King David wrote: “How can we sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy” (Tehillim, 137: 4-6).
So important is this message to the survival of the Jewish People that our Sages decreed that this Psalm should be recited after every meal which we eat during the week. “By the rivers of Babylon (and Manhattan and Paris and Los Angeles and Mexico City), there we settled down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion” (Tehillim, 137:1) We are always to remember that Zion is our true home, not Babylon or America, and we are to set our love for Jerusalem above our highest joy – even higher than our love affair with Boca, LA, and New York.
Our Sages also decreed that this Psalm should be recited at every Jewish wedding, in order to teach that even at this supreme moment of happiness when bride and groom are joined in holy matrimony, there is yet a greater joy – the joy we must feel for Jerusalem.
If we place other pleasures over the joy we should feel for Jerusalem, then something is wrong with our Judaism. If sitting down on Sunday mornings in our comfortable Diaspora homes with the New York Times and a fresh bagel is more pleasurable to us than our joy over Jerusalem, then we ourselves are delaying the rebuilding of the Temple. If the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls and the World Series and the New York Stock Exchange and the Academy Awards and the latest Woody Allen movie and our golf handicaps and doubles matches are more exciting to us than Jerusalem, then our understanding of being Jewish is distorted. If refurnishing our mansion in Johannesburg and our five-figure salaries in Melbourne are more important to us than rebuilding Jerusalem, then something is wrong with our understanding of Torah.
If vacations to Bermuda and Venice and Disneyland are our first choice ahead of Jerusalem, then we have some serious repentance to do.
Our unsurpassed love for Jerusalem is not only because it is G-d's chosen city. It is not just because it is the most beautiful city on earth. Jerusalem teaches us the true understanding of Torah. It teaches us that Judaism is more than practicing private mitzvot, and searching for OUs in the supermarket, and donating to the Federations in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York.
Jerusalem teaches us that the goal of the Torah is the establishment of a mighty Jewish Nation in the Land of Israel. It teaches us that the Torah is not just a list of do’s and don'ts, but rather a Divine National Constitution that includes a National Jewish Homeland and National Jewish Capitol and a National Jewish Monarchy and National Jewish Judiciary and a National Jewish Army and living in a Jewish Land and not amongst the Gentiles.
Happy Jerusalem Day!