The Special Significance of Yerushalayim

Yerushalyim is the center of the universe, the focus of our national consciousness.

The entire city is sacred, and at its center is the most sacred place on Earth, the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple.

It is known as Ir David, the city of King David, who chose it for his royal palace. It was the site of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of justice. It thus served as the epitome of religious ritual, of political power, and of civil righteousness.

Its glorious history was interrupted by two catastrophic destructions and the subsequent exile of its Jewish inhabitants. Since the second destruction, the exile persisted for almost two millennia.

But the city and its significance never was erased from our memory. We prayed for it daily, sang its songs, lamented its absence, and yearned for it in our dreams.

Slowly, we returned to it. That return accelerated in our own times with the establishment of the State of Israel.

But the return to the holy city remained incomplete. The epicenter of the city was devoid of Jewish inhabitants. The locale of the Holy Temple and its immediate surroundings remained off-limits to our people.

“So near and yet so far”.

And then, the Six Day War, with initial dread followed by swift triumph. How inspiring were the images of the return to the Kotel, to the Western Wall, accompanied by the sound of the shofar and the songs of Zion.

Fifty-four years have passed since the 28th day of Iyar, 5727, 1967. We now walk the streets of the Old City. We now pray at the Kotel.

Yet “We cannot… perform our duties in Your chosen House… because of the hand that is stretched out against Your sanctuary”.

We remain ever conscious of what we are still missing. But we are grateful for all that we have already attained. It is that gratefulness that we celebrate this coming Monday, May 10, as Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day.

Our Sages speak of two Jerusalems, a heavenly Jerusalem and an earthly Jerusalem.

This coming Monday, we celebrate both Jerusalems. The earthly Jerusalem represents a city increasingly recognized by the nations of the world as the capital of the Jewish state. It is the seat of the government and the offices of the President and Prime Minister. It has witnessed great growth and economic development. All this warrants celebration and acclaim.

The heavenly Jerusalem calls for similar celebration and acclaim. The synagogues of Yerushayim are full of congregants and are richly diverse. The institutions of Torah study are many and exemplary. Just one week after Yom Yerushalayim, thousands will interrupt their night-long Torah study to flock to the Kotel for early morning prayers.

It is well to contemplate the two components of the word “Yeru-Shalayim,” yirah and shalom, awe and peace. Yerushalayim combines awesome religiosity with spiritual harmony.

We still have challenges in the spheres of both yirah and shalom. May our celebration this year not lack introspection and self-improvement.

May festivity and rejoicing be accompanied by charity, unity, and repentance.

The words of King David in psalm 122 remain ever relevant:

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you prosper. May there be peace within your ramparts, tranquility in your citadels.’ For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I shall say, ‘Peace be within you.'”

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.