You never know what will be the impetus to certain profound realizations that occur in your life.
My mom recently picked up needlepoint. She made each of her four married children challah covers (which, by the way, are stunning). When she completed them she proclaimed, “what now?” I told her I’d love for her to make me something scenic to hang on the wall, but she didn’t seem keen on the idea. She prefers making geometric shapes and letters. Before I knew it she was making one that said “im eshkachech yerushalayim tishkach yimini”. My mom glanced up at me from her needlepoint and said “this doesn’t have to be for you…” She liked it and had other children who’d be more than happy to receive it.
I see all sorts of art pieces in the Judaica gift shops with this phrase written on it, but it never spoke to me. I always felt so much love and connection to Jerusalem that to me professing such was akin to saying the sky is blue or the grass is green. I know we needed the reminder for two thousand years as we wandered in exile, but I made aliyah and am home now. I pray every day facing Jerusalem where I can see her in the distance and I can take a twenty-minute ride there any time I want. I figured it was more suited to hang on the walls in Chul where they need the reminder.
But there sat my mom stitching in glimmering gold thread the words which hang in myriads of homes and hearts of my people and I quickly claimed the work in progress.
Then I began thinking and I realized that most of us Israelis really do need this reminder. Jerusalem is a magical place where ancient stones and ruins collide with advanced technology and science. It is loved by millions of people. It is a hustling and bustling city. Forgotten, it most definitely is not, but there is something missing. Something so huge, so important, so beautiful but yet forgotten. Not because we have been remiss in our obligations, but because it is beyond our comprehension.
When we say these words we are saying it Zecher Lechurban. What we lost when the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed was more than a building. It was the vital center of spirituality that had the presence of the Shechinah. We have never experienced Jerusalem as she was meant to be; so yes, as a nation we have forgotten. We don’t remember what that experience is like and yet we yearn for it. We hear the wails of the Wall as she stands in her disgrace. She remembers. She waits. She has been faithful to us whenever we needed a place to connect. But, we continue to fail her. She has yet to be restored to her former glory and to bask in the warmth and light of the Shechinah. We are so close, yet we seem to have forgotten “Yad Yimini”, our strength. Our power lies within the heart of our country, a place that not only can’t we freely visit, but even if we could it would still be sorely lacking. The ideal spiritual center has been lost from our collective Jewish consciousness. That is why I need the reminder.