Introduction to the Next Segment of Our Series:
At the beginning of this series on the “soul” of Zion, we mentioned that the term “Zion” has several meanings. The following references 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 itself, 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; thus, the Prophet Isaiah conveyed the following Divine promise regarding the renewal of the Land: “For Hashem will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her desert 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, and this reference is found in the following Divine proclamation: “And to say unto Zion, ‘You are My people!’ ” (Isaiah 51:16)
During the past year, we have begun to explore the “soul” of Zion – the inner spirit that reveals the raison d’etre of Zion. The above definitions of Zion remind us that when we discover the soul of Zion, we discover the inner spirit that reveals the raison d’etre of the Temple, Jerusalem, the Land of Israel, and the People of Israel.
In the previous letters, we discussed how the Torah – the Divine Teaching – is the soul of Zion. We also discussed how the mitzvos – the Divine mandates within the Torah – reveal the raison d’etre of Zion. With the help of Hashem, the Compassionate and Life-Giving One, we will now begin to discuss the important role of converts in helping us to gain a deeper understanding of Zion’s soul and raison d’etre.
We will also discuss why sincere converts who join our people through accepting the Covenant of the Torah have a special connection to the Land of Zion. For example, the Prophet Isaiah conveyed to these sincere converts the following Divine reassurance and promise:
“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to Hashem, speak, saying, ‘Hashem will utterly separate me from His people’… The foreigners who join themselves to Hashem to serve Him and to love the Name of Hashem to become servants unto Him, all who guard the Sabbath against desecration, and grasp My Covenant tightly – I will bring them to My sacred mountain, and I will gladden them in My house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:6,7).
“The foreigner” – This term is referring to the converts, those who are known as gerei tzedek – converts for righteousness. (Commentary of Ibn Ezra)
Last, but not least, the next segment of our series will help to prepare us for the approaching Festival of Shavuos, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah. As we shall discuss, converts have a special and honored connection with this festival. We are reminded of this connection when we read on Shavuos the Book of Ruth – the story of the righteous convert, Ruth, who moved to the Land of Zion and merited to become an ancestor of the future Messiah.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen