The Chief Rabbi of Rechovot is visiting in New York, conveying some unsettling news that should alarm Jews everywhere
Kvod Harav. It is well known that the Church has been attempting to gain control of the upper chamber of Kever Dovid in Har Tzion for many decades now, even under Turkish rule. Why the urgency of late?
Of late? The state of Israel has been seriously negotiating with the Vatican for two years now. Did you hear about it from anyone in the government? Was there any discussion in the Knesset or even in any Knesset committee? Is there any public government document stating what Israel promised the Vatican and what, if anything, the Vatican promised in return?
That is quite an allegation. Is there any proof?
We have more than proof. We have facts. I need not tell you the attitude of The New York Times toward Jews, especially Orthodox. I quote from an article this last Monday titled: “Mass on Mount Zion Stirs Ancient Rivalries,” by Isabel Kershner:
Father Pierbattista, the custos (guardian) of the Holy Land, representing the … See, said that after two years of talks with Israeli officials, one proposal is to hold formal prayers there from 6 to 8 a.m., weekdays before it is open to the public.
Do you see what he says? “Two years of talks.” Why was no one told? Why were these talks secret? Why did the Israeli government acknowledge their existence only after being pressed to the wall by numerous leaks? This is a makom tefillah, after all. Why were Rabbanim purposely kept in the dark?
Let me be clear. No one can stop an individual gentile from uttering what he wants to whomever he wants — not even at the Kosel Maaravi. But to officially invite a public celebration of [Catholic worship] in a Jewish place of prayer not a few times a year but permanently, on a daily basis, halachically turns it into a makom pulchan d’avodah zarah, rendering it unfit to be a makom tefillah … Moreover, it would even become halachically forbidden to step foot into the place at all times.
But now that the papal visit has concluded, isn’t the turmoil over?
On the contrary. I am sure that secret understandings were made by various government officials with Vatican officials during the last week. This government, from the prime minister down, has an attitude of “We know what is best for you. You are better off not being told everything.” This policy of subterfuge is especially blatant with matters of our Jewish Heritage and Religion. They have little feeling for our tradition. I am afraid that whatever will become official from now on will happen … away from prying eyes.
What about rumors about the entire upper chamber being surrendered?
This was definitely discussed and it is likely that there is even a secret agreement that, of course, is being officially denied by officials. You must realize that the Israeli government was taken by surprise both by the leaks and the great hue and cry that they engendered. They are hoping that things will quiet down so they can do whatever they want.
Please tell Hamodia readers something about the history of Kever Dovid.
There are three kevarim in a chamber underground. They are the burial places of Dovid Hamelech, Shlomo Hamelech and Chizkiyahu Hamelech.
The great scholar Harav Moshe Chagiz, zt”l, presents the first written evidence that this is Kever Dovid as pointed out by the Ari HaKadosh. This tradition was later affirmed by Harav Michel Tikuchinsky, zt”l, and Harav Aharon HaKohen Rappaport, zt”l, in their sefarim on Eretz Yisrael — with the enthusiastic haskamah of the great Mahri”l Diskin. The Rebbe the Rayatz of Lubavitch, the Munkatcher Rebbe, and the Ben Ish Chai, zecher kulam livrachah, made special efforts to come to Kever Dovid and daven there.
For hundreds of years, since Jews were allowed back to Yerushalayim, this became a place of davening and learning. Even when Jordan occupied the old city before 1967, Har Tzion was a Jewish enclave.
Reb Yitzchak Goldstein, shlita, founded the Diaspora Yeshiva. It has been a famous destination for young Jews seeking to grow in Jewish knowledge and is located in Har Tzion. The Gemara (Bava Kama 15a) states that a yeshivah was established on the kever of Chizkiyahu Hamelech. Today, too, there is a yeshivah in exactly the same place as it was over 2,500 years ago.
Kvod Harav, what can we Jews in America do to help?
Thank you for asking. I want it to be clear that Dovid Hamelech belongs to all of Am Yisrael for all time and everywhere. How would we have made it through the long, bitter galus without that tear-stained Sefer Tehillim?
Allow me to make two suggestions.
First of all, many of you travel to Eretz Yisrael for Shavuos or other Yamim Tovim. When you come to visit Yerushalayim, come to Kever Dovid. It is a very special and holy place. Make it your business to daven there, especially in the upper chamber. Come there day and night.
Second of all, I would like to see a group of influential askanim formed to meet with high officials of the Israeli government. Somehow, they respect American Jews more than their own constituents. It is important to show them that American Jewry is profoundly concerned and involved with the future of Kever Dovid.
Let us daven that these insidious plots will never come to fruition. Instead, the tables will be turned and we will quickly be zocheh to “V’alu moshi’im b’Har Tzion lishpot es Har Esav v’hoyesah la’Shem hameluchah.”