Hakhsharat Ha'Avreikhim (A Young Adult's Spiritual Guide)--Chapter Four: How Can You Free Your Emotions? (Part Two)
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Piaseszner Rebbe)
But our thought cannot be powerful without imagery. And see Tikunei Zohar (Tikun 70), which refers to the imaginative soul right after the thinking soul.
And see Rambam’s Shmoneh Perakim (Chapter One), which says that when people describe the soul as being divided into different parts, they are only describing its separate activities, but in essence the soul is one.
And in this way, in my Chovat Hatalmidim (Essay One, Section One), I described the five parts of the soul--nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, yechidah. We do not have five holy souls within ourselves—only one soul. And according to how high it is and how much light it sheds, it has its own name. In the same way, the Tikunei Zohar’s essay, Patach Eliyahu describes the sefirot as “one long and one short and one in-between,” even though this division only refers to the level to which they are revealed and spread their influence down below.
In other words, the Tikunei Zohar doesn’t mean to say that there is a thinking soul and a visualizing soul. Rather, at first when our soul activity is weak, then only a small part of it expresses itself, and it thinks. But when we activate more of it, then it also shows us images. I noted in Chovat Hatalmidim (Essay Two, Section One, footnote) that if you have a weak thought about some enemy who has insulted you, you don’t visualize his face. But if you think about him more forcefully, you do visualize his face, and in addition you recall what he said to you and the circumstances—and all of this is called visualizing. As I said there, forceful thought and imagination are one and the same thing. The only difference is that some things you can visualize in images, such as a house, a person, etc. But other things you cannot see in your mind’s eyes, such as words, and so that you recall with a forceful thought alone. But both are called visualization.
And so only on a background of thought does the emotion of soul reveal itself. Therefore, only if you think and ruminate on the evil that someone did you will you arouse your feelings of anger, as long as yours is a forceful thought.
In other words, the extent of feeling depends on how forcefully and to what extent you think about something. If you want to expand your intellectual knowledge you must fill your mind with many different facts and concepts.
In the same way, if you want to expand your thinking ability so that you can concentrate at length and forcefully, you must fill your mind with many different visual images.
I stress that these must be a variety of different images. First of all, you will not expand your thinking and visualizing on the basis of one image alone. Also, by nature thought and mental image do not remain in your mind unless you add new images. So you can only hold the thought of the evil that someone did to you if you imagine what he was thinking, and how he prepared himself, and exactly how he raised his hand against you and exactly what he said to you, and so forth.
So if you want to manifest your holy thoughts on a holiday or on the Sabbath, strengthen your holy thoughts about the holiday and the Sabbath. And in order to do so, it isn’t enough that you simply think that the holiday or the Sabbath are holy, because you cannot hold that thought for long, nor can you make it forceful. Instead, you have to fill them with images and think about these forcefully. That which is not visual think about with powerful concentration, and those that are visual imagine visually, as though they are literally standing before you. Only in this way will you manifest the emotions of your soul.
Even when your soul is not feeling emotional, by such thoughts you can awaken it to feeling.
Noam Elimelech (Parshat Lech Lecha) states that in order to arouse your thought, imagine that you are standing in the Temple—imagine the altar and the Heichal and so forth. And that will bring you to total clarity and clinging to God, making it possible to pray with great feeling, with awe and love, as though you were standing in the Holy of Holies. And he stresses that it should be as though you are actually seeing this—not just a forceful thought, but a powerful visualization.
So thought, image and visualization affect your soul—and not only that, but they make it possible for your soul to cling to holiness outside of itself and to draw down that holiness from above, so much so that we cannot even imagine how much this does for us and how high we can rise.
This is discussed in Ohr Hachamah, written by the Chidah’s grandfather, a commentary on the Zohar (Vayeishev p. 192a), in which he cites R. Moses Cordovero: “Meditate on the wisdom that you learned from your mentor. See him in your mind’s eye and cling to him, soul to soul...As Rabbi Aba explains in the Zohar—in Mishpatim—if he had a halachic question, when he used to visualize the image of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the halachic answer would shine upon him. And that is the concept of soul clinging to soul. And you can only visualize something on the basis of something that you have physically seen. So concentrate on that form—i.e., the image of your teacher—and as a result you will arouse his soul and wisdom and you will reach levels that you had never before reached.”
So you need thought together with visualization. Only then can you cling to the holiness that you are imaging. And through that holiness, Torah and new insights will be drawn down to you from above.
