There has been so much talk about the latest news regarding Jerusalem and, I have to admit, I am still conflicted by so many different thoughts and perspectives. All of them seem to swirl around the pragmatic and political issues surrounding the city. But, I want to approach this here from a different perspective.
The other night at services, I shared the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel which he wrote following his visit to Jerusalem in July, 1967, immediately after the six day war. Regardless of where anyone stands regarding this past week’s announcement, for me, these words capture better than any others I have ever read, the spirit of the city and what Jerusalem demands of us. I think it is worthwhile to take a moment to step back from the political discussion and think about what Heschel’s words mean to all of us, to everyone, who loves the city.
“The mystery that is Jerusalem, the challenge that is Jerusalem! How to unite the human and the holy? How to echo the divine in the shape of words, in the form of deeds?
Now that we are at home in the city of David, what is required of us? What message does this new chapter in Jewish history hold in store?
How shall we live in Jerusalem? She is a queen demanding high standards. What does she expect of us, living in an age of spiritual obtuseness, near exhaustion? What sort of light should glow in Zion? What words, what thoughts, what vision should come of out Zion?
The challenge is staggering. Let us pray that we may not fail. Let us prepare the minds and the hearts for the vision of Isaiah concerning Judaism and Jerusalem: “For our of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. “Isaiah 2:3-4
We must be aware lest the place of David become a commonplace.
One is terribly apprehensive. How do you live in the city of God? How do you match the infinitely holy with justice and compassion, with song and prayer? How do you live in a sanctuary day and night?… What should come out of Zion? Renunciation of lies, compassion, disgust with violence, help to overcome the infirmity of the spirit.
Jerusalem is more than a place in space or a memorial to glories of the past. Jerusalem is a prelude, anticipation of days to come.
How to prepare the city for such destiny? How to qualify for such calling?
It is one of the great marvels of history that Jerusalem is sacred not only to the Jews but also the Christians and to Moslems all over the world…Who will fan and force the fire of truth to spread across the world, insisting that we are all one, that mankind is not an animal species but a fellowship of care, a covenant of brotherhood?
None shall fear. None shall hurt.
There is cursing in the world, scheming and very little praying. Let Jerusalem inspire praying: an end to rage, an end to violence.
Let Jerusalem be a seat of mercy for all men. Wherever a sigh is uttered, it will evoke active compassion in Jerusalem.
Let there be no waste of history. This must be instilled in those who might be walking in the streets of Jerusalem like God’s butlers in the sacred palace. Here no one is more than a guest.
Jerusalem must not be lost to pride or to vanity.
All of Jerusalem is a gate, but the key is lost in the darkness of God’s silence. Let us light all the lights,let us call all the names to find the key…
From Israel: An Echo of Eternity.
I believe without question that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. But, I am not a political analyst. I am a rabbi and Heschel’s words speak to me. This is the Jerusalem that I long for and the one our tradition inspires us to work towards.
Seek the peace of Jerusalem.