I dwell in Jerusalem, my eternal city.
I stand at its heart, the Kotel, the Western Wall.
And see her frozen tears and everlasting smile,
Her clouds passing with mournful sighs.
Her pitying laughter at those who wanted to destroy her.
Or wished to deny her Jewish ancestry.
For thousands of years.
But did not succeed.
I read holy books,
And hundreds of thousands of names,
Those from Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Spain, Hungary, America and Africa.
I hear the cries from Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau,
And the playful delight of today’s Jewish children in Jerusalem’s courtyard.
I see the auto-da-fés, the Crusades,
The pogroms and the Roman torture chambers,
Mothers of all ages crying for their children.
But also, the Israeli flag with King David’s star.
As it waves above the stones.
Thousands of written prayers in the cracks of its walls.
I encounter the crying soldier, the sobbing stone-hard businessman,
The movie star, confused politician, housewife and Yeshiva student.
Yeshayahu stands next to me, Rabbi Akiva a bit further on.
My teachers: Maimonides, Yehudah Halevi, Hillel and Shamai.
Behind me the Gaon of Vilna, absorbed in his thoughts,
The Baal Shem Tov in deep devotion.
Men, women, and children.
Mitnagdim, Chassidim, Ethiopians,
Yemenites, Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
Jews of all colors.
And righteous gentiles.
There is no time, no clock,
No early or late, just broken eternity.
Standing but unable to grasp,
I say my tefilah-prayer.
Then truth descends upon me:
I have never left Jerusalem.
I find myself here for thousands of years.
The return to Jerusalem is unprecedented,
An event sui generis.
It defies comprehension.
The creation of the State of Israel is a surprise,
The survival of the Jewish people a shock.
A breach in a world where people do not want to be surprised.
And so…Jerusalem irritates.
The mighty Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian
Conquered the world with much fanfare, pomp and splendor,
The Greek and the Roman followed
With their drumbeat and war carriages,
And died out;
Others came, holding their torch high,
Only to have it burn out.
The Jew saw them all,
Surpassed them all,
And became what he always was: immortal.
Oh, that Israel’s enemies would wake up!
When will they learn that Israel never left its homeland,
But was forced out against its will?
That Titus and his army were ultimately defeated by a nation of orphans,
By an ever-dying people that never died?
There is no victory for those who fight a people
That never ceased praying, for thousands of years,
To return to its capital which they never left.
Where their bodies were resurrected
After they were turned into ashes at Auschwitz.
What to do with a people that mourned for its Temple,
Rebuilding it in its hearts.
While sitting on the floor in deep mourning,
Year after year, thousands of times?
How to deal with a people that covers its dead?
With earth from the land of Israel.
While their tombstones stand in foreign countries?
How to defeat a people whose home in exile
Became a portable Land of Israel and its capital Jerusalem?
Where Moses and the Hebrew prophets
Are still alive and teach Torah?
Through Israel we perceive the infinite: the God of Israel.
The land and its people are indispensable:
God’s witness in a world where the ordinary
Has become the standard.
And where Jerusalem is a wake up call.
Partially Inspired by Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mark Twain
Ashirah Yosefah says
Magnificent, Rabbi Cardozo. Simply magnificent. The unmistakable thrill, the subtle chill, of my neshama’s delight reading aloud your words is tribute to their eternal and undeniable truth. Yashar koach!!