Wednesday, 28 Iyar – June 8, 1967 – was the third day of the Six-Day War, and it was the first time that residents of Jerusalem felt that the Yad Hashem was guiding the Jewish Nation to victory. Many people ventured outside and saw jeeps filled with smiling soldiers traveling toward Har HaTzofim (Mt. Scopus). The peak of joy came at dusk when the news came that the Kosel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall, had been liberated. People poured out of their shelters. The streets teemed with celebrating and emotion-laden people. The first ones to merit reaching the Kosel brought back small stones, which were passed from hand to hand. Their joy was indescribable: What a miracle Hashem had wrought for His beloved people!
A few days later was the festival of Shavuos, and the general public was permitted access to the Kosel. Anyone who was in Jerusalem that day will never forget the moving scene: The entire city – young, old, men, women, and children – thronged to the “Wailing” Western Wall in a mighty stream, joyous and filled with elation, and hardly daring to believe it was true.
“Is this real? Are we really walking to the Kosel? Is this a dream?” The Chevron Mashgiach, Rav Meir Chodosh zt”l, did not abandon his post: He first davened in yeshivah, and only then did he set out for the Kosel, together with his rebbetzin. It was a hot day, and the walk was difficult for some elderly people, but no one wished to be left behind on that special day.
Near the Kosel, the crowd congregated in groups. Each group had its own style of davening and its own ethnic customs. Despite this, there was a powerful sense of unity and brotherhood, of one nation, one G-d, one Torah. As they all stood and prayed in fervent thanksgiving together, they were all as one. The great miracles that had occurred during this war belonged to every Jew, in Israel and abroad, and to the entire world.
When things had calmed down a bit, some of the older and more serious yeshivah bachurim turned to the Mashgiach with a question: “We’ve just merited seeing open miracles. The entire war was full of innumerable miracles. Today, we feel elevated, through a profound gratitude to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. But we’re afraid that with the passage of time, the emotions will fade, and we’ll lose this great sense of elevation. What should we do to hold onto these tremendous moments?”
The Maggid, Rav Sholom Schwadron zt”l, was also present. He said: “This is hard. Chazal tell us that a maidservant at Yam Suf saw what Yechezkel ben Buzi did not merit seeing. And yet, despite this, she remained a maidservant. In other words, it is almost impossible to hold onto peak moments without great effort. When the moment passes, so does the excitement. Life’s routine grinds up even the greatest experiences.” He looked over at the Mashgiach, but he was shaking his head.
Rav Meir Chodosh disagreed. “The things that happen to a person are not lost,” he told his students. “They return and surface at critical moments. However, if you want to preserve the greatness of the moments to their fullest, and not let them fade with time, I have one suggestion. Link the event to a practical resolution for the future – and be strict about carrying it out. Every time you do it, the memory of that great moment will rise up, along with the feeling of elevation and trust in Hashem.”
Then he retold a lesson he had learned from personal experience. “After the miracle that happened to me in Russia, when a crazed Cossack soldier had already aimed his gun at me and, through a miracle, I was not shot, I was certain that I would never be the same person. Within a short time, however, I saw that habit and routine were conquering me and weakening the impact of that miracle. That’s when I decided to make an effort to keep up its strength, by being determined to be strict in my adherence to a number of resolutions I had made to commemorate that miracle. But the miracle itself began to wane.
“Then, more than ten years later, during the violence (riots) in Chevron, as murderers rampaged all around me, I suddenly remembered that miracle. The memory infused me with courage and confidence in Hashem during those awful moments. I had complete faith that, if Hashem wanted me to live, I would live. In other words,” Rav Meir concluded, “that point of faith did not get lost, thanks to the practical resolutions I had undertaken.” And he added, “Faith is a precious commodity. One must work on it, develop it, and safeguard it with all his consciousness.”
(Adapted from The Mashgiach by Rebbetzin Shulamit Ezrachi)