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rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.

Tonight and tomorrow (Thurs./Fri.) is Yom Yerushalaim. It is a day dedicated to expressing our gratitude to the Almighty for allowing us to regain control of the Temple mount and the Eastern part of Jerusalem. 

We often find the terms Tzion and Yerushalayim appearing together, almost as synonyms. Ever wonder what is the difference between Tzion and Yerushalayim? 

Ya’akov Moshe Charlop (1882-1951), in his Mei Marom Vol. VI ch. 59 comments on the verse in Yeshayahu 40:9 which reads “Upon a lofty mountain ascend, O herald of Zion, raise your voice with strength, O herald of Jerusalem; raise [your voice], fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’" that “Tzion” represents the physical and those who seek out Tzion are looking to physically go onto the Temple Mount. “Yerushalayim” represents the spiritual.  It is not enough to just climb the mountain; the seeker of Yerushalayim wants to call out loud and tell the rest of the Jewish people (and the world): Here is your God.

When we think about the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim, there are really two aspects to the celebration: the reunification of Yerushalayim and the salvation of the Six Day War when all of Israel faced an existential threat.  

The reunification of Yerushalayim has a physical component to it, but its significance is primarily spiritual, in that we now have the opportunity to “raise our voices with strength” facing the location of the Temple itself.  

The salvation was physical by its very nature.  However, on the surface, it seems that our celebration ignores salvation.  After all, we call it Yom Yerushalayim and not Yom HaYeshua (Day of Salvation) or something similar.  Furthermore, the 28th of Iyar was only the third day of the war.  Why don’t we celebrate three days later (when the war ended), on the second of Sivan?  Is it simply because it’s too close to Shavuot?

Perhaps we can glean an insight from the celebration of Chanukah.  In the Chanukah story, there was also a physical component (the defeat of the enemy) and a spiritual component (the miracle of the oil).  Rashi, in Pesachim 117a, writes that the miracle of Chanukah is an example of an instance where we recite Hallel for the defeat of the enemy.  If that is the case, then why do we celebrate Chanukah with Hallel for eight days?  

Yehuda Assad (1796-1866), in his Teshuvot Yehuda Ya’aleh, Orach Chaim no. 200, notes the phrase in Maoz Tzur “בני בינה ימי שמונה קבעו שיר ורננים”/“Men of insight (bnei binah) - eight days established for song and jubilation” - Who were the men of insight (bnei binah)?  

Assad suggests that the men of insight were those who were able to look back and see that it is worthy to celebrate this miracle for eight days. Once these bnei binah saw that the miracle of the oil lasted for eight days, they realized that it is worthy to celebrate the miracle of the war for eight days as well. 

Similarly, we can suggest that when trying to look at how to celebrate the miracle of the war, we can look at the spiritual component of the miracle as our guide. The reunification of Yerushalayim was the most significant event of the war.  Not simply because of its physical properties but because this was the most significant spiritual accomplishment of the war.