In my Chovat Hatalmidim, I gave some examples of how to elicit your soul’s holy feelings on Pesach and on Friday night, and how to strengthen such thoughts and fill them with impressions stemming from holy concepts and images. And now I will in addition describe the third Shabbat meal.
Do you feel nothing when you are sitting amongst your fellow Hasidim at that time? That cannot be! Even if your spirit doesn’t tremble the entire time that you are sitting with them, can it be possible that for at least one moment or another, during a song or at least one line of a song, flames or at least sparks of fire don’t go through you, causing all your limbs to shake and all of your sinews to burn?
If your business and this-worldly affairs throughout the week have dulled you and your mind so that you do not sense your obligations either to God, or to yourself—the things you must do to keep yourself out of Sheol, the destructive pit and trap, in this world and the next—so that you do not gaze at the holy elevations, because you must engage in this-worldly business, at least on the holy Sabbath, when you rest from your business, when you are far from this-worldly concerns, and when an extra soul and a holier light fill you and surround you, how is it possible that you won’t be concerned, that you won’t sigh for the years of your life that are passing week by week in triviality, foolishness and meaningless activities, and for the fact that, whereas at every moment you are aging and with every day and every week you come that much closer to the end of your life, instead of increasing holiness and coming closer to God, you go the other way, you sink even deeper into the swamp—perhaps not with actual sinning, perhaps not with neglecting Torah study—yet nevertheless, even if your subtle sins are many, if you continuously entertain ulterior motives and tolerate distracted thoughts, they have the power to push you into the mud up to the neck, so how is it possible that you don’t experience the time of Shalosh Seudot, the time that the holy Shabbat is leaving, like an hour from Yom Kippur?
But Shalosh Seudot is not only a time to worry and sigh over your lowliness. It is also a time of elevation. The tzaddikim say that Shalosh Seudot is what our sages refer to when they say that “one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is superior to the entire world to come.” And my honored, holy father-in-law quotes my grandfather, the holy tzaddik, the Maggid of Koznitz, who once said that Shalosh Seudot corresponds to the state that our sages describe as “the tzaddikim sitting with their crowns on their heads, taking pleasure from the radiance of God’s Presence.” Even a stone in the wall would glow with light if it were in the Garden of Eden as it enjoyed the supernal pleasure. Yet even as you are experiencing an hour superior to that of the Garden of Eden, it is as though it has nothing to do with you. No doubt your laziness is again misleading you, telling you that you have no right to compare yourself to the maggid and other tzaddikim. But that is an answer supplied by your evil inclination. God rules over everything. The tzaddikim felt and took pleasure of God’s holiness on the level of the head. But you at least can feel something on the level of the heels or the very edge of the heels of holiness.
But certainly you feel Shalosh Seudot within yourself. Your heart and mind shake and tremble at the sound of the roar of the celestial wheel, the wheels of the Chariot that rides through your soul. Yet you are unable to focus and see. And the roar fades away until you barely realize that God had come with all His holy attendants.
Each one of us has to look, to think, to visualize and to imagine, on our level. And the simple view of, for instance, the third Shabbat meal, is as follows.
You have experienced the Sabbath, a day of complete holiness. You were sanctified from heaven, and you also sanctified yourself on this day. You didn’t go to work, you didn’t go through the marketplace and the streets, you didn’t act frivolously, you sat in lone meditation with God, or together with your colleagues, you learned Torah and discussed holy topics and Hasidism.
You cleansed yourself of all the dust and stains that had accumulated during the week, and you strove to reach your soul. And with every passing hour, you felt yourself rising from level to level, from one holy stage to an even holier stage, until you came to the third Sabbath meal, the peak of the Sabbath, that hour of God’s desire.
It is one of the three Sabbath meals, but you sense that this is neither the place nor situation to satiate yourself with meat and fish, but rather to seek God Who conceals Himself in the hidden palace, and to be satiated with His radiance. And you sit together with your colleagues, who also seek God’s countenance, and you sit in the darkness, a Jewish custom which is Torah itself, for the darkness aligns your physicality with the state of your soul at that point, for there are two types of darkness (Tikunei Zohar 30: “there is a darkness from the side of purity, and darkness from the other side”). It is written in regard to God that “He makes darkness His hiding place.” That is a true light. It only seems dark to our simple understanding, the understanding of this world, for this world and its people cannot understand God’s great light. The entire world is nothing before Him.
