Sunday, May 17, 2015

Celebration of Jerusalem Day, its meaning for Jews

Since the 10th century BCE Jerusalem has been the holiest city, focus and spiritual center of the Jews.[1] Jerusalem has long been embedded into Jewish religious consciousness and Jews have always studied and personalized the struggle by King David to capture Jerusalem and his desire to build the Holy Temple there, as described in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. Many of King David's yearnings about Jerusalem have been adapted into popular prayers and songs. Jews believe that in the future the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem will become the center of worship and instruction for all mankind and consequently Jerusalem will become the spiritual center of the world.

Jewish religious writings contain thousands of references to Jerusalem, some of which are included in the following:
  • If one is praying in the Land of Israel, he should direct his heart towards Jerusalem; If he is standing in Jerusalem, he should face towards the Holy Temple — Brachot 27a
  • Why are the fruits of Ginosar not found in Jerusalem? So that the pilgrims should not say "were it only incumbent on us to eat the fruits of Ginosar in Jerusalem, it would be enough" — Pesachim 8b
  • In the future the Holy One will expand Jerusalem to the extent that a horse will flee and its owner will be able to recover it [while still being within the city’s limits] —Pesachim 50a
  • Jerusalem was not divided among the tribes — Yoma 12a
  • A snake or scorpion never injured anyone in Jerusalem — Yoma 21a
  • Whoever did not see Jerusalem in her glory has never seen a beautiful city — Sukkah51b
  • Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, Jerusalem took nine — Kidushin 49b
  • Jerusalem is the light of the world — Bereshit Rabbah 59
  • Jerusalem will not be rebuilt until the ingathering of the exiles has occurred —Tanchuma Noach 11
  • The Land of Israel sits at the centre of the world and Jerusalem sits at the centre of the Land of Israel — Tanchuma Kedoshim 10
  • Why did the omnipresent not create warm springs in Jerusalem, like those of Tiberias? So a person should not say “Let us ascend to Jerusalem in order to bathe” — Sifre Behaalotecha 89
  • There is no beauty like that of Jerusalem — Avot of Rabbi Natan 28
  • Ten miracles occurred for our forefathers in Jerusalem — Avot of Rabbi Natan 35
  • ”From all your tribes” – This refers to Jerusalem because all Israel are partners in her — Avot of Rabbi Natan 35
  • In the future all the nations and kingdoms will be gathered unto Jerusalem — Avot of Rabbi Natan 35
  • All who pray in Jerusalem - it is as if he prayed before the throne of glory, because the gate of heaven is situated there — Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 35
  • In the merit of Jerusalem I split the sea for them — Yalkut Shimoni Isaiah 473
  • In the future the suburbs of Jerusalem will be filled with precious stones and jewels and all of Israel will come and take them — Yalkut Shimoni Isaiah 478
  • From the day Jerusalem was destroyed, God has no joy, until He rebuilds Jerusalem and returns Israel to it 

In prayer

In Judaism, the daily prayers contain numerous references to Jerusalem. The amidah prayer, which is recited three times on regular weekdays, must be said facing towards Jerusalem. The following supplication is contained in it:
"And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoke. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of King David within it. Blessed are You, God, the builder of Jerusalem...May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion. Blessed are you God, who restores His presence to Zion".
In the Grace After Meals which is recited after partaking of a meal eaten with bread, the following is said:
"Have mercy Lord, our God...on Jerusalem Your city, on Zion the resting place of Your glory, on the monarchy of King David Your anointed, and on the great and holy Temple upon which Your name is called...Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, soon in our days. Blessed are you God who rebuilds Jerusalem in His mercy, amen".
After partaking of a light meal, the thanksgiving blessing states:
"Have mercy, Lord, our God...on Jerusalem, Your city; and on Zion, the resting place of Your glory; upon Your altar, and upon Your Temple. Rebuild Jerusalem, the city of holiness, speedily in our days. Bring us up into it and gladden us in its rebuilding and let us eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness and bless You upon it in holiness and purity.”

Customs in remembrance of Jerusalem

Some Jewish groups observe several customs in remembrance of Jerusalem. A tiny amount of ash is touched to the forehead of a Jewish groom before he goes to stand beneath the bridal canopy. This symbolically reminds him not to allow his own rejoicing to be "greater" than the ongoing need to recall Jerusalem's destruction. The well-known custom of the groom breaking a glass with the heel of his shoe after the wedding ceremony is also related to the subject of mourning for Jerusalem. It is a custom for some that the groom recites the sentence from Psalms, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [her cunning]." (Psalms 137:5).
Another ancient custom is to leave a patch of interior wall opposite the door to one's home unpainted, as a remembrance of the destruction (zecher lechurban), of the Temples and city of Jerusalem.
According to Jewish law, as an expression of mourning for Jerusalem, it is forbidden to listen to any form of music, other than on holidays and at celebrations such as weddings and inaugurations of new Torah scrolls. This prohibition, however, while codified in the Shulchan Aruch, is not followed by the vast majority of Orthodox and even Haredi Jews nowadays.

Jerusalem in modern Israel

Jerusalem in the 21st century is perceived by Israeli Jews in different ways, depending on their religious beliefs. In the summer of 2009, riots by Haredi Jews broke out in Jerusalem over the opening of a parking lot near the Old City on Saturdays.[4] However, secular groups counter-protested,[5] claiming that Jerusalem should be a city for all people, religious and non-religious. The call for an "open" Jerusalem has received support from Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman an Orthodox Rabbi and President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, in Jerusalem. He wrote: As a religious Jew who is also a Zionist I believe Jerusalem is not simply important as the city of God, but as the capital of the State of Israel, a state which, as distinct from you, I value as a part of my religious life. As a committed Zionist, I believe the citizens of our country need unifying symbols around which to construct our shared collective life. Jerusalem, one of the few remaining unifying concepts in our deeply divided Jewish world, may serve as precisely such as symbol. The meaning of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is that it is a city which belongs to all citizens of the State of Israel. While you and I may observe Shabbat in similar ways, my fellow citizens of Israel observe it very differently. While you want to preserve the city, I want to preserve our people"

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