Kedoshim – A Tale of Two Tunnels

 Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner

In Jerusalem, Israel there are two tunnels that represent the country best.

One tunnel, that I recently walked down, is about 500 yards away from the Dung Gate of the Old City, which leads to the Western Wall. This tunnel is a few stories underground and is in the midst of being excavated by leading researchers and archaeologists. This tunnel is on a steep incline that leads at its base to a pool that served as a Mikvah – the purifying bath – that people would immerse in thousands of years ago, before entering the ancient Temple.

Hundreds of bags of dirt and sand are sifted through daily to find relics and artifacts. A few months ago a small golden bead that was once worn on the garment donned by the highest priest when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, was found. This is the very same walkway that thousands of our ancestors walked for hundreds of years to make sacrifices and ritually observe our traditions. It is an amazing site.

On the other side of town is another tunnel. It was formed with groundbreaking technology that burrowed  into the deep parts of hills and mountains to lay tracks for a speed train that now can reach Tel Aviv in less than 18 minutes. This tunnel, and the technology around it, has now connected the communities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, allowing people to live in one city and work in the other with simple commuting options. This train uses state of the art magnets to achieve speed and safety.

These two tunnels in one city represent Israel perfectly: unpacking yesterday and exploring tomorrow. Israel and Israelis are a people in-between both of these tunnels, constantly pulled at the yin-yang of history and future, memory and revelry. That is why on this 71st birthday of the State this week, Israel pauses for a day of reflection for the fallen and then transitions to a day of celebration, representing those polarized emotions and the balance that leads to the ancient/modern state.

Some might say a country with two tunnels in different directions is counter-productive and is more than one can handle. I would argue, Israel could not thrive were it not for both of these disparate tunnels and the path they lay out for us. Our history is the foundation for our future. This magnificent and miraculous country proves that daily.

Happy Birthday, Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner