Jerusalem – City of Peace
Throughout Jewish ritual and liturgy we find countless mentions and reminders of Jerusalem. Breaking a glass under a huppah is just one of those.
In many communities it is customary to remember Jerusalem at every meal by chanting or singing a Psalm just before the Birkat Hamazon blessings. On days having no festive nature, Jews may use Psalm 137, “On the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept remembering Zion. On the willows we hung our harps… How could we sing God’s song on foreign land? If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [her skills].” On more festive days, Jews may sing Psalm 126, “Shir HaMa’alot, when God returns the people to Jerusalem we will be like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with singing… Those who plant in tears will reap in song.”
Today is Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s miraculous victory during the Six Day War, the reunification of Jerusalem, and the return of the Kotel to our hands. How truly blessed we are, today, to be able to visit Jerusalem and the Kotel, on a moment’s notice, after just a few hours of air travel! (Covid-permitting of course.)
And yet, modern Jerusalem is not without more than its fair share of tears – as is almost every aspect of our mostly good lives.
The pairing of Psalms 137 and 126 should teach us that it is important to set aside time to focus on sad things, but with the goal of improving them, and to remember that by working through those bad times with a positive focus on a better future, the tears eventually turn into joyous song. We yearn to see tears turned to joy as we abide by difficult Covid regulations as well.
Another mention of Jerusalem in our liturgy is at the end of the Passover Seder, where we say “L’shanah Haba’ah birushalayim” – “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This phrase concluded our Seder throughout all the Jewish People’s wanderings in Exile. When in 1948 and 1967 Jerusalem returned to Jewish hands, we were able to travel there with ease after thousands of years of difficulty, and as Jerusalem began being rebuilt, it became customary to add the word “hab’nuyah” at the end of the phrase, to mean “Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem”, since it was very possible to be in Jerusalem even this year, and indeed numerous Jews actually were.
The phrase “Yerushalayim HaB’nuya” – “rebuilt Jerusalem”, comes from another verse in Psalms: 122:3. “Rebuilt Jerusalem is like a city joined together,” which took on added meaning in 1967 when the border wall between East and West came down. But our Sages understood the joining mentioned in the verse as not being horizontal but vertical: “There is a built Jerusalem in Heaven, and in the future, the Earthly Jerusalem will become built like that one.” (Rashi Ps 122:3) And of course, this higher-lower comparison reminds us of what we say numerous times throughout our prayers, “Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom alenu, v’al kol Yisrael” – “May God who makes peace on high, make peace for us and for all Israel.”
We pray that heavenly peace descend upon Jerusalem and all of us, and that once again we can join together in song, in safety and in health. Amen.
Yom Yerushalayim Sameah and Shabbat Shalom!