JERUSALEM-In my soul’s imagination, I travel back 2,700 years to one of the street corners of this splendid City of White Gold.
I can see our prophet Isaiah wiping his tears as he uttered those moving and immortal words, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord. “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her.”1
Jerusalem! Today I wish to heed Isaiah’s words and speak to your heart.
How many secrets, City of Light, does your gigantic heart contain? How many impressions, how many scars, are imbedded in the crevices of your ancient stones?
If only I could, even for a moment, feel all that you have absorbed over the past 4,000 years. You have been there to take in every tear, every sigh, every wound, and every death. You have seen your children born and your children slaughtered, the brides married and then mutilated. You have watched millions of Jews dancing in your streets and then seen millions of them massacred on the very same thoroughfares. You have heard infinite melodies of jubilation and have lent your ear to endless wallows of grief. The entire story of my people is displayed right here on the worn and weathered lines of your stony, silent face.
You have been a loyal witness to our collective drama, unique among all the peoples of the world: Our glory and our horror, our despair and our hope, our firm faith in the existence of ultimate good and our rational skepticism caused by evil’s ruthless power on this planet. Above all, you have served as the energizer in our millennia-long battle to fashion a world that will reflect the infinity of human potential.
When I enter your walls, oh Jerusalem, I forget my ego. I become larger than myself, part of the eternal melody of my people Israel, reverberating in every inch of your soil.
In the rest of the world, people pursue meaning; in you, Jerusalem, meaning pursues people. You have been the center stage of a 4,000-year struggle to discover G-d in the ordinary lives of mankind and to build a fragment of heaven down here on earth. This courageous effort always sustained itself from your terrain – the one place in the world where heaven and earth kiss.
The Kabbalists teach us that every holy thought, every moral instinct, every sacred yearning, every spiritual experience, originates within the walls of Jerusalem. You have been chosen to serve as the power plant of holiness and morality in a hostile and depraved world.
And you never forgot us, Jerusalem. Since the day the Temple went up in flames, you did not close your eyelids for even one night’s rest. Like a mother tossing and turning, awaiting the return of a missing child, you have never ceased anticipating your children’s return. You never came to terms with us being expelled from your sacred borders.
On this day, Jerusalem, your children are hurting badly. Just this year alone hundreds of your children were blown to pieces by their bloodthirsty neighbors. Among the victims were babies, teenagers, parents and grandparents. A big hole has formed in the collective heart of Israel. No celebration is complete, no serenity genuine. Too many people’s laughter has been stolen in this tiny country.
Yet, we, the people who brought humanity the Bible and with it a dignity of purpose, refuse to accept that these deaths and our lives are meaningless accidents in a random universe. We choose to embrace our millennia-long conviction that our fight for goodness and for the sanctity of life is worthwhile, because goodness ultimately will triumph, and evil will be banished.
Jerusalem! What we, the Jewish people, need more than anything today is a big hug. We crave reassurance that our daily efforts to live lives of goodness and kindness, inspired by the ethics and morality of our Torah and Mitzvahs, are truly purposeful. We can’t get rid of the pain, but we want to at least feel that our lives and deaths have real meaning and are leading somewhere.
This Shabbat, we will embrace you, Jerusalem, and you will embrace us. May G-d embrace us both, with the coming of Moshiach, now. Only then will the eternal smile return to the face of Jerusalem and its children.
1. Isaiah 40:1. – Isaiah, who wrote the 66 chapter book that bears his name, was born 2767 years ago in the year 765 B.C.E. Isaiah was 25 years old when he experienced his first prophetic vision, and is considered, after Moses, to be the greatest of all prophets. According to the Talmud, he was born circumcised and lived for 120 years. Menasseh, the King of Judah, killed him. Isaiah predicted the demise of the northern state, as well as the future destruction of the Temple. Most of his book, however, consists of words of comfort and healing for Zion and Israel, predicting its future rejuvenation and redemption.