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Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

When the Earthly Jerusalem Mirrors its Heavenly Partner (Shabbat Chazon)

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Real estate prices in Jerusalem have risen 10% in the past year. The joke in this country is the national bird in Israel should be the crane, because wherever you walk in Jerusalem, wherever you travel in Israel, there is building going on, thank God. And cranes mark the skyline.

Jerusalem is alive and well! Yet we still have the responsibility to fast on Tisha B’Av. Why is this?

Moreover, the prayer we recite at Mincha on Tisha B’Av states:

“נחם ה’ אלוקינו על אבלי ציון ואבלי ירושלים”

“God, comfort the mourners of Zion and the mourners of Jerusalem”, because the city is destroyed, despised and desolate.

While Rabbi Goren modified the prayer slightly to reflect the changed reality of the city, what is the authentic focus in our day and age on Tisha B’Av?

We often speak about two Jerusalems: the heavenly Jerusalem (“Yerushalayim shel Ma’alah”) and the earthly Jerusalem (“Yerushalayim shel Matah”). [Taanit 5a]

The prophet Isaiah explains in the haftarah that we read this week, Shabbat Chazon, how Jerusalem, how Israel, will be redeemed:

“למדו היטב דרשו משפט אשרו חמוץ שפטו יתום ריבו אלמנה”

We have to learn to do good. We have to devote ourselves to justice. We have to aid the wronged. We have to uphold the rights of the orphan and defend the cause of the widow. [Isaiah 1:17]

In order to be redeemed, Jerusalem must be an authentic city filled with justice. [Isaiah 1:21]

“קריה נאמנה מלאתי משפט”

It must be redeemed through justice. [Isaiah 1:27]

“ציון במשפט תפדה”

And while, Baruch Hashem, the stones of Jerusalem are being rebuilt – and we must be joyous and grateful for that; after all, it’s an unprecedented experience – Jerusalem is still the poorest city in Israel.

We still have agunot throughout our land. Jerusalem is still the place where Jews feel, in the name of God, they can attack the other.

We’re still waiting for the earthly Jerusalem to mirror the image seen in the heavenly Jerusalem.

And please God, we will get to that point, but until then, we have the fast day of Tisha B’Av.

Tisha B’Av exists to galvanize us, to be able to make the difference. So we celebrate the greatness of the redemptive period that we’re in, but we recognize that we’re just not there yet.

The earthly Jerusalem, the earthly land of Israel, is still riddled with injustice.

It’s our responsibility not just to rebuild the stones, but to rebuild the ethical and moral pillars that the land must represent, in order for it to be redeemed.

Shabbat Shalom, and have an easy but meaningful fast.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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