We all have dreams. And we create visions of how we want things to be. I believe that one of the purposes of religion is to create a language of aspiration and hope. And so we have prayers for peace and reconciliation, and even prayers that express a desire for the perfection of the world!
On Yom Kippur we begin the Kol Nidre service asking for the permission of the Heavenly and Earthly courts (Yeshivat shel L’maalah and Yeshivat shel L’matah). This reflects a desire for some ultimate form of permission and judgement. In our literature we have notions of a heavenly and an earthly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem was a fantasy of a place of perfection, a place where God’s presence is constantly experienced. The earthly Jerusalem is a city of unique qualities. It is a city that we have deep historical roots and connections with. It is a city that had been the focus of our yearnings for thousands of years.
We love Jerusalem. It is the “city of peace,” by its very name. It is the place that our King David determined to be the eternal capital of the Jewish people. It is the place where our holy Temples stood and the place from which our Torah will emerge and influence the world. HaMakom, the place where religiously God dwells! When we visit Jerusalem we are touched by its beauty and grandeur, by its history and meaning, by its inspirational people and its spirit.
And yet, Jerusalem has been ours for a relatively short time in our history. And although we have a unique claim to the city, the city has resonant holiness to Christians and Muslims.
And, there is a Yerushalayim shel L’matah; an earthly Jerusalem. This is a city that is divided. It is a city where conflicts between Jews and Jews, between Israelis and Palestinians are evident. This earthly Jerusalem is both exquisite and in need of healing.
This week we will observe the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. On that incredible day in 1967 we finally had access again to our holiest places in the world. And Israel protected and respected the holy places of others. And so we bring Jerusalem to mind and celebrate with its residents. But, I think that as we traditionally break a glass at the end of a wedding, or leave a corner of our homes unpainted, to bring Jerusalem to mind, we know that there is work to be done.
I am an optimist. Somehow I believe that Jerusalem will hold the key to a future peace. The prophets, long ago, promised that one day all people will come to the mountain of the Lord and offer their prayers to God. I join them this week. I pray for the peace of the holy city of Jerusalem.
See you in shul.
Rabbi David Steinhardt