And since it is an entire twenty four hours that you have been removing yourself from this world and coming closer, step by step, to that state of being called “the moment of divine will, acceptance, and desire,” with your mind, heart and your bodily senses, your body itself must sit in the dark; neither your heart nor your eyes see any more the world and the things of the world before them.
God dwells in the darkness. And after searching and seeking throughout all of the Sabbath, you have come to the cloud where God is, you have sought and found the One Whom your soul loves.
Your soul approaches God and melts in His holiness.
The entire room is filled with the host of heaven, and you push yourself through all this holy company to the Holy of Holies, your soul yearns to enter within and to come to the place where God is. “I grasped Him and I did not weaken my hold.”
And if you knew that you would remain like this forever, your soul would be eternally joyful. But you are aware that in a few minutes, the lights will be lit, and you will again fall into the weekdays, and your soul is bitter, how can you fall from the darkness of heaven, the pure clouds, to the darkness of Egypt, the darkness of suffering, the suffering of both body and soul? You tremble in profound feeling.
Now you feel them both: the End of Days, and the end of the day, the peak of holiness and the nadir of the non-holy.
Now, at the third meal, the two strains of darkness battle within you. It is like the story of the prince who was cast away from his father and thrown into jail. At the very last moment before leaving his father, he pushes ever closer to his father, pushes himself forward, grasps and embraces him, takes pleasure and yearns; and in the midst of its pleasure and fear, the soul cries out from the depths “even when I walk in the valley of the deathly shadow, I will not fear evil, for You are with me.”
Your hands, trembling, seek, You are with me, “I grasped Him and I did not weaken my hold.”
Gaze and look, for all this is occurring in your soul, except that you have not paid it any mind and you have not known. And is it possible that such a spiritual state will not leave its impression on the entire week? If you do not think at all, or even if you do think but you don’t fill your thoughts with images, and you do not bring forth the visions of the experiences of your soul, and you do not weave them into occurrences that give you something to think about, then the spark and the thought will die out and quickly melt away, even when they are occurring they will not make a large impression, and they will certainly leave nothing in their wake. But if you act with your soul and you strengthen your thought, then even if at first you do not succeed in raising up full images as that which I have here described, nevertheless you will experience fragmentary images.
For instance, when you feel that during the Third Meal you have acquired some additional fear of God, do not let it pass away and be extinguished immediately. But keep it alive and say to yourself or even aloud, “I fear God, so much do I fear my great and holy God. God is close to us right now, and so much do I fear my holy and great Only One, the Creator of all worlds.”
And calmly think or say this, and repeat the words if you feel that they add to and broaden your fear of God. Just don’t merely think of the words that you are saying, only think of the greatness of the Creator of all the worlds, upper and lower.
And then it is possible that when you gaze in your awe at the darkness in the room, spontaneously there will come to your mind the verse said of Abraham our forefather when God revealed Himself to him, “And behold a fear and great darkness fell upon him.”
And if your soul is elevated at this moment—“and his heart was elevated in the ways of Hashem”—and you consider, How fortunate we are, how good is our portion, we are far distant now from the world and its roar, separate from everything. And we yearn only for the One Who is Holy and Whose servants are holy, and we cry out and come closer to the Infinite, Endless One, and we sing songs and praises to Him.
And you look at this room and at the darkness in which, at this moment, you are removing the entire world from yourselves, and you embrace and unite yourself with God. And then of itself a verse sparks forth, “And Moses came to the cloud where God was.” And your lips murmur the words of the song, “Save those who delay ending the Sabbath, so they are not closed off from the holiness of Sabbath flowing into the six weekdays.”
Master of the world, spread this holiness of Yours upon us throughout the week.
But be aware and very clear not to err and think that I mean to say that when the time for the Third Meal comes, you should clear your mind to seek thoughts and visualize images—not at all!
The most important thing at the time of the Third Meal is to connect yourself to God and pour your heart out to Him. Immerse yourself in this.
And in general my intention is not only to indicate visualizations to you, but to reveal to you your soul that visualizes, as I cited the holy words of the Tikunei Zohar regarding the “visualizing soul.”
Everyone has a soul that creates images from everything that he feels and is affected by, from it come the dreams of the night and the images of the day. And every individual, corresponding to the things that he does and is involved with, uncovers his visualizing soul.
