Following the six day war, there existed a widespread feeling in Israel that the nearly unthinkable victory was due to a miraculous intervention from God, and that it heralded the beginning of the ultimate geula. One staunch opponent of this view was the Satmar Rebbe, who long held that establishing the State of Israel under the current circumstances was sinful, and that the military victory in 1967 was without any Divine intervention. In his works Divrei Yoel and Al HaGeula V’Al HaTemurah, he argued, as others had before, that we must wait for Mashiach to come before trying to establish a Jewish government in Israel. Perhaps partially in response to this argument, Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher, the author of the Torah Shleima and recipient of the Pras Yisrael, penned HaTekufah HaGedolah, detailing how the present day sequence of events should be seen in the context of the prophecies of the ultimate redemption and the coming of Mashiach. He argued vigorously that the six day war was an event saturated with miracles to support the Jewish people’s young enterprise in Israel.
The haftara that we recite for Nitzavim/Vayeilech (Yishayahu 61:10-63:9) is the final of the shiva d’nechemtah, the seven haftarot of consolation that we read after Tisha B’Av. For nearly two months, we have read passages from the latter half of Yishayahu assuring us that, despite the long and bitter exile, there will be an ultimate redemption when the Jewish return to the Land of Israel, and are able to serve God and be His fitting representatives in the world. We are told of times that all the nations of the world will enthusiastically support the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and we will experience harmonious peace around the world.
We might expect, then, that our haftara would be a culmination of the Messianic prophecies with a peaceful vision of the time of final salvation. Our haftara, however, provides an unexpected message:
“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch…Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, have I posted guardians; all the day and all the night, continuously, they will never be silent. Do not give Him silence, until He establishes and until he makes Jerusalem a source of praise in the Land” (62:1,6-7).
This passage is referring to some time before the ultimate redemption—a time when the promise of peace in a fully resurrected Yerushalayim has not yet been fulfilled. What is the lesson we are meant to take from reciting this haftara as the final message of consolation?
The gemara (Menachot 87a) wonders what these guardians posted on the wall are meant to be saying: “Rava bar Rav Shila says ‘You will arise and show Zion mercy, for there will come the time to favor her, for the appointed time will have come (Tehillim 102:14).’ Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says ‘The Builder of Jerusalem is Hashem (Tehillim 147:2).’” The role of these watchman is to pray for and assert confidence in the promise that Hashem has given us that He will rebuild Yerushalyim. The Metzudot David makes this argument in a more pointed way on the following verse (62:7): “Do not allow Hashem to rest from building Yerushalayim, rather you should constantly plead with him.”
Based on this understanding, it appears that the navi may be referring to a time when we have control of Yerushalayim—such that we can appoint watchmen over its walls—but the geula is not yet complete. In such a circumstance, Yishayahu is instructing us that it is our role to insist that Hashem complete the rebuilding, and not allow Him, so to speak, to ignore our prayers. This final message of consolation instills in us the confidence that our relationship with Hashem allows us push Him to bring the ultimate redemption.
Rav Kasher, in welcoming the military victory of the six day war, and writing the powerful book HaTekufah HaGedolah, showed that the Jews of Israel, as well as the Jewish state, played a role in the unfolding geula. The miracles of the six day war should be seen as evidence that we are partnering with Hashem to move toward redemption, in stark contrast to the position of the Satmar Rebbe. And as the gemara in Menachot concludes, even when Yerushalayim is rebuilt the guards will continue to speak: “For Hashem has chosen Zion; He has desired it for his inhabitation.”