Judaism’s spiritual center must continue as one city

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Can you explain the concept of the status of Jerusalem under international law? Also, can you speak to the concept of separating the city, and designating half of it as the capital of Palestine? I would appreciate your insights.

Leigh A.

Dear Leigh,

On June 7, 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), a seminal event in recent Jewish history transpired: the reunification of Jerusalem. There are many sources for the geopolitical ramifications of that event. I will focus upon the spiritual importance of a unified Jerusalem. 

The name Yerushalayim is actually the combination of two separate names, Yeru and Shalem. The second name was assigned by Shem, a son of Noah, who served as the city’s spiritual leader for many generations, leading a yeshiva for Torah study. Shalem means peace, similar to shalom, and also means completeness. The name Yeru means “the awe of God,” and was named so by Abraham. The Midrash relates that the Almighty savored both names and the message therein, therefore He combined them into one name, Yerushalayim. 

Geographically, Jerusalem has a ridge running from north to south, which divides the city into the lower eastern and upper western sections. The lower city, which included the eastern slope of the Temple Mount, was known as Shalem in ancient times. The Upper City, which included the western part of the Mount and the place of the altar used by Abraham, was known as the Land of Moriah, renamed by Abraham as Yeru. The 1967 reunification reflected the idea that Jerusalem should be returned to its original grandeur.

The spiritual roots of Jerusalem run very deep: 

• In Kabbalistic sources we find there is a stone on the mountain, called even shetiya or “foundational stone,” which was said to be the beginning of God’s creation of the universe, and from there emanated all of creation. This exact spot was central to our history, again and again.

• The Midrash and Rashi explain that the place of the altar in Jerusalem is, in fact, the very spot from which God took the dust out of which he formed Adam, the first man. This was so man could have a place to repent from his very essence if he should succumb to the earthly, mundane side of his being. In that place, he could again be elevated to Godliness. Adam built an altar in that location, and Cain and Abel later on brought their offerings to that same altar.

• This was the altar on which Abraham offered Isaac, Isaac later prayed, and Jacob saw the vision of the ladder, as he slept next to it.

• Noah rebuilt the altar after the flood. Next to the altar, Shem and Ever, Adam’s son and great-grandson, built their study halls. 

• King David was shown this place prophetically when he established the place of the Temple to be built by his son, Solomon. 

All this reflects the essence of the two concepts. First, the awe of God through His service and Presence. And second, the peace among the Jewish people when they would come together as one family, thrice-yearly, for the three Jewish holidays, during which they worshipped together in the Temple.

Throughout our exile, we pray three times daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. We mention it in our blessing after meals and in our Sabbath prayer service. Under the marriage canopy, at the time of greatest joy, a glass is broken and ashes are placed upon the head of the groom in solemn remembrance of Jerusalem. The entire Jewish people end the Passover Seder with “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The reunification of Jerusalem gave us the ability to again pray at the Western Wall and live with some modicum of peace. Those who seek to re-separate it seek the downfall of Israel. We should do all we can in our efforts and our prayers to keep Jerusalem unified. “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Leave a Reply