...There can even be two old people who no longer work. When they see something new that makes an impression on them, each one of them will create images in accordance to what he had once been involved with. Why should that be? He is no longer engaged in that work. It is no longer his business. The answer is that when they did work and do business, their actions affected their souls, and it was affected and changed as a result of those actions, to the point that each one revealed a specific visualizing soul within himself. So that even now, spontaneously, it visualizes such images as a result of strong feeling.
And we are striving so that there won’t be revealed to us a visualizing soul of itself, showing trivialities, but that rather we will uncover from within ourselves that soul-force that images holy matters and visions, and that it will do so of its own accord, without our having to seeking such thoughts and visions.
God willing, I will speak further on about the revelation of visions of the mind and feelings of the soul—what they come from and how. But now let us set that aside.
I was telling your mother the vision of the unveiling.
It seems she was really hungry for a view of the desert.
The morning in the desert was cold. It was unrelenting.
I showed her a handful of crystals.
Let me see the crystals, she said.
She showed them to her mother.
She looked at them and held them.
Will you hold them? I said.
I went to meet her.
Your mother said that when she had been a girl, no one had told her.
That is to say, no one told her.
One day, I was standing with my mother at the entrance of the tent. Your father was sitting at the roadside.
A number of men came walking up.
From a distance, we had seen their shadows.
I held a crystal in my hand.
In those days….
Time creates the illusion that simultaneity is sequential.
I headed down the river. White was black, black was white.
White contains colors, black is shorn of colors.
Either way, I cannot understand You.
The river is/is not/is a river.
My passage is/is not/is a passage.
Two flies in amber
An entire universe unmoving
Are no different than an entire universe moving.
Why bother making a machine to make bolts
If you don’t need bolts?
The only thing that makes the flag ripple
Is human will rippling.
I said nothing straight.
No one could talk to me and I could talk to no one.
I thought that I would go off on my own, or not on my own.
I went, I traveled, I thought.
I ceased to think.
הצב המתהלך ביער לא חסר לו זמן
והסוף והראשית הם נקודה מופשט
והעיר והנהר והסבל
עולים בקנה אחד
ואני מפזר הספירים
ואגלי המים מתנופפים.
One star borrows from another star,
The moon borrows from the sun,
From their original root,
Which is the word of God,
Down into the blade of grass.
This is the hierarchy,
The chain of heaven,
The prison of being,
Until the hierarchy is flattened,
The sparks are unmanacled,
Healing pervades bread and water.
A person’s flight of thought grows so strong
That it rises up beyond all measured logic,
Certainly beyond every set, this-worldly law.
His heart yearns to fly upward,
And he cannot by any means
Constrict his spirit into measured learning.
He should set his spirit free,
Soar wherever he wishes,
Seek God wherever he is taken by his soul,
Which hovers over the many streams of water.
If at that time
He turns to any practical learning,
He cannot delve into it deeply,
Because his spirit is soaring far.
But at any rate he can learn,
If his spirit will take him,
Where quickness of thought will carry him on its wing.
He will gulp down whatever ideas he finds
And they will blend together into a significant amount.
A spirit like that cannot be summed up in order and pulse.
It cannot be weighed down with measured precision.
But its measure will be in a person finding for himself
The comfortable possibility to come to terms
With practical reality and the state of his life,
Which demands its needs
And cannot give them up completely,
Even when faced with the highest demands
Of heavenly spirit.
Shemonah Kevatzim 1:151
From silence, I traveled to silence. From having no mouth, I came to what the mouth cannot speak. From being a beast of burden I came to the realm where there were no boundaries, and I remained within boundaries. I traveled from barley to wheat. I traveled from rushing to standing still. I traveled from unleavened wafers to leavened bread. I traveled from blood to silence, from transformation to transformation of transformation.
translated from the Yiddish
I will probably never forget that image of Shavuos before daybreak when, for the first time, we made our way to the Kosel. This was without a doubt the greatest experience of my life: touching the Kosel with my body, with my closeness. If moments exist in a person’s life when he connects himself to the generations that came before him, for me that was one of those great moments. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that at that point I carried within me the souls of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers, going back for all generations. Here, I brought them back to the point of their origin. Through me, their grandson, the circle was made complete. It was linked together.
A few days had passed since the Old City of Jerusalem had been taken. It was in our hands. Yet it still remained enclosed within its walls. We walked around it, again and again. From within it, we could feel its atmosphere. We hovered in our apartments and houses in the New City; then at night, it carried us from our beds.
Perhaps it was good that we still could not go there—suddenly. It was good that although everything was ready, we still remained distant.
