Where is Jerusalem?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Re'ah

Amtrak has a slogan that always spoke to me. “Getting there,” they say, “is half the fun.” While returning from a wedding, driving on the Palisades at 1 AM, I’m not sure if I am elated with the pleasure of the moment. Where I do feel the thrill, however, is in the world of spirituality. Sometimes the struggle to keep Kosher or Shabbos, the challenge of not accepting lashon hara or of not losing my temper, is even more meaningful than the accomplishment of the goal. The purpose of the mitzvos is to grow. Challenges and exercise cause growth.

Moshe directs the Jewish Nation to Mount Avel and Mount Grizim to hear the covenant, the blessing and the curse. Where are Mt. Avel and Mt. Grizim ? Moshe explains, “Cross the Jordan, as west as you can go, follow the sunset, amongst the Caananite who dwell on the Plain, opposite Gilgal, next to the Morah Plain…(Devarim 11; 30) The Torah reads like a “Trip-Tick”. Exact directions. We are told exactly where to go for blessings and curses.

Yet, just a chapter further (12;5) when Hashem wants us to go to the holiest spot in the world, Yerushalayim is not even mentioned by name. At 19 places in the Chumash we are given the vague description, “Go to the place G-d has chosen…” We are never told to go to Yerushalayim!

Even in the time of Avraham when he was told to sacrifice his son on that mountain in Jerusalem he was not told exactly where to go. “…on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

The Gemara (Zevachim 54) tells us how King David and the Prophet Samuel racked their brains trying to find the exact place that “G-d chose”. Tehilim 132 is a description of the hassle King David went through until he found the “spot”! “Oh, how I yearn to find the place that G-d dwells!” It was like a treasure hunt for the Holy of Holies. Why? Why was G-d so clearly unclear? He had to build a home for the Shechina, it had to be the exact place –he had to tell people how to get there, where they can walk, where they can’t– it’s all so important! Why didn’t G-d give us a map or at least a hint?

The answer is, the quest for Jerusalem is a spiritual quest. For Abraham, David and Samuel, the search for Jerusalem represented a search for holiness, meaningfulness. They grew from the struggle. You can’t download spirituality.

On a spiritual voyage, the expedition, the trek, the searching, the yearning, is half the fun!

Our personal quest for Jerusalem is trying to find our place in this world. Every one of us was put here to make a contribution to the world, to add something or to fix something. We yearn to make that mark. So why don’t we come with instructions or a map? The answer is finding our place is a spiritual journey. We must yearn and learn, watch and question and always be flexible enough to grow. Finally we say “aha; found it!” and because of the struggle we are prepared for the post. If there would be a map there would be no growth.

In a recent article in the Jerusalem Post Jonathan Rosenblum cited the conclusion of the World Health Organization's (WHO) most recent cross-national survey. “Israeli teens are the unhappiest in the developed world. The 5,000 Israeli 11, 13, and 15-year olds interviewed reported the highest rates of "feeling low'' and complained of loneliness at a much higher rate than kids from any of the other 27 countries surveyed, except for Portugal.”

Why should our young people feel this way? Rosenblum posits that a Jew is created with a very strong sense of purpose and mission. If this purpose is not realized or if that mission is not directed we will get very upset. Now that they enjoy material wealth beyond the wildest dreams of their parents' generation and their leaders hold out to them for the first time the promise of peace with our Arab neighbors, Israeli youth need a new sense of purpose.

In other words, they need a new Jerusalem, a personal Jerusalem .

As we near the month of Elul and we begin our preparations for a New Year, we must keep in mind our G-d given challenge. “Leshichno Tidrishu,” always keep searching for Jerusalem , “Uvoso Shama!” and you will get there.

© Copyright 2005 TorahLab.org