Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If I Forget Thee

“If I forget thee O’ Jerusalem, let my right hand wither” (Psalms 137:5 - Im esh’kachech Yerushalayim, tishkach y’meenee)...poignantly expresses the Jewish people’s longing for Jerusalem. The Bible predicts that the land of Israel is destined to have one specific site that will be holy beyond all others and refers to this site as “the place which God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there” (Deuteronomy 16). The place God chose was Jerusalem.

The old question of “the chicken and the egg” (which came first?) can be applied to the holiness of Jerusalem. Was the location of Jerusalem holy before the Temple was built or did Jerusalem become holy because the Temple was built there?

According to the sages, Jerusalem is built upon Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed (Genesis 22:14), indicating clearly that, beyond its role as the Temple location, the spot had integral spiritual significance. It is traditionally assumed that King David had prophetic knowledge of this holiness when he selected Jerusalem to be the national and spiritual capital of the Jewish nation.

In Jewish law, objects used for sacred purposes may not simply be discarded or destroyed but must be disposed of in a respectful manner (“Rava said: ‘Covers of single books of the Torah and cases of Torah scrolls, are accessories of sacred items [that are no longer usable] and must be hidden” -- Megillah 26b.) One can therefore readily understand that the city of Jerusalem, the place where the Temple stood, remains eternally holy.

For nearly two thousand years the Jewish people could only be guests in their holy city (and sometimes not even that). On the 28th of Iyar in 1967, however, Israeli troops captured the Old City, unifying Jerusalem and allowing Jews to live and pray in the city that lives in our hearts.

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