Kfar Maccabiah, May 2022
Jerusalem has always been that place cherished in Jewish hearts – a pivot which leads our souls towards the spiritual, and that impels us to concrete physical action as a nation. Through all the long centuries of exile, our eyes turned full of longing for redemption and national reconstruction only to Jerusalem. When the Children of Israel were first exiled from our Land of inheritance, the Land of Israel, the words of the first national Jewish Poem appeared, the famous Psalm 137:
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.
My tongue cleave to my jaws, if I will not remember you
if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my chief joy.”
Jewish national identification with Jerusalem was so clear and obvious that our People’s movement of national liberation took Zion, one of the city’s many synonymous names, for its own central motif, Zionism. The return to a full life as a Jewish nation, first of all meant returning to our ancient capital, Jerusalem.
The “Zion” in “Zionism” is but 1 of no less than 70 names synonymous with Jerusalem in our Biblical and Rabbinic-Talmudic traditions. Isaiah, for example, calls it “My Wife” or “My Favorite”:
“They will not call you ‘Abandoned’
and call your land ‘destroyed’,
but your name will be ‘My favorite’
and your land ‘My Wife’.”
Why so many names for one city? What’s the reason Jerusalem has so many denominations since biblical times?
The answer lies in the importance of the City of David in the Faith of our ancient people. Jerusalem has 70 names because of the multiple meanings it awakened in the feelings and experiences of our People, who longed to return thence from the moment we lost it to foreign hands. Each of the 70 names denotes a different aspect of Jerusalem, and all are valued and beloved. The City of David is “City of Truth”, “City of the Faithful”, “the Lion of God”, “City of God”, “Rock of the Plain”, “My tent is in it” and “Moriah” and “Peace / Perfection”, because it means all these things and so much more in the ancient Jewish imagination. Jerusalem, the City of Peace, generated multiple names to express the deepest need of our people along every link in the chain of our generations, absorbing every nuance of meaning in the more than 30 centuries since it was founded by King David. We do the same with our beloveds, our spouses, our children, other relatives and even with the names of our friends, to whom we give all sorts of nicknames that express our deep affection for them.
|Jerusalem is the supreme symbol of our millennial yearning to return to Zion and our eternal Capital. On this Yom Yerusahalayim, we celebrate the joy of being able to reconnect with ourselves as Jews, walking its narrow alleys to rejoice in the majesty of the Temple Mount, discovering the excitement of being part of a chain that links us with all our past and future generations of Jews who, through us, have returned to Jerusalem, the city we never forsook and left behind, the City that was and is the center of our prayers.
With deep gratitude to our soldiers, the liberators of Jerusalem,
with the City of Light, of Peace, of Unity,
Yom Yerushalayim Sameach!
RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO