With his father, the Nazir, and an IDF soldier on the day the Kotel was liberated
Excerpted with permission from Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace
pp.234-5, Urim Publications, 2017
“The first Shavuot holiday after the liberation of Jerusalem tookplace exactly one week later, on Wednesday, June 14. The road to the Kotel was opened, a plaza had been cleared in front of it, and access was granted through the Zion Gate. To those many tens of thousands of pilgrims, it was as if they had been reborn after a hiatus of almost twenty years. The never-ending crowds of people going to and from the Old City on that first Shavuot after the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem brought home more than anything else that this time Jerusalem had been truly liberated and unified!
This is how Rabbi Cohen recalls the moments when he took part with tens of thousands of Am Yisrael on their first Shavuot pilgrimage to the Kotel in a reunited Jerusalem.
I was extremely fortunate to be caught in the middle of that mass of people, because I happened to chance upon the great, unforgettable Tzaddik of Jerusalem, that devoted and generous mensch, Reb Aryeh Levin (1885-1969). Reb Aryeh had been one of the best-loved students of the great Chief Rabbi Kook. And Reb Aryeh was also happy to see me. He warmly embraced me, and so we walked together for some time without speaking, silent and deep in thought. And then he began to talk in Yiddush – almost in a whisper: ‘My whole life I have not been able to understand what is meant by those words of Scripture: When the Lord accompanied the captivity of Zion on their return – we were like dreamers…’. But now, I understand!’
I asked him: “What do you understand?” Reb Aryeh replied: “It is characteristic of a dream that in a single instant a person can see events that have actually taken place over a long period. In a dream you can sometimes see something that has lasted for many years, but you actually see it in a single instant. In the twinkling of an eye the whole picture becomes clear to you. Through a ‘dream moment’ you comprehend a whole era, a whole history, a whole story. In that very instant you experience the entire existence of generations past….
“This is exactly what is happening to us now. We are just about to enter the Old City, walking on foot to the Kotel. Are we not ‘like dreamers’? At this very moment we are connected to the many millions of Jews who have prayed throughout the generations for what we are experiencing right now. Right now, we can see everything. We can ‘see’ the long years of Galut, the Shoah, the Underground [where I visited you and others in Latrun Prison], the War of Liberation, and, most recently, the Six-Day War. This very second, while you and I are walking together to the Kotel, everything is happening as if in a dream.””
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Excerpted with permission from Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen
pp. 236, Urim Publications, 2017