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D’var Torah: Parashat Bechukotai

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As we prepare to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim on Sunday, the Chief Rabbi considers why Jerusalem – an inaccessible city without a river source – was chosen to be the Jewish People’s capital.

This Sunday will be Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of that glorious day in 1967, when we celebrated the reunification of our capital city. I wonder if you’ve ever thought of the suitability of Yerushalayim to be a capital city. The most important consideration for the establishment of a capital is its accessibility. And yet throughout history Yerushalayim has been highly inaccessible. It’s off the beaten track,  up in the mountains, far from the great highways that have existed to its East and to its West.

Furthermore, Yerushalayim is not a port, by the coast, and therefore ships can’t reach it. There are no rivers running through it, and that provides the added challenge of the fact that if you’re living in Yerushalayim there is no natural source of water. So why was it chosen?

‘Yerushalayim has spiritual properties which are simply unmatched in any other place on earth’

The answer is given in Psalm 132: Ki vachar Hashem beZion Ivar lemoshav lo. The Lord has chosen Zion as a place for His habitation. Yerushalayim has spiritual properties which are simply unmatched in any other place on earth.  And we’re all familiar with this when we visit Yerushalayim. The kedusha, the holiness of the city permeates through, and we can feel it is palpable, it is so spiritually rejuvenating and uplifting for us all.

The properties of the city are furthermore expressed through the name of the city; the name is in the plural, Yerushalayim, as if to say ‘Jerusalems’. You know, there are just a few words in Hebrew which have no singular. For example, mayim, water. One drop of water is mayim, waters. That’s because when we look out on the ocean, the horizon seems to continue for ever. So too shamayim, the heavens; one tiny piece of the sky, it’s shamayim, it’s in the plural, because when we look to the skies, they seem to carry on for ever.

‘It’s a city in the plural because it is the eternal capital of the Jewish people’

And most poignantly of all, chayim, life. If you take just a nanosecond of life, it’s chayim, it’s in the plural and that is because, the soul lives on forever. So too with Yerushalayim. It’s a city in the plural because it is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. There have been periods in our history when others might have declared “it is all over”. They might have thought it was all over, but Yerushalayim has always been right at the heart of Am Yisrael.

And therefore on Yom Yerushalayim, we will be celebrating the fact that Yerushalayim is in our hands and it is there as God’s capital city, the centre of our spirituality, of kedusha, of holiness, in the world. And in addition, we are so blessed to have it as the eternal, everlasting and ongoing capital of Am Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom and Yom Yerushalayim Sameach.