Jerusalem – Palace of the King
This coming Sunday is the 28th of Iyar, the day when Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western came back into Jewish hands during the 1967, Six Day War, and it is also the date of the anniversary of the death (yahrzeit) of the prophet Samuel. The Jewish people have a special relationship with the entire Land of Israel, but our bond specifically with the city of Jerusalem is as deep as the bond between mother and child. Jerusalem is first mentioned as the city of Malchizedek, the grandson of Shem, a monotheistic priest who greeted Abraham with bread and wine. It was to the mountain at the center of the city, Mt. Moriah, that Abraham later came for the binding of Isaac.
The city was originally called Shalem, which means “whole” or “peaceful” but Abraham renamed it “Yireh,” “God will see.” God combined these two names and called the city “Yerushalayim,” Jerusalem.
The Torah relates that when Jacob fled Israel to escape his murderous brother Esau, he went to sleep on Mt. Moriah the night before leaving the Land. There he dreamed of a ladder that extended from the earth to the heavens. The ladder symbolized the future role of Jerusalem as the site of the Holy Temple which joined together heaven and earth.
Jerusalem was the capital during both the First and Second Jewish Commonwealths. It was chosen to be the capital by King David with the assistance of Samuel the prophet, and King Solomon built the Temple there. The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel, had its seat in Jerusalem, and Jews from all over Israel and the Diaspora would come to them for guidance.
Today, Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. It is fascinating to note how the geography of Jerusalem precisely reflects the role that the city is meant to play. Jerusalem is situated near the trade routes connecting Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is in proximity to, but not part of, the great civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Phoenicia, Rome, Persia, Arabia and Assyria. Jerusalem is located on a mountain, because it is meant to be a beacon, but it is also surrounded by mountains, as if to show that it must remain somewhat isolated and insulated from foreign influences. Jerusalem is meant to be a place where people absorb spirituality, learn morality and find a connection to the Divine. Many empires have conquered Jerusalem, many pilgrims have passed through it, and Jerusalem has left an imprint on them all.
Numerous commandments, laws and customs relate specifically to Jerusalem. In ancient times, Jews from all over Israel would gather to celebrate in Jerusalem on the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Every seven years, the entire Jewish people would assemble in Jerusalem, and the king would read from the Torah in their presence. The new moon (the beginning of each Jewish month) was proclaimed by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, and even today our calendar is coordinated with the first appearance of the new moon over Jerusalem. The city was the focus of religious, national and legal events to such an extent that the Sages wrote, “Jerusalem is the city that joins together all the Jewish people.” Even today, when a Jew arrives in Jerusalem for the first time, there is a feeling of having come home to the most beautiful city in the world.