Your Birthright!



The term “Zion” can have various meanings, depending on the context of the verse, and the following references can serve as examples:


1. Although the term “Zion” refers to Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, south of the Temple Mount, it can also refer to the Temple Mount, as when the Temple was destroyed, the Prophet Jeremiah lamented, “For this our heart was faint...for Mount Zion which lies desolate” (Lamentations 5:17,18).


2. “Zion” can refer to Jerusalem, as it is written: “And they shall call you the city of Hashem, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:14).


3. “Zion” is a term for the Land of Israel, as it is written: “For Hashem will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her wasteland like a garden of Hashem; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music” (Isaiah 51:3).


4. “Zion” also refers to the People of Israel, as in the following Divine promise: “And to say unto Zion, ‘You are My people!’ ” (Isaiah 51:16)


At this stage of our “tour” of Old Jerusalem, we will discuss the following biblical phrase where “Zion” can refer to Jerusalem and/or the Land of Zion:


“But of Zion it can be said, ‘This person and that person was born in her’ ” (Psalm 87:5).


Why, in the above reference to those born in Zion, is the term “person” mentioned twice? The Talmud answers that it refers to two types of individuals who were born in Zion – the one who was physically born in her and the one who is in exile, but who looks forward to seeing her (Kesuvos 75a). According to this teaching, someone in the Diaspora who looks forward to seeing Zion is considered to be born in Zion!


We will now begin to discuss a story from Old Jerusalem which reveals that the above teaching is not just a poetic metaphor, as it also has relevance to the “halacha” – the required steps on the Torah path.


Dear Friends,


Due to growing pressure from Arab nationalists, the British government began to institute a series of Jewish immigration quotas which greatly limited the number of Jews who were allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel; however, Jews in the Diaspora who were born in Eretz Yisrael were exempt from the quota and were allowed to enter the Land.


During this period, someone came to Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld with the following halachic question: Is it permissible to testify in the British court that a certain person from the Diaspora was born in Eretz Yisrael, even though this individual was actually born in the Diaspora, in order to help this person circumvent the quota and be able to return to Zion?  


As we previously mentioned, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was known for his strict adherence to Torah teachings and precepts regarding honesty; moreover, he was very strict – for himself and others – about following government regulations and filling out documents in an honest way, no matter how urgent the need might be  to “stretch” the truth” a bit to the authorities. Regarding, however, the question as to whether it was permissible to testify in court that this person in the Diaspora who aspired to enter Eretz Yisrael was actually born in Eretz Yisrael, Rav Yosef Chaim replied: “Not only may you, but you must do so!”


Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explained his position:


“This is not really a lie at all. The verse states, But of Zion it can be said, ‘This person and that person was born in her’ (Psalm 87:5). The Talmud explains that this verse is referring to, ‘the one who was (physically) born in her and the one who looks forward to seeing her.’ From this we learn that each Jew who looks forward to going up to Eretz Yisrael is considered as if he was born in her.”


The above teaching serves as a reminder that the concept of “birth” has a spiritual dimension. And through this teaching, we can continue our “tour” of Old Jerusalem with the awareness that we are Zion’s children, for each of us was “born in her.”  



Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)


Related Teachings:


1. In a prophecy regarding the future exile from Zion, the Prophet Isaiah records the following lament of lonely Zion:


“Zion said, ‘Hashem has forsaken me, the Master of All has forgotten me’ ” (Isaiah 49:14).


Isaiah then begins to convey to Zion the Divine promises of comfort. For example, in the following prophecy, Hashem comforts Zion, who is mourning for her lost children, and Hashem promises her that there will come the day when the nations of the world will bring her lost children home:


“For Behold I will raise My hand toward nations, and I will hoist my banner towards peoples, and they will bring your children in their arms” (Isaiah 49:22).


In this Divine message to Zion, Hashem refers to her exiles as “your children.” In this spirit, we chant the following blessing each Shabbos morning after we read the haftorah – the portion from the Prophets:


“Have compassion on Zion for she is the home of our life; to the humiliated soul bring salvation speedily in our days. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who gladdens Zion through her children.”


2. Our tradition teaches that the nations of the world will become the “daughters” of Zion during the messianic age. One source for this teaching is found in the Song of Songs – an allegorical love poem which describes the relationship between Hashem and Israel. In this allegorical poem, there is a reference to the “daughters of Jerusalem” (1:5). According to the ancient midrashic explanation of this phrase cited by the commentator, Rashi, the “daughters of Jerusalem” are the nations of the world (Midrash Rabbah). The reason they are called the daughters of Jerusalem is because the metropolis Jerusalem – the spiritual center of Israel – will also serve as the spiritual center for all the nations during the messianic age. Rashi adds that a similar metaphor is found in the following Divine promise to Jerusalem regarding other nations: “And I will give them to you for daughters” (Ezekiel 16:61).

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