Something amazing occurred to me this morning in the Synagogue, during Hoshana Rabba prayers, as I recited the last of the liturgical poems, just before beating the willow branches against the ground. The poem begins with a declaration, repeated emphatically by the congregation after each stanza:
!קול מבשר, מבשר ואומר
The voice of the herald, announces and proclaims!
The image of the mevaser, the herald who announces the coming of the final Redemption, is based on a number of verses in the book of Isaiah (for example see 52:7). The poem we read this morning anticipates the coming of that Redemption by poetically describing what that future world will look like, and invites us to hear the voice of the herald announcing its arrival.
As I recited a few lines from this poem, I thought about some of what I saw and experienced yesterday in Jerusalem. We went into the city as a family to take part in some of the holiday festivities. As always, being in Jerusalem on chol hamoed is an exhilarating experience. The streets are packed with tens of thousands of visitors from around the country and around the world. There are Sukkot on every block and people carrying the Four Species everywhere you turn, restaurants are packed and there are street festivals and music playing throughout the city…and of course when you enter the Old City and approach the Western Wall, you can get a taste of what it must be like to fulfill the commandment of aliya laregel – ascending for the pilgrimage to the bet hamikdash.
With that image in mind as I recited the following lines, I realized that today, to hear the “voice of the herald” announcing the coming redemption, all one needs to do is to come to Israel, and particularly to Jerusalem on Sukkot:
!קול מושיעים יעלו להר ציון, כי חלה גם ילד ציון – מבשר ואומר
!קול נשמע בכל גבולך, הרחיבי מקום אהלך – מבשר ואומר
!קול שימי עד דמשק משכנותיך, קבלי בניך ובנותיך – מבשר ואומר
The voice of the saviors ascending Mount Zion, for Zion has given birth to her children – announces and proclaims!
The voice that is heard throughout your borders, as the place of your dwellings extends [in all directions] – announces and proclaims!
The voice of your dwellings extending and approaching Damascus, in order to receive your [returning] sons and daughters – announces and proclaims!
As I said these words, I remembered walking yesterday afternoon through the Old City gate on what is today called Mount Zion – a gate marked by the bullets of the Jewish saviors who indeed “ascended Mount Zion”. I was surrounded by my fellow Jews, those whose homes today extend in all directions from Jerusalem (even approaching Damascus) and those who are currently returning from exile. Indeed I can hear the voice of the herald announcing the approaching redemption. That voice, which just a few decades ago was faint and barely perceptible, is today very loud.
However, the most amazing part is actually in the earlier verses of the poem. Those verses make reference to the prophecy recorded in Zecharia chapter 14, which we read in the Synagogues last week on the first day of Sukkot. That prophecy of the End of Days includes the following verses:
…והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה ה’ אחד ושמו אחד
והיה כל הנותר מכל הגוים הבאים על ירושלים ועלו מדי שנה בשנה להשתחוות למלך ה’ צבאות ולחוג את חג הסוכות. (זכריה יד:ט,יז)
And Hashem shall be King over the entire earth, on that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One…
And then all who remain from all the nations who rose up against Jerusalem shall ascend every single year in order to bow before Hashem, and to celebrate the Festival of Sukkot. (Zecharia 14:9,17)
One of the things we did yesterday was to watch the annual “Jerusalem March” parade through the streets of downtown Jerusalem. The parade began with groups of soldiers, police and other security forces, followed by groups of Israelis representing various towns and villages, companies and organizations. But the most moving part of the parade were the groups that followed after that – non-Jews from all over the world who come to Israel every year on Sukkot to show their support for Israel and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. I don’t have the full list handy, but there were groups from every continent on earth (among the countries I recall seeing are the USA, Bolivia, Brazil, Norway, Slovakia, China, Korea, Thailand, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Australia and New Zealand). They come in colorful native costumes, waving their own flags and Israeli ones, carrying banners in many languages (most of which also have Hebrew on them) and proclaiming their love for Israel and the Jewish people. Just as Zecharia promised they would.
As they walked down the streets of Jerusalem, they proudly waved at the Israelis who stood on the sidewalks watching them. Many greeted us excitedly, saying “Shalom” and wishing us a “chag sameach“- they all seemed to have learned the words for “happy holiday”. My children, who were excited to see so many different cultures, approached some of the more exotically dressed visitors and asked to take a picture with them. The marchers from around the world not only agreed readily, but many asked if they too could take a picture, probably to show off to their friends back home that they met some “real Israelis”.
To be sure, the final Redemption is certainly not yet here. In case we were unsure of that, the tragic murder of one of our soldiers in Hebron on Sunday – as thousands of Jews were celebrating Sukkot there – provided a chilling reminder. And of course, my “pilgrimage to the Temple Mount” yesterday ended abruptly with Mincha at the Western Wall and not at the bet hamikdash, because although the city of Jerusalem has been magnificently rebuilt, its most important site remains in ruins.
So no, the Redemption is not here yet. But as we declared this morning in the Synagogue, the Voice of the Herald announces and proclaims! And those announcements are getting louder all the time.