Shabbat Behukotai 5776

Forty-nine years ago next week, a 2,000-year-long dream came true. “Har Habayit beyadenu–the Temple Mount is in our hands,” came the simple but emotional declaration by Motta Gur, commanding officer of the Jerusalem Brigade of the IDF. The return of Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem is one of the greatest moments in our history. We celebrate that moment right after Shabbat at the beginning of Yom Yerushalayim.
I thought of the conquest of Jerusalem while reading the Torah portion for this week, Behukotai. It’s best known for containing the tohekhah, a stiff warning to the Israelites about what will happen if they don’t follow God’s laws. Let’s not forget, though, that the parshah begins with promises of blessings as well. Notably, the language and themes are parallels. For example: “You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:7) is the blessing; “You shall be routed by your enemies, and your foes shall dominate you. You shall flee though none pursues (26:17) is the corresponding threat.
The battle for Jerusalem was won at significant cost to lives of many IDF soldiers, but it’s called the Six Day War for a reason. The Jerusalem campaign didn’t take even that long! What were the final stages of that battle like? On Shabbat morning, I’ll share testimonies from members of the Jerusalem brigade as they describe their ascent to the Temple Mount, for the reunion of Jews with the Kotel, the aspiration of centuries of Jewish longing.
Sadly, the Kotel remains a symbol of an elusive peace for the Jewish People. I thought of that reality as well when reading the Torah portion. On Shabbat morning, I’ll reflect on the relationship between the parsha and Yom Yerushalayim, and their meaning for Diaspora Jews today.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise