"Again There Shall Be Heard ... in the Streets of Jerusalem"
Based on a sicha by Harav Yehuda Amital
Translated by Kaeren Fish
Thus says the Lord: Again there shall be heard in this place, which you say is ruined, without man or beast - in the cities of Judea and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without men, without inhabitants and without beasts - the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those saying, "Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever," as they bring sacrifices of thanksgiving to the House of God. For I shall bring back the captivity of the land as in the past, says the Lord. (Yirmiyahu 33:10-11)
Throughout the Bible, Jerusalem is portrayed as the city of God, the city in which the Temple resides. In the above-quoted prophecy of consolation, too, Yirmiyahu prophesies that the bridegroom and the bride will approach the Temple with sacrifices of thanksgiving in their hands: "... the voice of those saying, 'Praise the Lord of Hosts ...' as they bring sacrifices of thanksgiving to the House of God."
However, the Men of the Great Assembly, who included the rest of the verse in their formulation of the blessings recited at a wedding, chose to omit this concluding phrase in the verse. Instead, they replaced it with an alternate phrase:
...the joyous sounds of bridegrooms from their wedding canopies and young men from their music-filled festivities.
Beyond the problem of the change in wording, Chazal thereby also changed the meaning. Instead of the sound of worship, a sound full of elevated holiness - "the sound of those saying, 'Praise the Lord'" - we have the sound of frivolous and physical enjoyment: the sound of celebration and music. Why did the Men of the Great Assembly make this change?
The Men of the Great Assembly felt that the prophecy, as originally written, could give rise to despair in the future. First, the prophet describes the most forlorn of circumstances - a place that is completely desolate, with no human or animal inhabitants; then he prophesies a far-off ideal: the Temple rebuilt, and the sound of throngs bringing their sacrifices to the House of God. Will the sound of joy and happiness be heard once more in Jerusalem only when the Temple is rebuilt? Is there no intermediate situation between the two extremes of absolute destruction and the full rebuilding?
The Men of the Great Assembly therefore changed the formulation of the blessing in order to arouse hope and to make people realize the significance of such an in-between situation: "The joyous sound of bridegrooms from their wedding canopy and young men from their music-filled festivities." Sounds of joy and celebration will indeed be heard in the holy city even before the Temple is rebuilt.
In the interpretation of the Men of the Great Assembly there is a great and important message. The expression they inserted, "The joyous sounds of bridegrooms from their wedding canopy and young men from their music-filled festivities," does not appear in the prophecies of redemption. Rather, its source is to be found in the prophecies of destruction:
Old men have ceased to sit at the gate; young men have ceased from their music. (Eikha 5:14)
The normal situation - somewhere between absolute destruction and complete redemption - is that the elders sit at the city gates and function as judges, while young men play music and are happy. This situation, which will be realized prior to the complete redemption, itself represents a hopeful picture, and this is what the Men of the Great Assembly wished to convey in formulating the blessing as they did.
A similar message arises from a teaching of Rav Huna:
Anyone who partakes of the feast of a bridegroom without making an effort to make him happy transgresses five "sounds" - as it is written, "The sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of the bridegroom and the sound of the bride, the sound of those saying, 'Praise the Lord of Hosts.'" (Berakhot 6b)
Rav Huna is not talking about a bridegroom who brings a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the House of God. He rules that someone who witnesses a bridegroom at his wedding - even before the complete redemption - is obligated to make an effort to gladden him, inter alia because of "the sound of those saying, 'Praise the Lord.'" Joy and happiness have their own independent existence and status even before the House of God is rebuilt.
Today we celebrate our return to Jerusalem. If someone who participates in a wedding celebration and fails to make the bridegroom happy transgresses five commands related to "sounds," then this must certainly be true of someone who fails to celebrate the liberation of our holy city.
In 5727, the I.D.F. unified the Old City of Jerusalem and the modern Jerusalem, and this unification is symbolic of our astonishing victory in the Six-Day War. This miraculous war was preceded by days of fear and anxiety that we tend to forget: there were people who sent their children to the United States, pessimistic forecasts predicted tens of thousands of casualties, Foreign Minister Abba Eban ran from country to country, finding no one that would help us, the President of Egypt threatened to throw all the Jews into the sea and banished the U.N. from his country, and in a live radio broadcast Prime Minister Levi Eshkol could only stammer lamely; the atmosphere was one of terrible despair. The victory with the liberation of the Temple Mount was so great that we forget the despair and fear that preceded it. Today we have merited to see the realization of our ancient prayer, and the happy sounds of brides and bridegrooms, of young people, are heard again in the capital of the State of Israel.
There are people - including some who are religious, and even Religious Zionists - who remove the Holy One from our historical reality. It is as if God has handed the reigns of power to the politicians, who destroy and build as they wish, leaving Jerusalem bereft of God's guiding hand. We know that the enormous change that has taken place in Jerusalem and its transformation from a tiny settlement into the biggest city in the country, was not achieved solely by the government of Israel, or by Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert. The Holy One has never ceased to watch over and guide us, and for this reason we have merited to hear once again the sounds of joy and celebration in the city that was desolate. It is God who has stood by us to this day, and who we pray will realize the original prophecy very soon:
... the voice of those saying, "Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever," as they bring sacrifices of thanksgiving to the House of God.
(This sicha was delivered on Yom Yerushalayim 5760 .)