Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day. It commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty in 1967.
I love Jerusalem. I was blessed to live there for nearly three years. Have you ever wondered why Jerusalem is so important to us?
King David famously said, “If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its strength.
We often declare “next year in Jerusalem!” We just said that at the end of the Passover seder. Also, at the end of Yom Kippur, a long shofar blast is sounded, to which the congregation responds, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The name “Jerusalem” – “Yerushalayim” in Hebrew – has two parts: Yira, which means “to see,” and shalem, which means “peace.”
There’s a certain clarity that we find in Jerusalem; an inner peace. A friend once described it like this – she said “in life, I often feel like I’m looking through a window that’s made of frosted glass. In Jerusalem, the window is made of clear glass. Things just make more sense.” If you’ve had the privilege of being there, you may have experienced this.
Abraham said of Jerusalem, “This is the place where God is seen.” In Jerusalem, we feel more connected to God; we can feel His presence.
Part of the name Jerusalem is “vision.” We can see more clearly. The other part of the name is peace, but the peace of Jerusalem is not the absence of strife. The peace of Jerusalem that we’re talking about is clarity. It is connection. It is a place that the Jewish people are all connected to; that we all pray for and towards. It unites the Jewish people.
When we stand in Jerusalem, we gain perspective – on the fact that we are all brothers and sisters. We remember our collective mission – to be a light unto the nations; a moral example for one another, and for the rest of the world.
Jerusalem is a center which gives us perspective on the rest of the world, and on life.
We have always kept Jerusalem in our memories. A lot of Jewish people will leave a square unplastered in their homes, in memory of Jerusalem. We break a glass at weddings – even in the midst of our simcha, we recall the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. From all over the world we turn and pray toward Jerusalem. Rabbi Pinchas Stolper says “The Jew may not always be in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is always in the Jew”.
Jerusalem is always in our hearts. It reminds us of who we are. We are a nation that is meant to be a light; an example. Rabbi Shraga Simmons says: “we taught the world to beat their swords into plowshares, to love your neighbor as yourself, equality before justice, and that admiration belongs not to the rich and powerful, but to the good, the wise, and the kind.”
For the Jewish people today, it is not simple to stay united in our shared vision. We can be divided by language, by geography, and by our differences in religious practice.
Jerusalem helps bring us clarity. Jerusalem gives us the strength to connect; to achieve what we as a people are meant to do – to unite, and to be an example to the world.