You Are Jerusalem| January 1, 2020
I walk the streets and search for this latent Jerusalem. And when I look for it, I always find it
Heaps of old stones that tumble and spill on top of each other to form tall, narrow buildings. When the sun sits on the ledge between day and night, her light turns the brown stone to gold.
Sometimes I stop and run my fingers over the bumps and wonder: How many hearts are wedged between the cracks over the battle for these stones? How many little boys ducked behind them with guns bigger than them?
The roads are paved with stories — of mothers and tears, of struggle and love. Yet I know that stronger than those fearless boys were the men who walked here wrapped in tallis and tefillin, pure hearts that echoed the will of Hashem. They were strong, so strong, and their learning and prayers piled up on the stones until it was a city built on truth that flowed, traveled, spread, until all spoke of its wisdom and beauty.
I wonder if those men would still smile if they walked her streets today.
I wonder what they would think of the rushing masses that crowd town and press you against the door of the bus. Of the noise, oh the noise, of thousands of words flung and thrown into the empty air, ricocheting off those tall stones.
The hordes of tourists, who try so hard to see but simply cannot. They raise their cameras to capture her beauty but it cannot be captured. It flutters and dances and will not be confined to the stillness of a photograph. Yet they try; chasing something that is all heart and life, with numb minds and souls.
But when all the noise has stilled, the city’s heart beats on, for there is another Jerusalem. The Jerusalem of the spirit, of the soul. It is there one moment and gone the next. It is alive; breathing and expanding in my heart till I feel like I might burst. It pants and heaves with fire and passion. This Jerusalem is in the seconds, in the little golden moments that make up time.
I walk the streets and search for this latent Jerusalem. And when I look for it, I always find it.
It is glowing, breathing in the teenage boy who walks with his loud group of friends past the dirty beggar and then stops to walk backwards to drop a few coins in the plastic cup. Their smiles are warmer than a June sky. My heart beats faster and I know those strong men would smile too.
Jerusalem is radiant, shining. I see her in the elderly man whose eyes and lips smile as he limps by. In the fresh-faced husband pushing a baby carriage. In the trusting little boys and girls who ask me to help them cross the street. In the mother’s eyes as she and her soldier son sit next to me in silence on the bus to the Kosel.
Jerusalem is in her people, those who mourn her past glory and those who try to bring it back. It is in those thousands of prayers — the ones that plead and beg with endless tears and those that thank with the rushing gratitude of the heart.
It is in the tall chassid who brings food to the old man who sits on the bench. It is the woman dressed in white who silently hands me a card and smiles. Mitzvos tzerichos kavanah, it tells me. I turn to thank her and she is already down the street trying to spread her message. It is in the elderly woman on the bus who asks me for my name so she can bless me.
Jerusalem sputters and catches aflame in the myriad lost children praying at the Kosel. Jerusalem lives in the soul because who is she but our soul? Who is she without her people? Without the glory and undying warmth of a night sky set ablaze by flaming souls.
It is we — you and me — that are Jerusalem.
Let the angels sing, let those strong holy ones who walked before us smile, let your soul breathe and know that you, you are Jerusalem.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 674)
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