We could not rest because of the border, now intangible, that divided us from the Kosel. During the day, we gazed out our windows, past the flat roofs of our capital city’s houses. All the surrounding roofs were filled with people. We looked silently down into the valley, and then higher. We were still. The Kosel is in our hands; it is already within us. We breathed together with it. We had never before known that our souls are of stone—and of such a soft, soaked-through stone. There, in that moisture, lay our tears.
The Kosel is within us. We feel it before us, so close, just beyond the horizon.
We realize that through all generations, our souls had been drawn magnetically, from no matter how far, to that site which is now open before us.
The stone draws our bodies.
What stops us from letting ourselves go?
But we patiently wait. This is a sweet-terrible waiting. Let us not rush. Let us prepare. Now, we wait of our own accord. I remind myself that in all my years in Jerusalem, when I would wander about the city wall from our side—over the hills, over the towers of the houses, looking over to the other side, so close, yet so unattainable—I would feel that it has to be this way, perhaps forever. The longing within us must never cease. Every Jew has within him something of Moses: “You shall see the land from afar—but you shall not enter.” We received that eternal longing and decree with love. We left the arrival for future generations, or for the days of the Messiah, when we will be stripped of physicality.
It is good that something always remain “from afar,” something that we cannot attain.
But now, everything is open. Over the walls of the city wander its guardians. We put them there. They stand above it the entire day and night. We feel that the dream is in our hands. If we want, we can open our eyes—and everything is real. But we squeeze them shut even more strongly. We want the dream of all generations to continue within ourselves.
We wander through these days, which keep us from the near-by city, as though closed within ourselves. We are tied to our own bodies, and cannot get out. And not only we—the city itself is held, restrained within its last strength. We are aware of Jews streaming from all directions to reach the Temple Mount—but they still cannot arrive.
It is the week before Shavuos, the holiday of receiving the Torah. We ourselves have entered that archetypal epoch. At that time too, Jews waited three days, purifying themselves. We clearly feel that all of our souls were there, at the foot of the mountain. The eras lock themselves about us; we stand in their midst.
That week of waiting, we encircled and surrounded the Old City. We embraced it. I was among those who had that merit. My feet skipped over the valleys, clattered over the mountains. I climbed up, and back down.
An extraordinary thing happened to us: together with our sense of wonder, our Bible-language returned to its original freshness. All of our other words, our daily language of the entire year, lost its meaning. It was merely rhetoric. Suddenly, we could no longer use it. We became mute. A miracle: the Bible exists. It has become young, and helps us speak. Without it, we stammer. Its freshness, we know, was always kept for us for these very days.
We circle the hills of Jerusalem, and within us sounds the verse, “Surround Zion and encircle it.” We leap over the valleys and hear within us “the voice of my beloved, behold he comes, leaping upon the mountains, leaping over the hills.” Even this morning, when awaking in bed from sleep, there suddenly stood before our eyes the verse: “On that day, the L-rd saved Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore.” We suddenly discovered the meaning of the words. Now, these verses flow within us with every step. They help us not only to express ourselves, but also to understand, to comprehend what is happening—with us and around us. Without these verses, we would certainly not be able to take one step. We would be blinded by the primal light that surrounds us. These verses hold us. They take us by the hand and lead us. At every turn, a verse is near. It helps us go forward.
In this way, I walk upon the surrounding mountains. I climb down to the Kidron Creek in Jehoshafat Valley. I stand there by the first Jewish monument, Yad Avshalom, with its velbungen (6). I stand at the grave of the prophet Zechariah and at the mausoleum of the priestly dynasty, Benei Chazir.
Then I go higher and stand upon the Mount of Olives. My face turns to Jerusalem. This time, I gaze from east to west, to the city with its silver and gold domes, to the foreign, magnificent monuments upon the Temple Mount. Between where I stand and the Temple Mount lies the valley. I gaze at the site of the Temple, and my legs shake. I want to kneel, to fall and prostate myself before the Mount of our G-d, before our great history of thousands of years, upon which I had suddenly clambered.
I am uplifted. Amidst the mountains and valleys around me, I see before me the old and new Jerusalem united, “like a city joined together.” From this point, our elders would see the Temple when they would come up for the holidays. From here, one can feel the eternity of the place. Suddenly, I comprehend with all my limbs and sinews why this place was chosen. Even after the destruction of the Temple, Jews would come to the Mount of Olives for generations, to gaze toward the Temple Mount.
