In the previous letter, “A Message for this Season,” we discussed how our prophets urge us to engage in a process of “teshuvah” – spiritual return and renewal - when confronted with increasing tragedies and threats to our existence. In this letter, we shall discuss how the prophets also convey the following additional message when we are confronted with these dangers:
“And you shall see the good of Jerusalem” (Psalm 128:5).
What does it mean to “see the good of Jerusalem”? The phrase “the good of Jerusalem” has several levels of meaning. On one level, this phrase alludes to the idea that we should see the good in our own people, because the term “Jerusalem” also refers to us. For example, when the Compassionate One asks Jeremiah to speak to our people, Jeremiah is told, “Go and call out in the ears of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 2:2). Another reference to the idea that the People of Israel are Jerusalem is found in the following verse and teaching cited by the Talmudic sage, Rav Nachman:
It is written, “The Builder of Jerusalem is the Compassionate One; He gathers in the dispersed of Israel” (Psalm 147:2). How does the Compassionate One build Jerusalem? Through gathering the dispersed of Israel! (Brochos 49a)
Why are we called “Jerusalem”? It is because we have the potential to fulfill the spiritual and universal goal of Jerusalem by becoming vessels of the Divine light. As a result, says the Compassionate to the people of Jerusalem, “Nations will walk by your light” (Isaiah 60:3). This Divine light will draw them to Jerusalem, as it is written, “Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek out the Compassionate One in Jerusalem” (Zechariah 8:22).
Yes, there are also serious problems in our midst which we need to address; however, these challenges should not cause us to lose the ability to see “the good of Jerusalem” - our inner goodness which includes a potential for spiritual greatness. Knowing our potential is the key to the fulfillment of our universal mission. We are to therefore recall how we achieved spiritual greatness in the past. This is why the Prophet Jeremiah was told by the Compassionate One that before rebuking the people, he should convey the following uplifting message:
“Go and call out in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: Thus said the Compassionate One: I remember the lovingkindness of your youth, your love as a bride, when you followed Me into the wilderness, into an unsown land.” (Jeremiah 2:2)
Even when rebuke became necessary, the Compassionate One saw the good within our people and remembered our love and faith when we followed our Beloved into the wilderness on the journey to Mount Sinai.
As human beings created in the Divine image, we should emulate the ways of the Compassionate One, as it is written, "You shall go in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). If the Compassionate One sees the good in us, then we should see the good in our people and bring to each other a message of love and hope.
May we see the good of Jerusalem, and may we also pray for the “shalom of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
P.S. One of the recent letters in this series, “Our Special Strength,” relates to the theme of this letter. To access this letter, visit our updated archive, or for a direct link, visit: