Approaching Shavuot, and Jerusalem Day
In the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, we Count the Omer, lifting ourselves spiritually higher and higher until we reach the peak: receiving the Torah.
Here is a beautiful d'var Torah (a "word of Torah") by Rabbi Avraham Arieh and Rebbetzin Rachel Trugman of Ohr Chadash, explaining the spiritual aspect of the counting of the Omer approaching Shavuot, the portion of the Torah read on the Shabbat before Shavuot (Bamidbar), and how they have a deep connection to Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest ancient city, and the day which commemorates it: Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim, in Hebrew), which was today, celebrated all over Israel.
The portion of Bamidbar is usually read the week before Shavuot.
Therefore, it also falls in close proximity to Jerusalem Day, which
occurs a week earlier. Jerusalem Day commemorates the day during
the 1967 Six Day War on which Jewish rule returned to the unified
holy city for the first time in almost two thousand years. The flags or
banners mentioned in this portion – “Every man by his banner, with
the insignia of their father’s house … they shall camp” (Numbers
2:2) – allude to Jerusalem Day in several beautiful ways.
The Torah relates that the tribes camped “every man by his flag.”
The numerical value of the Hebrew word for flag or banner (degel) is
thirty-seven, the same as the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase
“the heart” (halev). Since antiquity Jerusalem has been termed “the
heart” of the Jewish people, the place that most symbolizes the
Jewish nation’s collective purpose and mission. The reunification of
Jerusalem truly captured the collective imagination of the Jewish
people as many of the prophecies of old predicting this awesome
event were fulfilled.
Furthermore, as we discussed in the previous section, the flags in
the desert represent the individual’s deepest longing for meaning and
purpose in life – his or her heartfelt desire. The phrase “his flag”
(diglo) has the numerical value of forty-three, the very day in the
counting of the omer (the days counted from Pesach to Shavuot) that
Jerusalem was reunited. On this day the Jewish people as individuals
and as a collective regained their hearts’ desire.
In the Song of Songs (2:4) the following verse appears: “He brought
me to the house of wine and his banner over me was love.” The Sages
read the entire book as a divinely inspired allegory symbolizing the
love between God (the lover) and the Jewish people (the beloved).
However, “the house of wine,” in this verse, has been interpreted in
several different ways. The Sages interpreted it as either an allegory
for the Holy Temple or the Torah. Thus, even though the verse is
written in the past tense, it can be read as a prayer that God bring us
to His Third Temple and fulfill us with His Torah. Furthermore, since
the Hebrew word for “wine” has the numerical value of seventy, the
verse has also been read to allude to the seventy archetypal nations
that were welcomed in the first two Temples. Thus, this verse in
Song of Songs can also be read as a prayer that God usher in the era
when His love will encircle us and flutter above us like a beautiful
banner and all the peoples of the earth will recognize and praise Him.
Indeed, the Third Temple is actually called “a house of prayer for all
peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), for it will be built in the Messianic era when
all nations will come to worship God in true fellowship.
The Torah often plays on the numerical equivalency between the
Hebrew word for “wine” (yayin) and the Hebrew word for secret
(sod). Thus, in a play on words, the Sages taught: “When wine goes
in – the secret comes out” (Eruvin 65a). This equivalency also leads
to wine oftentimes symbolizing the sod, the secrets of the Torah. This
correspondence is alluded to in the second verse of Song of Songs:
“Let Him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for they are sweeter
than wine.” “Kisses of his mouth” alludes to the deep secrets of the
Torah that when revealed to the Jewish soul, bring about the most
intimate closeness between God and Israel. This spiritual “wine” is
sweeter than any physical pleasure this world can offer. Thus, God
bringing us into his “house of wine” can also allude to His returning
us to Jerusalem, for the prophets prophesize that “Torah will come
out of Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). At
that time “the knowledge of God will fill the world like the waters
cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
Jerusalem from time immemorial has been the heart of the Jewish
people. A request for its rebuilding is included in our prayers three times
a day and all Jews, no matter where in the world, face Jerusalem to pray.
Jerusalem not only represents the Jewish people’s deepest longings but
also has always been our capital city. It is the flag by which every Jew
camps and in the future it will take on this role for humanity. ®