All around me is the primal silence of the mountains of Judah, brown at their peaks, beneath streaming sunlight, as though it is a holiday—white, light-spattered, illumination reaching to the heights. One cannot gaze at their beauty.
Farther below are the sand and boulders that had once torn at the feet of the prophets. In their sorrow, they had become one with the calm, eternal mountains. Even then, they had suffered from the pain of the destruction to come, a pain that burned in their veins and bones. They left for us here the fiery imprints of their steps. We carry them within ourselves until this day. All this time, we have held them within ourselves.
We felt their bare feet within us when we no longer saw this landscape before our eyes. Their feet walked within us, pressing upon our hearts.
Their prophecies about our redemption, made in that long-ago time, are coming true before our eyes. We are living in that far-off “it will be in that day”—that day which is neither day nor night.
I stand on the Mount of Olives and look down its incline. For all generations, Jews came from everywhere to Jerusalem to be undisturbed; so that their bones would be buried in this earth, so that they would not have to roll through the underground passages. Here, on the Mount of Olives, the bearer of good tidings will first come; here, his steps will sound for the first time.
I look across the breadth of the mountain and I see the destruction before me: almost all the graves have been destroyed. Tombstones are shattered, smashed into pieces. Perhaps the bones of a grandfather of mine, or a great-grandfather, rest here. I want to fall upon the graves, to tear my clothing in grief and cry into them the weeping of generations, which has gathered within me. My feet are now standing upon the Mount of Olives. Suddenly, I recall the verse: “his feet will stand on that day on the Mount of Olives facing Jerusalem from the east.” Here will the nations come, to be judged in the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
Again, we encircle the city. We spring across the mountains and valleys. We are to the north of the Mount of Olives, above Mt. Scopus, with its modern buildings of Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University. We descend to the cave of Shimon Hatzaddik, to the burial niches of the Sanhedrin. We come closer to the wall surrounding the Old City to the north. We circle it. “Our feet stood within your gates, Jerusalem.” We stand before the gates of the wall.
The city has eight open gates. We come close to the most beautiful, the Gate of Shechem in the north, with its handsome small balconies and turrets. We go to the Gate of Flowers, also known as the Gate of Hordos. From there, we go to the east, to the Gate of Lions, with its lion reliefs, which was once called the Gate of Jehoshaphat. The Arabs called it the Gate of the Tribes, because the tribes of Israel—the tribes of G-d—would enter through it from the east, when they would go up to the Temple in Jerusalem on the holidays. This gate also leads out to Jericho.
I hurry further, to the Gate of Mercy, which is sealed with heavy stones. This gate also faces east. According to legend, gentiles once wanted to open this gate and take away the stones. But the pillars of the earth of the entire land began to shake and a storm blew up.
Tradition tells that through the Gate of Mercy, G-d’s Presence went into exile, and through it, His Presence will one day return. This gate is also known as the Gate of Gold, the Eternal Gate and the Gate of the Messiah. The two adjacent gates have been given the names the Gate of Repentance and the Gate of Mercy.
Tradition tells that the redemption will take place through that gate. Elijah the prophet will come there from the Valley of Jehoshaphat. He will blow a shofar, and the stones will fall away. The gate will open, and the Messiah will enter. For long generations, Jews prayed at that gate, as they did at the Western Wall. They cried over the destruction and pleaded for the redemption. To this day, that gate has remained locked to us. Now my fingers continuously touch the wall. My hand wipes the old stones, and I put my face to the Gate of Mercy.
Then I stand at the Gate of Lions. Through this gate, a few days ago, our parachutists broke into the Old City. I stand, and I know that through here I may not go to the Kosel. They had permission. They could. But I may not. Perhaps, it occurs to me, it is because of them, our young lions, that this gate is called the Gate of Lions.
Once inside, one can begin immediately to approach the Temple Mount. There lies the Foundation Stone from which the world began, the Holy of Holies, that spot on the earth that opens to the heights. Generations of Jews did not step on that site. Yet now one can set one’s feet upon that holy soil.()
But I withdraw. I again stand on a hill facing the city. I see the golden and silver domes of Amarmetshet and Al Aqsa upon the Temple Mount. It seems to me that this is why we cannot enter: our feet dare not step upon the mountain in its disgrace.
I remember that the Temple Mount is also Mt. Moriah, where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed. Here stood the crib of our history in the dawn of our becoming a nation.
Now our children came here to their sacrifice, so that we might become a renewed nation. It is in their merit that we now stand here again.
