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Rabbi Kalmar's Sermon Parashat Bamidbar 28 iyyar 5780

"Yerushalayim, Shavuot and Bamidbar: Jewish Unity"


This year, Yom Yerushalayim at the Kotel was extremely toned down for the first time in 53 years.  Jews could not gather in large numbers in Yerushalayim today. 


In his Otzar HaTorah, R. Eliyahu Schlesinger notes that Parshat Bamidbar is always read around Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot.  What is the common denominator? 


Achdut – Unity.


Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah – and we know that the Jewish people encamped there – Vayichan Sham Yisrael – K’ish Echad BiLev Echad – like one man with one heart. 


Bamidbar records an accounting of the numbers of the Jewish people and the Haftorah that is normally read for Bamidbar  from the book of Hoshea states 

והיה מספר בני ישראל כחול הים אשר לא ימד ולא יספר.

Can they be counted or not? The Gemara, Yoma 22b states:

ר’ שמואל בר נחמני ר’ יונתן רמי כתיב והיה מספר בני ישראל כחול הים וכתיב אשר לא ימד ולא יספר לא קשיא כאן בזמן שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום כאן בזמן שאין עושין רצונו של מקום.

R. Schlesinger explains that what this means is that while each shevet has their own unique qualities and traits, if everyone binds together, they create an energy that cannot be quantified.

There is something powerful about the fact that despite the fact that we are not able to daven at shul – and we do not face the aron hakodesh when we daven – we face toward Yerushalayim – to the makom hamikdash – we are all training our hearts and our minds towards that one spot – it is a spot of unity.

In previous times – we went to shul and maybe our minds were on the other people in the room around us – but now – we can only focus on Yerushalayim – it becomes a place of focus and unity like never before.   We become one unified shul – who are all facing Yerushalayim and the place of the mikdash – the place where all our people’s hopes and aspirations and dreams are found.


In 1967 after Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian military alliance Israel was facing a three-front war.

In Jerusalem, a national unity government formed. For the first time, an Israeli coalition included the right-wing party Herut, headed by Menachem Begin, whom former prime minister David Ben-Gurion had refused to even refer to by name. The bitter feud between Zionism’s left and right was suspended.

Rav Yoel Bin-Nun was ecstatic. ‘This is the first national unity government since the days of the kingdom of David and Solomon,’ he said. ‘Why had the Temple been destroyed? Not because of a failure of military or political strategy’, ‘but because of a failure of brotherly love. Even as the Romans tightened their siege around Jerusalem, the Jews had turned against each other, burned the granaries of rival camps, and murdered rival leaders. And how will the Temple be rebuilt?’ Concluded Rav Bin Nun ‘By the merit of unconditional love of Jew for Jew.’

Yerushalayim plays many different roles. It is the capital of Eretz Yisrael and the makom HaMikdash. But it is also the city that binds people from all over the world and from all walks of life. When Tzahal took back Yerushalayim in 1967, they reopened the one shul that every member of klal Yisrael is a member of.


In the aftermath of those 6 days – the entire Jewish people and really most of the world – turned their eyes and minds and hearts towards Jerusalem and were glad and amazed at the miracle they had beheld.  Yerushalayim united us all in awe and joy.


Many of you may have seen the letter I sent out earlier today about the discussions that have taken place among Orthodox Rabbis about the reopening of our own physical shuls.  And while there are different positions on this issue – the letter indicates the level of respect, spirit of mutual purpose, and commitment to achdus of our community.


In this time when all of us in the entire world and in our country are facing the same enemy - we humans are in the same boat facing this virus - May we learn the lesson of Achdus of all of Klal Yisrael and of the entire world.  And in the merit of learning that lesson - may we bring soon and in our time, the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash at that holy site, bimheirah biyameinu, Amein. 

Sat, June 10 2023 21 Sivan 5783