The World Is Broken
The world used to be whole. It used to reflect God’s oneness and beauty, His absolute and transcendent Unity. Today, however, we live in a broken world. A world where Towers come crashing down, where adults prey on children, where people look right through one another, and where fear, addiction, and depression run amok. A world where oneness, unity and harmony are so desperately lacking it seems as if they don’t exist at all.
But It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
The echoes of unity are still with us. Beneath the surface of everything in Jewish life, is the potential to restore the healing light of God’s Oneness to the world.
You’ve heard of the Shema?
Shema: Hear O’ Israel, God Who is our God, God is Echad—Ultimate Unity.
The Shema is not just a prayer or a masthead on the cover of Jewish history, it’s the defining statement about what everything, everything, in Jewish life is about. When we say a blessing and light Shabbat candles, we are bringing the light of Echad into the world. When we help a poor person, or study Torah, or shake a lulav, or welcome a guest into our home, or put up a mezuzah, we are bringing the light of Echad into the world. We have a tradition that before we do things in Jewish life, we focus our thoughts by first saying: “In order to foster the bond between Kudsha Barich’hu, the Holy One, and His Shechina, His Presence, I am about to …”
In Kabbalistic terms, the cosmic brokenness—the rips and tears and gashes in the fabric of life—are called distance. When God is far, so to speak, from the world, the result is a dark and broken place. The opposite of this distance is what’s called, “the bond between the Holy One (God-Kudsha Barich’hu) and His Shechina.” The blessings of God’s light constantly flow into this world, but only to the extent that the world is capable of receiving that light. The receptacle, so to speak, is Shechina. God is the Force that imparts, Shechina is that which receives, and when bonded—like a husband and wife deeply in love—Oneness emerges and becomes manifest in the world.
Jews, the Jewish People, and Shechina
While every Jew has his or her own purpose and mission, the Jewish people have a collective mission that transcends any one person. That mission, in the words of the Torah, is to be a, “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” And, as such, we are to serve as “a light to the nations.” This mission can only be accomplished in the land of Israel, more powerfully in Jerusalem, and most intensely through the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash. Jews can function as Jews in homes, synagogues, schools, JCC’s, and yeshivot around the world—but by-and-large, only as individuals, or as small, self-contained communities. Israel, Jerusalem, and Beit Hamikdash are the context, the singular and specially designed context, for the nation of Israel to live, blossom, and fulfill its mission.
God’s light flows into this broken world primarily through the nation of Israel, but this can only take place when the nation is living in the land suited for that purpose; is focused on Jerusalem as the soul of the nation; and has the Beit Hamikdash functioning like the spiritual heart beat of the people. In other words, the core bond between God and this world is the bond between God and the people of Israel. In essence, we are the Shechina. God is the imparter of light, the sun. Am Yisroel is the moon, the receiver and the refractor. When bonded—like a husband and wife deeply in love—Oneness emerges and becomes manifest in the world.
Which brings us to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem: On Earth As In Heaven
The nation of Israel, and the world, suffered a catastrophic loss. When the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, when Jerusalem was laid waste, and when the Jewish nation was scattered, the world lost its great portal of light.
The book of Lamentations portrays Jerusalem as being “Like a widow…she cries throughout the night…she has no comfort from [the loss of] all her lovers.” Jerusalem isn’t actually a widow, she is like a widow. After the destruction and exile, Jerusalem is like a woman whose husband has been brutally ripped from her arms and forced to wander far from home, for a long, long time. These lovers have no way to communicate, no way to touch one another; all they have is their pain, aching, and endless longing. How can such a woman possibly be consoled?
The Zohar tells us that God comforts the distraught Jerusalem by joining her, so to speak, in her mourning. How does He do this? The Zohar tells us that just like there is a Jerusalem “below,” a Jerusalem in our temporal world, there is also a heavenly Jerusalem. God says to Jerusalem, “As long as your beloved Jewish people is gone, and as long as you sit in anguish waiting for their return, I too will banish myself from the heavenly Jerusalem. I too will be bereft of my love.” However, King David said, “The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is bonded together.” The Ari explains that when the Jewish people return and reconnect with their beloved Jerusalem, that this rekindling of lost love has spiritual reverberations in the deepest, highest spiritual dimensions. The re-union of Israel with its beloved Jerusalem enables God to reunite with His heavenly Jerusalem. And, just like the reborn bond in this world echoes in the spiritual realms, the renewed bond between God and the heavenly Jerusalem reverberate down here. A closed spiritual circuit is created through which flows ever strengthening currents of unity. The deeper the bond between the Jewish people and it’s Jerusalem, the deeper the bond between God and His Jerusalem… until ultimately the two Jerusalem’s, the earthly and the heavenly, bond as One.
Before You Take Your Next Step
Before you take your next walk down Rechov Yafo, or step off the plane on your next visit, remember to say—“In order to foster the bond between Kudsha Barich’hu, the Holy One, and His Shechina, His Presence, I am about to walk on the land, and through the streets of Jerusalem.” And as you walk, you can take the words of Rabbi Chaim Kohen (the “milkman”) to heart—
Our feet were standing in your gates, O’ Jerusalem (Psalms 122:2)
“The very act of simply walking in Jerusalem, stirs the highest heavens, the deepest realms of the innermost dimensions of reality… To stand on one’s feet in Jerusalem is not like standing in New York or London… When our feet are in Jerusalem, when the Jewish people gather together, this brings blessing to the heavens and opens up a rich flow of spiritual energy that infuses all of existence.”