Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Jerusalem and The Holy Temple
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
This traditional millennia old prayerful hope has been on the lips of Jews throughout our long exile. It marks the conclusion of the Pesach seder so recently observed and celebrated by us as well as the conclusion of the prayer services for Yom Kippur. I find it somewhat ironic if not even puzzling and disappointing that when Jews had no real phusical possibility to realize this wish they nevertheless fervently believed in its promise and longed to experience its fulfillment in their very lives under any conditions. In short, our ancestors really meant it when they said Next Year in Jerusalem. In our days when the dream can really be lived and the promise fully realized, when we can all be in Jerusalem this year, let alone next year, our statement sounds pretty much hollow and a touch insincere. Having spent the Pesach holiday outside of Israel this past week I was struck by this anamoly of modern Jewish life. How do such good believing loyal and observant Jews recite Next Year in Jerusalem without a pang of remorse or a thought of irony? For it is obvious that for most Jews living in the Diaspora, especially in North America, Next Year in Jerusalem is an empty though emotional phrase. And this attitude cuts across all lines and sections of Jewish society, charedi, reigious, non-observant but traditional, completely secular, assimillated and intermarried. All of the four sons sitting at the seder table are unanimous in mouthing Next Year in Jerusalem but they are all also in agreement that in reality this is not a practical plan for them.

Why is this? For the completely secularized and assimilated Jew Israel as a nation and Jerusalem as a holy city no longer resonate in mind and soul. In the nineteenth century Reform German Jewry stated that Berlin is our Jerusalem. Well, it didn't quite work out that way but that is a whole different matter than the thrust of this present article of mine. There simply is no longer any emotional or historical attachment left within this group to the Land of Israel or to Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, this group has representation even here in Israel itself amonst those who deny Israel's own right to exist as a Jewish state. They see Jerusalem and Israel in all of its imperfections, in its traffic jams and its army, in its failure to be the most liberalized, secular Westernized state on the face of the earth. They despise religion and Jewish tradition as being anachronistic and not worthy of preservation or continuity in enlightened society Since Jerusalem is not perfect in their eyes, since worse still it does not seem to be inclined to adopt their standard of perfection - it stubbornly does not wish to be more enlightened than the rest of the enlightened world - than Jerusalem no longer has any meaning to them. Next Year in Jerusalem only applies to their make-believe utopian pie-in-the-sky Jerusalem. And since that Jerusalem has never existed and will never exist, than why bother with Jerusalem at all? After all, it is only a place on the map, not necessarily very scenic and somewhat of a backwater. There are far too many Torah institutions located in the real Jerusalem to allow the fantastic idealized enlightened completely secularized Jerusalem to emerge.

Religious Jews in the Diaspora also find it difficult to come to grips with the real Jerusalem. A fantasy of a Jerusalem that will somehow be perfect in their eyes, in its particular parochial brand of religious and rabbinic leadership, in its uniformity of custom and observance, in its totality of obediance to traditional law and custom, prevents their seeing Jerusalem as it really is. Since their Jerusalem of perfection is also not currently available then Next Year in Jerusalem has come to mean Next Year in Jerusalem but only on my terms and specifications. The imaginary Jerusalem is much more attractive than the real city. The imaginary Jerusalem poses no problems of housing, education and difficulty of work opportunities. It is purely messianic in nature and therefore Next Year in Jerusalem is really the Messiah's prayer but not ours. So this group of wonderful and loyal Jews who support the people and land of Israel with all of their hearts and thoughts nevertheless also await the arrival of their definition of perfection to arrive in order to give reality to their recitation of Next Year in Jerusalem. Too bad, for they themselves, the Jewish people generally, the State of Israel and Jerusalem particularly, are all missing out on a great opportunity to build the real Jerusalem here and now. But let us hope and struggle that next year will truly arrive and that the real Jerusalem will continue to grow and prosper now and in the future.
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