If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem!

The title of this post comes, of course, straight from Tehillim (Psalms). I thought about this Pasuk as I strolled through the streets on Sunday, October 4th, Erev Chag. The reason this Pasuk came to mind is because the mood in Yerushalayim could only be described as subdued. People were there…but not throngs of people. People were laughing and having a good day–but it was not a feeling of complete joy. For sadness and anger have descended upon the Holy City. A sense of unease and mistrust has settled on to its residents and its visitors. All of this is happening in the city which Hashem Himself chose to be His earthly home. All of this has happened due to a spike in Arab terror. All of this has happened because many believe that to get what they want, they need to murder Jews.

Which Jews? Seemingly ANY Jew will do; no matter the age, gender or with which “movement” they are associated. A Jew is a Jew and, therefore, a proper and legitimate target. Murder a husband and wife in front of their four kids, and Israel will give the Arabs their own state–at least, that is what the mindset seems to be. But there are individuals who are even worse than those who murdered innocent Jews!

According to victim Adele Banita : I yelled ‘please help me!’ and they just spat at me,” said Banita of the surrounding Palestinian shopkeepers whom she said looked on and did nothing as Palestinian terrorist Muhannad Halabi attacked her and her family in an alleyway near Lion’s Gate in the Old City. Those standing by enabled the attacker to murder her husband. Rather than lend a hand to stop the tragedy unfolding in front of them, they laughed; they spat; they “fiddled” while Jews were massacred.

These and other stories of murder in the Holy City have set people on edge and have even set into motion a disagreement in the upper echelons of the rabbinic world. Some are telling people that they MUST go to the Old City, and others are telling their followers to stay away until the police can properly protect them.

In light of all of this, I thought to share with you an idea that I heard many years ago and have been able to find only a marginal proof-text for up until this point. However, even if it is not 100% accurate, the idea behind it can be very helpful and provide us all with chizuk.

In the above pasuk, King David tells us: אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני– If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.

Traditionally, the meaning of this statement is that we have an obligation to never forget Hashem’s Holy City. We can not allow Yerushalayim to be an afterthought or lose its nonpareil position in our lives.

However, there is another way to look at these words. If one looks at the Pesikta on the words of the Navi Yeshayahu when it says ותאמר ציון עזבני השם (“And Zion said, that G-d has forsaken me”) an amazing statement is made there.  (See Pesikta printing of 1868 page 132) There, it seems to indicate that HASHEM HIMSELF STATES IF I FORGET THEE O JERUSALEM…

Imagine…G-d Himself says that He will never forget Jerusalem and (in an anthropomorphic way) if He should “forget” Jerusalem, His right hand should forget its cunning.

G-d, according to this view, is making a promise to never forget Jerusalem. No matter how bad things get! Even when Jerusalem itself cries out  as it does in  Yeshayahu 49:14– G-D, YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN ME!

We can find a measure of comfort that Hashem’s protection and His special attention to His holy site and His holy mountain will never cease. His agents, our IDF, Border Police, Shabak and all other security personnel should be blessed to prevent ANY future attacks. May G-d continue to protect all of us and may He see all  of us, His children, walking the streets of Yerushalayim in joy and happiness.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.