If I forget you Jerusalem, may I lose my job. Too harsh? Not really. Read it again. Read it for what it really says after you removed the warm fuzzy feelings.
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my utmost joy“
When we pray we face Jerusalem. When one gets married we break the glass in memory of her brokenness – even at the moment of our utmost joy; especially at the moment of our utmost joy. She is an integral part of our daily prayers. At two of the most pivotal moments during the Jewish year, Seder night on Passover and at the end of the longest most intense day, Yom Kippur, at the culmination of the Ne’ila service when the heavenly gates of prayer are closing, we shout with strengthened resolve: “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim!–Next Year in Jerusalem.” And those who have already returned to Israel, we say, “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim habenuyah“–“Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem.”
Why remember Jerusalem, and why with such intensity?
Because it is the place that G-d chose (Deut 16:16). Of all the places in His Creation, this is the most beloved of all. David knew this when he made it the official Capitol during his reign. He knew that the Temple would be built at the very place where Avraham had to offer Yitchak, where Yaakov saw the ladder to Heaven – the place where Heaven meets Earth. But he also knew that it was neutral territory, not belonging to any single tribe – the “Washington DC” or “Switzerland” of the Land of Israel.
Jerusalem was the chosen place where the chosen people had to meet at chosen times. “‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times…” Leviticus 23:4. Thousands of Pilgrims ascended to Jerusalem three times a year for service at the Holy Temple. Jerusalem became the heart, the Temple, the inner and most important chamber of that heart. And with the Jewish People continually ascending and returning again to their homes, the Torah flowed from Jerusalem, constantly pulsing through Israel’s veins, bringing wellbeing and prosperity to its people.
David gives a hint to what this was, and will be again:
For there were set thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.
Jerusalem in her peak during the peace reign of Solomon was the place of Godly inspiration, a center where fair and righteous judgment flowed like a healing balm to the people, and also to the nations. It was the seat of governance that ruled the people with wisdom and integrity – a legacy left by King David. The wellbeing of Jerusalem secured the wellbeing of the People of Israel. That’s why David stresses the fact that we have to pray for the “Shalom” of Jerusalem.
Shalom doesn’t mean Peace
The literal translation from Hebrew is to request, even to petition for the wellbeing of Jerusalem. The word Shalom is generally associated with peace, a word that has been worn thin in the jargon dictionary of politics. Shalom doesn’t mean peace. Shalom means wholeness, balance and wellbeing on the deepest level of the soul. Imagine if a person can arrive at such a level. Imagine if a nation can arrive at such a level. Imagine if the most beloved place can again rise to such a level. Then, yes, peace will prevail by default. Political outcries for democracy, diplomacy and human rights will vanish, because these ever sought-after traits will be built into the very fiber of society.
And that’s why we can never forget her, why we are impelled to remember.
The more we remember, the more she responds
Remembrance is an antidote to despondency and amnesia. It is a constant update and sharpening of memory. It is a positive and active commandment, not a choice. And therefore we are impelled to do whatever we can by human endeavor and emuna (faith) to bring wholeness to her. The more we remember, the more she responds. Finally the investment of 2000 years of active remembrance is showing dividends. A nation has returned to her borders. A city has been reunited. And slowly the ancient city herself, nestled away in the heart of a modern flourishing city, is rising from the dust and ashes. Under the care of loving and dedicated hands by the staff and workers from the City of David who are working tirelessly to release her from her millennia old prison; she is steadily on her way to total wholeness and wellbeing.
So pray for her courtyards, her walls, her palaces. Pray for her wellbeing and “and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Isaiah 62:7.
…and then put word to deed – come visit her. Come live the legacy.