What is it about the place? For every Yid, the very mention of the site causes a plethora of emotion. To what do I refer? To Yerushalayim, of course, the center of our collective heart.
A young talmid of mine, a university student, told me that he often finds himself getting into debates with others about the situation in Eretz Yisrael, and for some reason, whenever the subject of Yerushalayim comes up, he finds himself at a loss for words. I explained that when it comes to that holy place, words are useless because Yerushalayim is about emotions, not reason.
Why does this small area of land have such a hold on us? How is it possible that for generations Jews worried over Yerushalayim without ever seeing it? So many of our people have shed tears over a place neither they, nor their parents or grandparents, ever experienced.
This is beyond any logic; it’s part of our core, our self. I have seen many works that try to explain the Yerushalayim’s unique hold over us, and every one of them is worthy of study. I am not such an erudite scholar and won’t pretend I have the wisdom to articulate what I find beyond words. I can only share what I know is in your hearts as well. This city talks to my soul. Its rocks give me a feeling of home, the air clears my senses and its breezes refresh my spirit.
There are many different kinds of knives in this world. Some are sharp ones with needle-like points; others are long and smooth. The most dangerous of all are the blunt broad-serrated ones that not only cut but rip and slash. Every time one hears of another terrorist desecration in our holy city, it is just such a knife wound to the heart, a rip that causes a spasm of unbearable pain.
How much can our people take? How long will this all last? Turmoil in any place is despicable, but when it happens in Yerushalayim, it seems all the worse. That holy city was meant to be the center of peace and loving devotion. Its foundations were built on our forefathers’ prayers and sacrifices. How can such carnage fill its streets? How can Jewish blood run onto its hallowed stones?
We are stricken with disbelief, yet we seek hope in the darkness. Despite all indications to the contrary, we sense that somehow the morning will bring a healing balm to the gaping wounds, and Hashem will awaken the entire world to His reality.
This strong belief is in itself beyond all understanding; it’s just there, in our nucleus, in our selves. Everything we are as Yidden finds resonance in that holy city, and just as our survival is beyond all rational understanding, so too is our attachment to this unique abode.
In this kapitel, Korach’s sons extolled this wondrous place although they had never set eyes on it. They did so at the entrance to hell, on witnessing the destruction of their father’s rebellion. Their words would later be sung in the Beis Hamikdash as the designated song for Monday, the second day of the week. On this day during the creation of the world Hashem separated the heavens from the earth. This division between the spiritual and the material causes dissention, but it gives us the opportunity to create holiness as well. Korach’s sons realized this, and they spoke of Yerushalayim and its ability to do the same.
Come, let us share their words and find true hope.
Hashem is great and highly extolled in the city of our God, the mountain of His Sanctuary. Any visitor to Yerushalayim will tell you that its most striking aspect is the depth and diversity of its inhabitants. One can find all streams of Yiddishkeit in its streets. On any given Shabbos, the visitor is astounded by the colorful, otherworldly scene that flows down the streets. Chassidic, Litvish, Yemenite, Sefardic and Jerusalemite all walk to and from their places of worship with a quiet dignity that whispers of past generations. Oh, how great is Hashem’s name when these loving Yidden speak it in living terms! In direct contrast to the pushy, secular world that seeks to encroach on this solemn tableau, these unsung heroes create a kiddush Hashem that only underlines the emptiness of a material lifestyle.
Look at the kinderlach, their peyos flowing in the soft breeze, their eyes shining with a clever sparkle that speaks volumes. This is a living Torah world, not one left in the dusty pictures of some museum. Every one of these sweet Jews seeks to come closer to Hashem despite the trials and tribulations of a real life often spent without the daily accoutrements that are seen to be necessities in the more material world.
Harav Ezriel Tauber, shlita, tells the story of a fellow who lived in Nitra before the last war. He was a righteous convert to our people and ultimately died as a Jew in the Holocaust. When asked why he chose to become a Jew, he related that one Yom Kippur night he passed by the large shul in Nitra and heard singing. Peering in, he saw hundreds of Yidden dressed all in white, each with a tallis over his head. They looked like angels. On closer inspection, he realized that these angels were none other than the fellows he encountered every day in the market place. There was Mendel the milkman; in another corner was Chaim the tanner. In fact, he realized he knew most of the congregants. At that moment, he decided to become a Jew. “A religion that could transform everyday folk into angels was a religion I wanted to belong to,” was how he put it.
Yerushalayim does this to anyone seeking spirituality. You feel all that much closer, all that much better. This is the true measure of Hashem’s greatness in His holy city.
Beautiful in its panoramic vista (nof), the joy of all the earth is Mount Zion, on the northern sides, city of the great King. The beauty of Yerushalayim is not only ascetic. By using the word nof, the psalmist points to another aspect as well. Nof can mean a tree trunk, which carries nutrition to every one of its branches and leaves. Yerushalayim has this ability. Its “joy of all the earth” is its scholars, bringing the living Torah to Jews everywhere. Every student of Torah has drunk from Jerusalem’s sacred Torah learning, either directly or indirectly through scholars who have spent time there.
The kapitel goes on to show the multi-faceted beauty of Hashem’s city. We are left with the one burning question why? Why the warfare, why the spilled blood and terror? No one answer can suffice, just as no one sight of the holy city can describe its totality. However, the last passage may give us a glimpse of an understanding.
That this is God, our God, forever and ever. He will lead us like children. There are so many mysteries in this life. We are all like children when facing the enormity of this big world that surrounds us. Children react in many different ways when faced with diversity. Some become frightened and run toward their trusted loved ones. Others become petulant and defy their parents’ guidance, thinking they know better. All children must trust their elders if they are to prosper and grow.
Our Father knows about our pain. He guides us toward its relief, and that path is dedication to His Torah. The hate we see around us will only be dispelled through our fostering a closer relationship with our eternal Parent, Hashem. Good must start someplace. Why not make that starting point within ourselves?
What is the ultimate good? For an answer, just take a Shabbos stroll down a street in our holy city. Gaze at the children’s faces and taste the sweetness of the air. Yes, be a child again, and with Hashem’s guiding hand, you can make a difference from which the ultimate redemption of our special city will flow forth.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Torah.org.