In honor of Jerusalem Day, which marks the liberation and reunification of our capital city, here are a few cultural waystations in over 3,000 years in which we have remembered Jerusalem even during the depths of our exile and because of which we have always known to where we aspire to return:
1. Jerusalem is both at the beginning and end of our national and spiritual concern. Jerusalem is both an idea with a place behind it and a place with an idea behind it.
In recent months, I have been studying the Book of Samuel with my daughter. Samuel the Prophet served as the connecting link between the period of the Judges and the period of the Kings. This is our people's book of politics: the struggles between the tribes for recognition and between the royal houses for power. After the changes of power and David's ascent to the throne, there was a need to find a unifying capital not located within the territory of a specific tribe. Thus, the City of David was founded with the conquest of Jerusalem, which became the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel.
The following historical formula has accompanied us ever since: First, we settle throughout the land, and only after we establish ourselves does Jerusalem arrive. "Blessed is the Lord from Zion, He who dwells in Jerusalem. Hallelujah." First Zion, and then Jerusalem. Just as in our time: the return to Jerusalem in 1967 comes after the establishment of the state in 1948. First the establishment of the national body, and after that, our spirit is revived. The historical process works in hidden ways on the national spirit, and it is important to be aware of this, to equip oneself with patience, and not to hasten the end, i.e. the redemption.
2. Our sages taught us: In remembrance lies the secret of redemption. If we remember from whence we came, we shall know where to return. People of all religions and nations bless their gods for food, but it is the Jews whose sages created a special blessing in which in the grace after meals we call on God to rebuild Jerusalem. What is the connection between food, a universal need, and our capital? Our sages apparently wanted to instill in us the understanding that just as an individual cannot live without bread, without food, so too the nation cannot survive without Jerusalem. Every day, when we say grace after meals, we remember how keenly we miss Jerusalem. This is an act that after thousands of years has become part of our identity, a component of our collective unconsciousness.
And when a couple marries, they remember Jerusalem beneath their wedding canopy. They break a glass to declare that their joy is not complete as long as our city lies in ruins. Before breaking the glass, they recite the oath of the Babylonian exiles. When the city was first destroyed in the sixth century BCE, the Babylonians exiled the social elite, the priests, the Levites, and the political and spiritual leadership. The Babylonian captors discovered among the refugees Levites who used to play in the Temple orchestra. "Sing for us one of the songs of Zion" (Psalms 137) they demanded. But the exiles had already hung their harps on the willows and lamented to their captors, "How can we sing a song of the Lord on alien soil?!" We cannot sing, and "how" did we reach such a terrible state that our captors seek to force us to play for them, and we do not have the inspiration when we are not in our homeland. To strengthen their commitment, they swore: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy." Ever since then, we have repeated that oath.
Source - Israel Hayom/Twitter - Image - Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90