Taught in Sixth and I Synagogue. Based on the teachings of Rabbi David Fohrman
Taught in Sixth and I Synagogue. Based on the teachings of Rabbi David Fohrman
There is no tune more haunting and inspiring than Yerushalayim shel Zahav by Naomi Shemer: http://www.shira.net/music/lyrics/yerushalayim-shel-zahav.htm
She wrote the song while Jerusalem was indeed desolate from Jews. She wrote it for a May 15th performance. Just about a month later, she joyously added another stanza, celebrating the miraculous victory of the Jewish People, and celebrating that those wells and marketplaces are no longer empty:
It’s not just Yerushalayim shel Zahava that evokes such strong emotion, almost any song about Jerusalem has the same effect. I get teary-eyed listening to Matisyahu singing about Jerusalem! And it’s not just the music; everything about Yerushalayim causes an intense and beautiful reaction. I have a number of students that I teach who have no background whatsoever in Judaism. After going on Birthright, I ask them to describe the feeling of entering the Old City, of standing at the Western Wall, there are no words. They just describe an intense, overwhelming emotion, one that I think is quite familiar to everyone here.
So what is it? What is the magic of Yerushalayim? How can a city bring about so much emotion?
The Zohar, the primary mystical source in Judaism says the following idea about Yerushalayim. It is described as the private meeting place between husband and wife. In other words, according to the Zohar, Yerushalayim’s significance is the fact that it is our home; a meeting place between us and G-d. (Rabbi Moshe Weinberger)
And that’s why we respond so strongly to Yerushalayim. Have you ever gone on a trip; it may have been the most exotic, exquisite and exciting trip of your life? And then you come home. How does that feel? It feels great, it feels welcoming, it feels refreshing. It feels like home. There is nothing more comfortable, there is nothing that puts at ease more than our personal living space.
That’s what Yerushalayim is. It’s home. And just like in our homes, every picture, every chatchka, every coat of paint says a story, the story of the people who live there. So too Jerusalem, every stone, every wall says a story about those who live there. That’s the magic of Jerusalem, that’s the emotion that Jerusalem brings out of us. It’s one of the most comfortable, welcoming, serene feeling known to man, coming to Jerusalem is coming home.
This Wednesday is Yom Yerushalayim, it’s the holiday that commemorates the day the paratroopers stormed the walls of Jerusalem and returned Jewish sovereignty after so many years. But in light of that Zohar’s teaching, Yerushalayim is so much more than a commemoration. If Jerusalem is our home then we are celebrating every brick that has been laid in the holy city.
A little while ago we did some minor construction in our house. Every day I’d come home and the workers did one more thing, and my wife and I would be overjoyed – “Ah! One step closer to our home being built!”
Yerushalayim is one long construction project, they are constantly adding layer after layer, monorails and apartments, Mamilla Mall. It’s endless. And each new layer, each new project means that our home is one step closer to being fully furnished and built.
More than that, every day that we live there is a deepening of the relationship with G-d. Just like every day you live in your home, you are more connected to it and to the people you share it with.
This Wednesday, we are not only celebrating the past, Six Days of miracles that culminated with the sweetest words in recent Jewish history, “Har HaBayit Beyodeinu, the Temple Mount is in our hands.” We’re celebrating so much more. We’re celebrating an ongoing building project, a shared space between us, the Jewish People, and our loving Father in Heaven. A home with G-d – that’s worth celebrating.
But it also means the following. There has been a lot of chatter in recent months about the American Embassy moving to Jerusalem, the true capital of the Jewish State. It goes without saying that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish People. But there are questions as to what is best for Israel. Would moving the embassy to Yerushalayim be a crucial step in ensuring that we never lose our connection to our ancestral land? Would moving the embassy to Jerusalem cause more bloodshed? Would moving the embassy scare the enemies of the Jews, demonstrating that the United States truly has Israel’s back? And then of course the many questions as to what will actually happen? Will the President of the United States go through with his promise to do so? Maybe yes, maybe no.
But friends, while this question is of the utmost importance I think we cannot lose sight of one thing. For three thousand years, we have been praying, not for the American Embassy to move to Yerushalayim, we’ve been praying for G-d’s embassy to move to Yerushalayim!
Our shared home is beautiful, but the Master bedroom, the most intimate and important part of the home that we are building is missing. The American Embassy is nice, but it’s like a guest room. What we really need and we don’t yet have is the Bais HaMikdash.
And so we celebrate but we also cry, and we also pray that this wonderful gift, this wonderful shared home that we are watching grow and develop in our lifetime should be completed bimheira v’yomeinu, speedily in our days.
Which brings to my final point.
We don’t live in Jerusalem. And that’s a pity. Because Jerusalem is a place where G-d’s presence is felt. He lives there – with us. And when we know G-d lives with us that changes our behavior, that changes our character, it changes us entirely.
Some Christian groups have a mantra, a question they ask themselves throughout the day, WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? In each challenging circumstance, each time they feel themselves slipping, they ask themselves that question.
I think we as Jews, should ask ourselves, WWIDIJ: What Would I Do In Jerusalem? What would I do if I felt G-d’s presence in my life right now? What would I do if G-d was watching – as He is.
Because you see, Yerushalayim is not just a place, it is an idea. The name Yerushalyim is made up of two words – Yirah, to see, and Shaleim, to be at peace. The idea of Yerushalyim is to see G-d and to be at peace with that.
Normally, we only have one of those. We sometimes see G-d, but we’re anything but comfortable. And sometimes we’re comfortable in the way we act, the things we do, but only because we’re ignoring G-d.
Yerushalayim represents a mindset where I think about G-d, I see G-d in my life, I see Him hovering over me, and my lifestyle is at peace with that. We may not be able to live in Jerusalem, but we can still be a Yerushalmi.
We can pray thinking about the fact that G-d is literally standing before us. Imagine what kind of prayer that would be! We can interact with family knowing that G-d is in the room. Imagine how differently we would act! We can live our lives seeing G-d and learning how to be at peace, how to be comfortable with Him in our lives. Home is a concept, not only a place.
So let’s celebrate, let’s celebrate 50 years of living together with G-d! 50 years of building together the most magnificent home! And though we may not live there, let’s live there nonetheless. Let’s live in a state of Yerushalayim, in a state of G-d-awareness, asking ourselves, what we would do differently, how we would act, what we would say, if G-d was standing here, as He is. And in that merit, in the merit of creating and living in a conceptual Yersuahalyim, may we merit to see this wonderful home completed. May we see the building of the inner sanctum, the master bedroom, the Bais HaMikdash build on the Temple Mount speedily in our days.
A few practical examples of Ohel that are permitted and forbidden:
PERMITTED: Unfolding a hood of a baby carriage is permitted as it is unfolding and not creating a new tent.
Covering one’s sukkah with a tarp is allowed as long as it is flush against the s’chach.
PROHIBITED: Draping a blanket over chairs is prohibited.
Draping a mosquito net over a baby carriage cannot be done. However, if one constructs the tent with the roof first, this is permitted. One may therefore have on person hold the tent up and then drive the carriage into the cover.
In addition to creating a roof, there is a prohibition against creating a permanent wall. This includes creating a partition that is fastened at both the top and bottom. However, one may unfold a folding wall as it is there already and simply needs to be taken out.
An extension of the prohibition of building is making a tent – Ohel. One violates this prohibiton when one erects a ‘roof’ that is either permanent or temporary.
To be considered making a roof the area it covers must be at least 3.75 inches and there must be empty space underneath (as opposed to a table cloth on a table). There are distinctions made between roofs that are meant to cover people/ animals as opposed to roofs that serve a different purpose.