I have decided not to make use of my rights, not to enter the Old City—but to wait, to prepare myself, to purify myself for three days, and to enter its gates together with everyone else, with the entire nation. The holiday of Shavuos is coming. Then we will go up to Jerusalem.
The entire night of Shavuos, Jerusalem was tense. We felt that the holiday of spring, of plants, is connected with our own fields, which are the fields of the Bible. Shavuos is the holiday of first-fruits, of “Come, let us go up the mountain of our G-d.” On Shavuos, we became a nation; on Sinai, we were given the Torah. With it, we shall go forever amidst the nations.
It was hard to sleep. In all the houses, lights burned the entire night. It was not dark anywhere. Even children in their cribs and the elders in their beds could not fall asleep. Mothers remained clothed in their dresses and slippers. Girls didn’t undo their hair. The dozing children dreamed that it was the Seder night, that all holidays had become one holiday. This time, we forgot that on Shavuos night, the heavens split (16a). The synagogues and schools were overflowing. People vigorously recited the Tikkun Leil Shavuos, quickly learned Talmud and Rambam. People felt that this is a night of guarding and waiting. The night will quickly become day. Before the doors of the synagogues, young people and children constantly ran out, looking.
In my house also, we did not rest. Before night, we had set the alarm clock for four in the morning, to be among the first to set out for the Western Wall. The children kept constantly waking up and, in the light of the lamp, looking at the clock face hanging on the wall. We heard our neighbors in the adjoining apartment and upstairs stirring uneasily. Windows were constantly opened and closed. Doors scraped. On the street, old Jews wandered about with their grandchildren, murmuring prayers—verses from Psalms—which sounded as though a poet had created them for the first time this evening, in honor of this hour.
At half past three, we could no longer stay home. Outside, the sky was growing blue. We washed our faces and eyes with fresh water, and we all went out. We began to walk. We knew that the Jews of the Bible had always been hidden within us; but they had not shown themselves. We had thought that we are we ourselves. But now they had come back to life. They emerged from within us. We are their heads, their bodies. We are they.
Outside, it suddenly became bright. A fresh light embraced the city, high and broad; it simply enveloped it. Everything was clear and transparent. It appeared that the heavens today were not coming down, there beyond the horizon. We would rise up [to them]. Momentarily, we would be able to see to all extremities. We would be the Nephilim, striving to rise back up.
Our children put their hands in our dlanyes (19).
In the pre-day light, we walked. From all the courts and side streets, people came forth, entire families. It seemed that if we hurried, we would be among the first. Our children pulled us by the hand. We left the main street. Far ahead of us, we saw a mass of people walking, spread across the entire panorama. They were streaming forward. We gazed down. As far as the eye could see, people were pouring forth. The crowd became denser and denser. No one cared any more about being first. In the sharp silence, there only echoed footsteps—sedate, measured, with the rhythm of generations walking to morning prayers.
Suddenly, it happened: we found ourselves at the road that dips toward the east, toward Mt. Zion. To this point, multitudes of Jews were streaming from all directions. Jerusalem police, upon whose faces the dawn had imprinted a thread of kindness, stopped us by a blocked gate. We stood there, with our wives and children.
It became clear that we were not the first by far. Great masses had already preceded us. We still had to cover several kilometers to the Kosel. The road didn’t lead straight up Mt. Zion and from it to the Old City, but circled around and around the mountain, on the new-paved roads. During the few days of our waiting, the Israeli army had blocked off the new road. Now, groups of several hundred people were being let through, one group after the other.
The gate opened before us, and we went up onto the main road. We constantly rose up and dipped down. Constantly, we were stopped at a new gate and not allowed further until the group before us had passed through its gate. Then the groups after us were let through the gates behind us.
The roads wound in circles, one over the other, like broad stripes upon the mountain. Before us opened a broad panorama across the entire horizon. Wherever the eye could see, there were multitudes of Jews climbing the roads, before us and after us.
They stopped together with us, and continued when we continued. No one hurried—old and young, women and men, children and elders, young men and young women, Israeli residents and Jews of other countries. It was a sea of colorful clothing, stopping and continuing; continuing and then stopping. Our hearts were filled with a great joy. We knew that with every step, we were coming closer.
