Yerushalayim and the Chasam Sofer

Words will always fail those who can remember June 1967. Who can express the pride, the joy, the longing we felt as we watched the newsreels of awestruck Israeli soldiers at the Kotel, returned to Jewish hands after two thousand years? Those who remember cannot watch those newsreels today without an ample supply of tissues, without still feeling the pressure of hearts beating so powerfully that it hurt.

On this, the 40th anniversary of Yom Yerushalayim, my own words are inadequate. Instead, I will present those of the Chasam Sofer, in a eulogy he delivered in 1837 for the victims of the earthquake in Tzefat that killed thousands, and published in Toras Moshe after Parshas Emor. May it be His Will that our sense of gratitude to Him for restoring Yerushalayim to our hands be not dulled by the awareness of the buffoons who head the State today, and that we need not wait another 40 years to witness the next, much awaited step: the return of the Shechinah to a restored Temple.

[The Chasam Sofer first finds allusions to the tragedy in both biblical text and the Mishnah at the end of Sotah. He then searches for a way to make sense out of the catastrophe. Why did it occur? Apparently ignoring Rabbi Feldman’s cogent arguments (Tradition, Spring 2007, pgs. 5-16) against attempting to know the Divine Mind, the Chasam Sofer continures:]

Our G-d is righteous. The earthquake was a consequence of the jealousy of Yerushalayim. There is the gate to Heaven, the city that was joined together. There is Har HaMoriah, the site of the binding of Yitzchak. There Yaakov slept and had his dream of the ladder; there was the Temple Mount; there is the hill that all mouths turn to [in prayer]. The Shechinah never departed from the Western Wall.

For close to a hundred years, people have entirely turned to Tzefat. The grave of the man of G-d the Rashbi is there in Meron; the Ari in Tzefat. Those who make aliyah to Israel look only to Tzefat and Tveriah, and Yerushalayim is completely forgotten. It, however, is a city in which Hashem can be found, where even in contemporary times it is a mitzvah to go up there on Yomim Tovim…But people only think of going to Tzefat to celebrate the yahrzeit of R’ Shimon bar Yochai. I have already disputed this with R Zalman Margolies – where do we find the notion of establishing a holiday on the day of the death of a tzadik…? (See Shut Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #233)

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8 Responses

  1. michoel halberstam says:

    Thanks for reminding us all of how those of us who were old enough to understand what was happening felt when we heard the news of the liberation of Yerushalayim. Similarly, Although I do not remember, I have been told that the feeling amongst Jews in November , 1947, when the UN voted for partition, and later on the day the Medinah was proiclaimed was a thousand tiomes as powerful. The people who have told me this wre not at all dyed in the wool zionists, either. It is important to keep these things in perspective. I have no doubt that myt ancestors would have given years of their lives for the simple privilege af being able to go to the Kotel,or Kever Rachel , or just to walk on the beach and smell the sea.Those who cannot understand this are missing more in their lives than I could possibly give them

  2. Trefene Baal Habos says:

    why do say after 2000 years? You mean we returned to the Kosel after 19 years. Do you honestly feel after everything that has happened over the last 10 years that there is a difference between now and 1947 in our relation to the Kosel?

  3. Jewish Observer says:

    “why do say after 2000 years? You mean we returned to the Kosel after 19 years”

    – yes, but now we have the benefit of a medinah

  4. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Apparently ignoring Rabbi Feldman’s cogent arguments (Tradition, Spring 2007, pgs. 5-16) against attempting to know the Divine Mind…”

    The fact is that “attempting to know the Divine Mind” has occurred in post-prophetic times up until, and including our time. These explanations, whether for communal or individual suffering, can be part of cheshbon hanefesh. Yet, there also must be a realization that without actual prophecy, human explanations do not fathom the complete picture. Just as concerning the earthquake in Tzefas, it is reasonable to say that the “jealousy of Yerusahlayim” is not the full picture to explain human suffering, so too, when the massacres of Chmielnicki(1648-1649) or when the Holocaust are explained in terms of sin, I don’t think that it is the complete picture.

    Concerning the Tsunami, Dayan Berel Berkovits wrote the following(Summer, 2005 JA) which based on the above, I don’t think would be a complete disagreement with the Chasam Sofer(even without distinguishing between our interpretative abilities and those of the Chasam Sofer’s, which he is not discussing):

    “…But we are not nevi’im, and we do not know the darchei Hashem. It is a little presumptuous for any of us to imagine that we are able to understand the actions of the Ribbono shel Olam, or to ascribe definitive “reasons” for those actions.

    Rambam (in Hilchot Ta’anit) is not telling us why tragedies occur. He is simply telling us, firstly, that they are not just freaks of nature, but acts of Hashem; and secondly, he is telling us how we should react. It is not for us to explain how Hakadosh Baruch Hu runs His world. It is for us to respond to Him by living as He asks of us.”

  5. mb says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    Thanks for this stunning Chatam Sofer. Although he was about as hard core early 19th century Cheredi as one could be, perhaps imagining him NOT saying Tachanun on Yom Yerushalayim is not so far fetched.

  6. cvmay says:

    Amen, Amen, Rabbi Adlerstein.
    We are still suffering, from what I will call the “Meraglim* Syndrome” (*spies sent from the desert to sojourn and check out Eretz Yisroel). The Jewish people settle in a country, build Mosdos Torah, Batai Knesset, businesses, gain power through political participation, become respected individuals within their neighborhood, etc……and start calling the new place, HOME! At times we even label a city as “Ir Hakodesh” or “Ir Hatorah”, and slowly Hashem’s covenant with the Jewish nation dissipates.
    Rav Akiva Eiger ztl” reprimanded his generation for feeling comfortable in Europe and calling their city, “Little Jerusalem”. The Jewish Nation was promised eternally an inheritance of a HOLY LAND, and in that Land, I (hashem) will be your G-d. (**Lech Lecha, perek 12)
    The Chasam Sofer lamented the fact, that Tzefas was chosen over Yerushayalim and therefore calamities occured. Our generation has succeed in building an infrastructure of Torah life, with overflowing kehillas throughout the world, comfortable and complacent with no thoughts of “leaving to sojourn & check out Eretz Yisroel”. Why didn’t the Meraglim want to leave the desert? Why don’t we want to leave our foreign and strange countries? How many children tell their father, NO THANK YOU for the inheritance………
    cvmay “lebi bmizrach”

  7. sima ir kodesh says:

    Realisticly, not everyone can or should get up and move to Israel. Rav Z. Leff teaches, that everyone can yearn & desire a home in Israel nvevertheless.. When you finish renovating your mini-palace, thank gd, and state out loud, this is a temporary abode till I leave to E”Y. At Yeshiva dinners, end the evening with a tefilla “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Let our children hear us yearn, not just to win the raffle and stay in the Plaza for Pesach but rather for the true joy, of a home in our homeland.

  8. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >“why do say after 2000 years? You mean we returned to the Kosel after 19 years”

    Actually, Muslim attempts to completely limit Jewish access to the Kotel go back to (at least) the 1920s (those attempts were really a continuation of a much longer tradition).

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