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The Resonance of Jerusalem

by Rabbi Adin (Steinsaltz) Even-Yisrael

  

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Everyone who lives in Jerusalem — especially those like me who were born here — is in love with the city, really in love. For us, it is not just a place, not just a house; it is a home. But it is even more than that: It is an object of love. Even visitors are in some way ensnared by Jerusalem. So many of their hearts are captured, but in different ways, for different reasons. Why is it so?

Jerusalem is many things to many people, because it is — and always has been — a kind of enigma. It is a place that is composed of many parts. They may seem to clash with one another, but somehow they achieve a kind of harmony that is felt by anyone who walks her streets or breathes her air or soaks up her sunshine.

Jerusalem is simple, but not naive. Jerusalem is simple in a most sophisticated simplicity, because Jerusalem has passed sophistication. It is a very old city. It is a city that has suffered much and has known so many things that it is now very simple, like some of those great masterpieces. The simplicity hides so many things. You look at it, you dream about it, and you think, what really is it?

Jerusalem is also, in many ways, a combination of contradictions: It is called, and its name itself implies, "City of Peace," yet so many wars took place here. It is perhaps one of the most quarrelsome and troublesome places in the world, but it is still a city of peace
Jerusalem is also, in many ways, a combination of contradictions: It is called, and its name itself implies, “City of Peace,” yet so many wars took place here. It is perhaps one of the most quarrelsome and troublesome places in the world, but it is still a city of peace. There is a saying, especially in Jewish tradition, that it is “the house of God.” The gate to heaven is understood to refer to Jerusalem, but Jewish tradition also identifies the valley of Gehinom (hell) near the walls of the Old City.

This is Jerusalem. This is what the Psalmist described as ir she’chubra lah yahdav, a city that was joined together. It is not just joined together because there is old and new, or because it is home to religious and non-religious, Arabs and Jews and Christians. It is a place that combines differences and brings them, somehow, together in a kind of harmony of contradictions. And there is another explanation, which seems very beautiful to me, that the name Jerusalem comes from yir’e shalem, which may be translated as “a complete view,” another form of harmony.

It is historically, and perhaps theologically, significant that Jerusalem is unlikely as the site of a capital. It is not on a road, or on a river, or near the sea. It is somewhere ...in nowhere. Even so, it is a center — the place the Bible tells us that God chose. But why?


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Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.