Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Omer 5775. Day 38. Truth, Justice, Peace

Yesterday I was teaching the prophet Zechariah. The scene: The Second Temple is under construction. The prophet is asked: "shall we weep in the fifth month?" Should we still fast and mourn on Tisha Bav? We see the Temple rising upon the Jerusalem skyline. Is the Exile over?

The prophet answers: You are asking the wrong question. Buildings are nice. You can rebuild a Temple, but can you rebuild your society? אמת ומשפט ושלום שפטו בשעריכם ... Can we construct an ethical and compassionate society? We can establish a State, but can we suffuse it with Justice, compassion, and peace? If you haven't achieved a just society there is more work to do. [See Zecharia ch.7-8]

And it's Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) this week, and the words of the prophet could have been written for today.

Last night we visit the Israel Museum's 50 years birthday celebrations. Mazal Tov! Its a party! And we visit the exhibit where we can read the Ten Commandments out of one of the Dead Sea scrolls, 2100 years old! You can actually read those words: "Do not steal; Do not swear falsely". We walk outside onto the museum roof into the beautiful spring Jerusalem air, and we are confronted by an exhilarating view - our Knesset, the "David's Harp" bridge, our Supreme court, the city all around... "Jerusalem rebuilt like a city knitted together". Yes- our city is being rebuilt! A miracle! "We were as dreamers!" But on the radio we hear about corrupt policemen and attorneys, about deals and scheming in government.

I see Jerusalem rebuilt. I feel the words of the prophet. They excite and delight me: עֹד יֵשְׁבוּ זְקֵנִים וּזְקֵנוֹת בִּרְחֹבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ‍ִם וְאִישׁ מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ בְּיָדוֹ מֵרֹב יָמִים. ה וּרְחֹבוֹת הָעִיר יִמָּלְאוּ יְלָדִים וִילָדוֹת מְשַׂחֲקִים בִּרְחֹבֹתֶיהָ. "So said the Lord of Hosts: Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of old age.And the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in its streets."

And I look with thanks, gratitude at our national institutions and I say a heartfelt prayer to our halls of law and government. אמת ומשפט שלום שפטו בשעריכם - We have lots if work to do if we want to raise ירושלים של מטה (the earthly Jerusalem) a little closer to ירושלים של מעלה (the heavenly Jerusalem.)

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