There have been many great events in Jewish history, including events which were clearly miraculous; however, we do not find that an annual religious festival for all generations was established for all the members of our people, in order to commemorate each of these events. For example, King David conquered Jerusalem, our holiest city; yet, an annual religious festival commemorating this very significant event was not established
During the Six Day War of June, 1967, after Jordanian forces in East Jerusalem had attacked West Jerusalem. Israeli forces took control of East Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was once again united. The Israeli government later established an annual holiday called Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – to commemorate this historic event. The Chief Rabbinate, an agency of the Israeli government, endorsed this decision.
All religious Jews recognize that Hashem is guiding our history, and my teachers in both the Chareidi and National Religious communities spoke about the miracles that we experienced during the Six Day War and the special joy that we felt when we were once again able to pray at the Kosel – the Western Wall – a remnant of the outer wall of the Temple Mount. In fact, the majority of the Jewish men and women who pray daily at the Kosel are Chareidi. There are a minority of Chareidim, however, who prefer not to pray at the Kosel, since it is under the control of a secular Israeli government which is not always sensitive to the high standards of holiness which are required at this very holy site. The vast majority of Chareidi men and women, while sharing these concerns of the minority, do pray at the Kosel.
Most Chareidi men and women, however, do not recognize the “Jerusalem Day” which was established by the Israeli government as an official religious festival which is to be celebrated for all generations. In order to understand this spiritual perspective, we need to review the following teachings:
The Sanhedrin – the Supreme Court of leading Torah sages – has the power to establish new religious festivals for all Jews in each generation, but this power was rarely used. In order to gain a deeper understanding as to why this power was rarely used, I will cite a teaching of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, a leading sage and kabbalist of the 17th century. In the following excerpt from his classical work Derech Hashem (The Way of God), he discusses the deeper significance of the holy days of the Torah, as well as the holy days which were later established by the leading sages of the Sanhedrin, such as Purim and Chanukah:
“On each of these special days, something happened whereby at this time a great tikun (rectification) was accomplished and a great Light shone. The Highest Wisdom decreed that on every anniversary of this period, a counterpoint of its original Light should shine forth, and the results of its tikun renewed to those who accept it.”
He adds: “Chanukah and Purim also involve this same concept.” The leading sages of the Sanhedrin realized through their deep understanding of the Higher Wisdom that the above spiritual criteria was fulfilled with regard to Chanukah and Purim.
We no longer have the Sanhedrin, but it will be restored to us in the messianic age of spiritual renewal, when all of our people will return to the Torah and will therefore be willing to be guided by the leading sages of the Sanhedrin. In the meanwhile, without the Sanhedrin and the deep understanding of its leading sages, we do not have the authority to establish new religious festivals for all Jews in each generation.
With the help of Hashem, I hope to send out a letter which will discuss the following topic: the international opposition to Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Be Well, and Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen