Guardians of Yerushalayim

In the year 1837, a massive earthquake rocked the city of Tzfas in northern Eretz Yisrael. The city was destroyed and hundreds of Jews perished, among them many great tzaddikim. When news reached the town of Pressburg, the townspeople gathered to hear a hesped, a eulogy, from the great Chasam Sofer regarding the terrible calamity that had befallen Klal Yisrael.

The Chasam Sofer was the Gadol Hador, the greatest sage of his generation; he also had a tremendous love for Eretz Yisrael. Everyone wondered what he would speak about as he stood up to address the crowd; though none anticipated the lesson he would relay. He said in his hesped that the earthquake was caused by kinas Yerushalayim, the jealousy of Yerushalayim. He explained that for the past hundred years, Jews had been returning to Eretz Yisrael; however, they ignored Yerushalayim and instead settled in Tzfas and other northern cities. They left Yerushalayim desolate and this, the Chasam Sofer said, was Yerushalayim’s way of demanding its honor.

Let us pose the following question: If Yerushalayim has the ability to avenge its honor, so to speak, how is it that calamity can befall Klal Yisrael within its very confines in our days? How do our enemies, both spiritual and physical, continue to attack us and defile our holy city and yet Yerushalayim doesn’t defend itself?

Perhaps, upon analyzing a passuk in Sefer Yeshayahu, we can gain insight into this matter. The passuk says as follows “Al chomosayich, Yerushalayim, hifkadeti shomrim kol hayom v’chol halaylah — Upon your walls, O Yerushalayim, have I posted guardians; all the day and all the night…”

Which guardians of Yerushalayim is the passuk referring to? The commentaries give various explanations; we will focus on the view of the Radak and Ibn Ezra. They explain that the guardians of Yerushalayim are the many Jewish communities, wherever they may be, who never stop davening for Yerushalayim.

Guardians come in many forms, some diligent and vigilant, others disinterested and negligent. To answer our question, we must ask ourselves which type of defender we are. Do we focus on the many times a day we mention our holy city or do we breeze right through these words? Do we weep over Yerushalayim’s state or are we indifferent? Yerushalayim gets her power from her defenders. The tragedies befalling Yerushalayim and her citizens should lead us to question and then strengthen our commitment as her guardians.

Rav Schwab, zt”l, in his sefer Iyun Tefillah, asks: Which city we are referring to when we daven three times a day for Hashem to rebuild Yerushalayim? To the physical city, or to the spirituality of the city? He explains that Chazal are referring to the city of Yerushalayim that will be built of precious stones, a city that will be built miraculously, surrounded by a wall of fire.

Who will build this wondrous city? He explains that every time we daven for Yerushalayim, every time we yearn for its rebuilding, another brick is formed. As we daven and yearn, year after year, the materials for this spiritual city are being gathered.

There is another aspect to yearning for Yerushalayim, the Talmud in Bava Basra tells us. “Kol hamisabel al Yerushalayim zocheh v’roeh b’nechemasah — All who mourn over the destruction of Yerushalayim will merit to see her consolation.” Why is it that only those who mourn over Yerushalayim merit to see its solace?

The Maharal in Netzach Yisrael (Perek 23) explains that if someone feels that there is a spiritual void in the world because of the Churban and he mourns because of this lack in the world, he deserves to see Yerushalayim rebuilt. However, if a person doesn’t deem its absence as a deficiency, he shows that he has no desire for its rebuilding and therefore will not merit seeing its consolation.

There are so many tragedies occurring in our holy city, both physical and spiritual, and many of us don’t know how to help. We think there is nothing we can do to protect our precious city and its spirituality. We may assume that even if we can do something, it is so insignificant that our aid becomes irrelevant. Yeshayahu Hanavi thought differently; he referred to each and every one of us as the Guardians of Yerushalayim, tasking all of us to do our part in defending our beloved city.

If we each take the time to focus on Yerushalayim, feel her pain and beseech Hashem for her rebuilding, we will serve as the Guardians of Yerushalayim and, as Yeshayahu said later in his prophesies, “Klal Yisrael should not desist from davening for Yerushalayim until Hashem rebuilds her.”

If we persistently keep Yerushalayim on our minds, then not only will she be defended, but we will be actively supporting her rebirth, hurrying the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, bimheirah biyameinu, amen.