All around were the songs of the pilgrims. The young men and young women sang, the youth from abroad: “Bring us to Zion, Your city, with song, and to Jerusalem, the site of Your Temple, with eternal joy.” Religious Jews with shtreimls on their heads and talleisim on their shoulders danced as they went, and sang, “May the Temple be rebuilt quickly, in our days.” And my heart quietly sang along. My lips muttered broken-off scraps of prayers from my forefathers, prayers of my foremothers’ prayerbook, Korbon Minchah. A soldier clapped his hands and danced, “Renew our days as of old.”
We wanted the road to continue and continue. The Jerusalem dawn shone on us mildly from all the mountains. It grew lighter. In the expanded light from the east, we saw the mountains of Moab shimmering in their gray silver fog, beneath the mountains of Judah. In the valley spread the Gichon River, the Kidron. Below us was Kefar Hashiloach. From here, water had once been drawn for the Temple.
No one spoke. The children asked no questions. We walked with drunken feet and drunken bodies—drunk from purity. We looked up at the walls of the Old City. Our soldiers, with helmets on their heads, stood there, and in the dawn breeze, the blue-white flags fluttered. We saw a few soldiers with prayer shawls on their shoulders, and from over their shoulders their rifle barrels. It seemed that these were no longer soldiers on the walls of Jerusalem, but the Levites on their watch, carrying the keys, and that at any moment, they would burst into the Song of the Day: “the L-rd is a G-d of vengeance; G-d of vengeance, appear.” And all of us, no matter how far, would sing along.
The highway before us dipped down and we saw the Mount of Olives and, at its foot, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, with the graves from the times of the Second Temple, and perhaps even the graves of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and the kings of Israel and Judah; the graves of King Jehoshaphat and from King Uziahu at the Kidron Creek; the graves of the prophetess Huldah and of the prophets Haggai and Malachi.
We looked, and we were no longer amazed. We would not even wonder if we now saw with our own eyes the dead rise from the graves, all going to the Temple. We glanced at their sheer transparency.
The sound of our feet was a wave of song bursting forth. We now saw—full and without number—new groups, before and after us—thousands upon thousands. Everyone walked calmly, not hurrying; Jews from all Jerusalem synagogues and schools carrying Torah scrolls. The roads were open. The new road led to the Dung Gate, south of the Old City, the gate which is mentioned in Nehemiah, “with its locks and bolts.” Before us danced a group of young men and women from a kibbutz: “Jerusalem, mountains surround it.” Below us, we heard children sing: “Who shall go up the mountain of the L-rd?”
I saw that my children next to me were also murmuring prayers. My little daughter whispered to me, “A pity on all of us who have not died. We will not be able to stand at the resurrection of the dead.” She couldn’t stop looking at the desecrated Mount of Olives. “Perhaps the Arabs overturned the tombstones so that the dead will be able to rise.”
She said, “Their bodies will no longer be of flesh and blood, but of earth. And so they will no longer yearn to return to the earth, and they will no longer die. Only the body of flesh and blood must die, because it is a stranger to us. We are taken from that very earth, and in the days to come, we will live with the earth-bodies of our land. The flesh of Jews everywhere is taken from the earth of the land of Israel. That is why they long so strongly to be here their entire lives, to return to their source.”
She points out to me—I must look—Jewish children from the entire world dancing here and singing around us, with an eternal joy streaming from their eyes. I am afraid to hear more. At the time of the Exodus, children, nursing children, also spoke prophecy. They saw G-d. In their mothers’ arms, they pointed with their fingers: “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him.”
At that moment, I feel a great joy of reward spread within me. I, the Jewish child of the Holocaust, merited to be here at the renewal. Now perhaps I need nothing else. I would like to run to the mass-graves of those who were close to me, to tear at them, wake them, and shout out the good news: I myself have seen all this; I am a witness! I am carried between the two: the Jewish Holocaust and the renewal, here and now. Someone again sings out: “Happy are we that we have merited this!” I am filled with feeling, I shut my eyes.
At that moment, we pass through the Dung Gate. We are on the other side of the wall—inside the Old City. We all begin walking reverently. Stillness prevails. The walls and houses rise high above us. We are low between them. Nearby, over the roofs, hover the foreign domes. We already feel the atmosphere of the Western Wall. Our speech is taken from us. We do not yet see it, but we know that it is here. We go further, then further, and then—we stand still! We ask nothing. We know that it rises high, high above us. We are below, in its shadow—a sea of heads with eyes cast upwards. It rises above us. We lower our heads, and our hands cover our eyes. We take in ourselves the roar of our heart, the heart of everyman, which rises, rises, and, for the first time, breaks forth.
Yaacov David Shulman