So ending in a peroration the cantonist
wondered, What does a cantonist have to ask for when we say Neila?
He paused for a moment and without answering directly began intoning the
Kaddish which introduces Neila: YISGADAL V'YISKADASH
SHMAY RABBA -Magnified
and Sanctified His Great Name and, he paused, again, powerfully conveying
what a cantonist prays for on Neila is just that - may
G-d's great name be magnified and sanctified. That is all that is left for the
cantonist to do and for what a cantonist prays!
are we supposed to pray for when we think of Yerushalayim. of Jerusalem,
especially now, when, Heaven forfend, Jerusalem may be up for grabs again, or
parts of it. What does Jerusalem expect from us at this portentous juncture.
think the answer is found in the Kedusha prayer we say in the Shabbos
morning service an
echo what the cantonist prayed for a century or
more ago - the affirmation of TISGADAL
V'TISKADASH B'SOCH YERUSHA
IREKHA L'DOR VADOR
U'L'NETZACH NETZACHIM!. May you
L-rd be magnified and sanctified in the midst of Jerusalem, Your City, forever
Rabbi Zevulun Charlop
- Levaya of Rabbi Joshua Hoffman