Since biblical times religious Jews have recited blessings after each meal. Three times every day they have thanked God for providing the food that they consume and they bless His Holy Name for His kindness. It is found in the section of praises known as Birkat HaMazon, the four blessings for the food.
It begins with a prelude, Psalm 137, which was written during the exile of the Jewish people in Babylonian captivity following the destruction of King Solomon’s Holy Temple in the year 586 BCE.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and we wept as we remembered Jerusalem. We hung our harps upon the willow trees along the river. The people who captured us made us sing and play happy songs on our harps. “Sing Jerusalem’s songs for us”, they commanded and we replied: “ How can we sing God’s songs in an alien land ?”
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not raise up Jerusalem’s memory over my greatest joy.”
Following the prelude we continue to recite four blessings. But it is the third daily blessing which is most emotional and meaningful in our thousands of years of history as God’s beloved and chosen people.
The third of the four required blessings asks God to rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem and to re-establish the Holy Temple as the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Its words are recited in an abundance of love and hope and tears.
Two thousand years after the great destruction, Jerusalem has been rebuilt. But the Holy Temple has not. Its ruins lie upon the Holy Mount which is now in the hands of the Muslims who erected on the place where Solomon’s Temple once stood the Mosque of Omar and the Al Aqsa mosque, places forbidden by the Muslims to the Jews.
We are not allowed to offer prayers on the Mount. To do so, even silently with the moving of our lips, is a crime to the Muslims who demand the police to remove by force any Jew seen praying on our ancient Holy Mount, now in alien Muslim hands.
The Third blessing is an eternal proof of the Jewish claim to Jerusalem’s Holy Mount, a claim never to be forgotten. A claim embraced by thousands of years of Jewish life and history. A claim which existed a thousand years before the prophet Mohammed established the religion of Islam.
“Have mercy, O Lord our God, on Israel Your people, on Jerusalem Your city, on the Temple Mount, the place of Your Gory; on the kingdom of the family of David, Your anointed king; and on the great and Holy Temple which is called by Your Name. O God, our Father, take care of us, feed us, support us, supply our needs and make our lives easier. Please God, save us from all troubles.
O Lord our God, let us see Zion, Your city, being comforted and Jerusalem, city of Your holiness being rebuilt. May You rebuild Jerusalem, the Holy City, soon in our lifetime. We bless You, O Lord our God, who rebuilds Jerusalem in His mercy. Amen.”
Reciting this blessing three times every day is the Jew’s eternal connection with his beloved holy city and the history which transformed him from a Hebrew and an Israelite into a Jew.
When the kingdom of ancient Israel ceased to exist, the surviving Israelites rebuilt their lives in the kingdom of Judah, the birthplace of Judaism and of the Jewish faith.
In 1948 during our War of Independence, the holy places in East Jerusalem were captured and occupied by the Jordanian army and for the next nineteen years no Jew was permitted to draw close to its borders upon Jordanian penalty of instant death.
With God’s miraculous aid, in 1967 our prayers of two thousand years were answered and holy mother Jerusalem was returned and restored to her Jewish children, never to be lost again.
Jerusalem, the eternal city, will always remain the eternal home of the Jewish people and the capitol of the State of Israel. Never again will it fall into alien hands.
Let us always remember the closing lines of the prelude in psalm 137: “let me remember you and let me raise up Jerusalem over my greatest joy.”
Ken yehi ratzon. So may it always be.