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Concepts in Judaism

Jerusalem the Holy City

20 facts about Jerusalem and its holiness

| 22.05.17 | 12:16
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1. Jerusalem is first mentioned in the Torah in the times of Abraham as the verse says: “And Malki Zedek was king of Shalem” which translates, “Shem the son on Noah was king of Jerusalem.”

2. Abraham during the time of binding Isaac called Jerusalem with the name Hashem Yiraeh “G-d will be seen”. The Midrash says: Abraham called it Yireh, when he came to it he called it ‘Shalem’. G-d combined the names calling it Jerusalem Yireh-Shalem.

3. In the scriptures Jerusalem is mentioned mainly as a combination of Yireh-Shalem. Jerusalem itself is mentioned only 5 times in the scriptures. In the Oral Torah Jerusalem is mentioned many times.

4. When Joshua conquered and divided the land between the tribes Jerusalem was on the boundary of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

5. Jerusalem was chosen as the city in which the holy temple is to be built as it says in Deuteronomy: ‘Only in the place which the Lord your G-d will choose from all your tribes to place His name there.”

6. After the first temple was built the verse says: “In Jerusalem that I chose to place my name there.”

7. The Midrash says: “Before Jerusalem was chosen, all of Israel was worthy of the divine presence. When Jerusalem was chosen the rest of the land was excluded, as the verse says: “G-d chose in Zion”. The Midrash also says: “G-d measured all the cities and found only Jerusalem the most worthy to build the holy temple.”

8. Jerusalem is considered a ‘house of prayer’ where prayers are accepted. In Genesis it says: “How awesome is this place, it is not but a house of G-d and this is the gate of heaven.” Our sages said: “From this we learn that anyone who prays in this place, Jerusalem is as if he prayed before the throne of G-d for the gates of heaven are there and the entrance is open to receive prayers.”

9. The laws of prayer illustrate to us Jerusalem’s importance. “If someone was outside of Israel he should concentrate and face towards Israel as it says, “And they will pray to You facing their land. If he’s in Israel he should face Jerusalem as it says, “They should pray to G-d facing the city that you chose. If he’s standing in Jerusalem he should face the temple as it says: “They should pray toward this house.” If he’s in the temple he should face the holy of holies as it says: “They should pray to this place”.

10. Jerusalem’s holiness is mentioned among the 10 levels of holiness in Israel. Jerusalem’s holiness is higher than walled in cities and less than the Temple Mount.
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11. In the prayers and blessings our sages established whether during the time of the temple or after its destruction the sages ruled that the
building of Jerusalem be mentioned. The sages interpreted the verse in Song of Songs: “Your neck is like the “Tower of David” built as a model”  ‘a model’ is tal piyot which also means “the ruin that all lips pray towards”.

12. The 3rd blessing in Grace after Meals is ‘Builder of Jerusalem’. Our sages say that King David established the words ‘(Have compassion) on Israel your nation and Jerusalem your city’ in this blessing. King Solomon added ‘and on the great and holy house’. The blessing begins with asking for G-d’s compassion on Israel, Jerusalem, Zion, The royal house of David and the Temple. It concludes with the request: “Build Jerusalem the holy city speedily in our day. Blessed are You G-d the builder of Jerusalem with his compassion Amen.

13. Our sages explain the verse: “And you will be satisfied and you shall bless G-d for the good land He gave you. ‘On the land’ is the blessing for the land (in the grace after meals) ‘the good’ is the blessing on building Jerusalem.

14. The 14th blessing of our silent Amidah prayer is to build Jerusalem. The 17th is “May G-d accept our prayers which also is about returning us to Jerusalem and restoring the service to the Holy Temple.

15. In our second blessing after the Haftorah we mention Jerusalem. “Have compassion on Zion for she is the house of our life and the shamed soul should be saved quickly in our day.”

16. In our evening prayers we say “May G-d lay us down to rest” and on Shabbat and holidays the blessing ends: “The one who spreads a covering (Tabernacle) of peace upon us, upon his nation Israel and upon Jerusalem.”

17. In both the blessing of the High Priest on Yom Kippur and the king’s blessing in ‘Hakhel’ (gathering all of Israel and the king reads from the Torah to them and blesses them) Jerusalem is mentioned as the conclusion: “Blessed are you G-d who dwells in Zion.”

18. One of the blessing for newlyweds is “the barren one (Jerusalem) should be glad when her children come back to her in happiness. Blessed are you G-d who gladdens Zion with her children. Our sages say this blessing is said by weddings and the first week after for we are supposed to place Jerusalem above our happiness as the verse says: “may my tongue cleave to my pallet if I don’t remember you, if I don’t place Jerusalem above all my happiness.”

19. Early commentators say that the happiness of Jerusalem is akin to the happiness of a bride and groom as the verse says: “As a groom is happy with his bride, G-d will be happy with you (Jerusalem).”

20. There are versions of other wedding blessings that also end “The one who gladdens his nation and builds Jerusalem.”

May Jerusalem be totally rebuilt speedily in our days and may we merit seeing the Holy Temple standing again.