Two days ago, on Yom Yerushalaim, I left my office on King George Street and stood for a moment to just take things in. It was beautiful, Jews from all over the religious spectrum gathered around to celebrate the beautiful city that unites us all. Walking through the crowd of blue and white, I was truly uplifted, here in front of my eyes was a fulfillment of the nevuot describing masses rushing to Hashem’s city. When presented with such a sight I truly felt that I am living in the time of the geulah, Am Yisrael is ready! It’s time for the Beit Hamikdash once again to stand upon Har Habayit and for Hashem’s glory to once again shine over the world. So what is God waiting for?
Little did I know that my answer was only two days away. Today, like every other Rosh Chodesh, the Woman of the Wall gathered in what some would call a minyan, others a protest. But this Rosh Chodesh they were not the only group to gather at the Kotel. Women from the ultra-orthodox community, came together as a counter-statement to the Woman of the Wall. A heated and almost violent dispute quickly broke out amongst the two groups.
Without getting into the controversial debate surrounding this story, I’d like to focus on this dispute, and what it says about the state of the Jewish people today.
Jews all over the world pray toward Jerusalem, expressing the common hope for final redemption by focusing on the center of our universe. The Kotel should be a place that brings us all together, one where we can put our differences aside and be one nation. However, that is not the case today. The Kotel has become a center for religious disputes. Not a place of common prayer and worship, but a place of politics, of protests and occasionally, even hatred.
Have we learnt nothing in the 2,000 years we spent in galut? Can we not remember that the last Beit Hamikdash was destroyed by people who were so focused on their personal growth and connection to Hashem, that they forgot about the people surrounding them. The famous story from the Gemara comes to mind, where two Kohanim, both so intent on getting the opportunity to serve Hashem, raced up the ramp to the mizbeach. When one Kohen took the lead, the other pulled out his knife and stabbed him. The surrounding witnesses who saw this they were appalled, but not because of the cold-hearted murder, but rather at the thought that a dead body in the Beit Hamikdash’s courtyard would impair their worship to Hashem by rendering the tools impure. [Yoma, 23a]
Is this not the same issue we have before us today? Perhaps not on such a vulgar or dramatic level, but the same ideals are at play here. We are all so focused on worshiping Hashem in our own way that we forget about the other people in our nation. I would like to emphasize that both sides are to blame here! Both sides are so devoted to getting their point across that they forget that at the end of the day, we’re one nation, with one common goal.
These thoughts reminded me of something I witnessed at the Kotel a few years ago. An older woman aggressively pushed aside the girl standing next to me in order to get closer to the wall. After yelling something at the girl, about how she needs to let other people through, the woman turned towards the Kotel, and with tears in her eyes said: “Hashem, why are you not bringing Mashiach?” This woman was completely unaware of the irony in her actions. She sincerely meant to pour her heart out to Hashem, and did not realize who she hurt along the way.
I have to ask myself, if we did have a Beit Hamikdash today, what would it be like? Would it be the center of the Jewish people uniting us all, or would it be just one more opportunity for us to express our differences. I now must rephrase my earlier question. We truly are living in the Geulah, God has returned us to Israel and to Yerushalayim. It’s time for the beit hamikdash once again to stand upon Har Habayit and for Hashem’s glory to once again shine over the world. So what are WE waiting for?!