The concept of a unified Jerusalem is rooted in our spiritual tradition, and a source for this concept can be found in the following verse from our Sacred Scriptures:
“The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together” (Psalm 122:3).
The following interpretations of the words “united together” reveal that there are several levels of unity in the ideal Jerusalem:
1. Physical Unity – The physical appearance of Jerusalem is to express the unity of the sacred city. The commentator, Sforno, explains that Jerusalem was designed in a way that caused the newer sections of the city to blend perfectly with the older sections; thus, the entire Jerusalem appeared as a city whose various sections were united.
2. Social Unity – Passover, Shavuos, and Succos are the three pilgrimage festivals which brought people to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Talmud explains that the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem for these three festivals inspired all the people to develop a greater commitment to the path of the Torah; moreover, through this shared spiritual commitment, they all became chaverim – spiritual friends (Chagigah 3:6). Jerusalem therefore became a city where the People of Israel were united together, and the Jerusalem Talmud cites the following commentary of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi:
“The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together” – a city that causes all Israel to become chaverim.” (Ibid)
The Mishnah cites the following beautiful example of the social unity of Jerusalem: During the three pilgrimage festivals, when Jerusalem was full of people from all over the land, no one said to his friend, “The space is insufficient for me to stay overnight in Jerusalem” (Pirkei Avos 5:7). Each person was able to find a place to stay, and even if many people were sharing a house, no one felt crowded. The Chasam Sofer, a leading sage of the early 19th century, explains that this was due to the love that the people had for each other when they came to Jerusalem.
3. Holistic Unity – According to our tradition, there is a heavenly Jerusalem which corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem. The Talmud (Taanis 5a) finds a reference to this idea in the above verse which describes Jerusalem as, “a city that is united together” – an allusion to the joining together of the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem. The commentator, Rashi, in one of his explanations of the above verse, cites the following teaching of our sages:
There is the built-up Jerusalem in heaven, and in the future, the earthly Jerusalem will be like the heavenly Jerusalem.
The unity of Jerusalem is the joining together of the heavenly city with the earthly city – a reminder that the spiritual and physical aspects of our existence are to become one. This holistic unity will be achieved when our life in the earthly Jerusalem will express the sacred and elevating spirit of the heavenly Jerusalem.
At the dawn of the messianic age, when we renew our commitment to the unifying Divine Teaching, we will fully experience the physical, social, and holistic unity of Jerusalem. In addition, there will be pilgrims from the peoples of the earth who will come to the unified Jerusalem, as the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
“Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths; For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:4).
All the peoples of the earth will then become aware of their own unity, and through this awareness, there will be “shalom” – harmony and peace – on earth; thus, the Prophet Isaiah adds:
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation, and they will no longer study warfare.” (Isaiah 2:3, 4)
May we all be reunited in the unified Jerusalem, and may the Unifying One bless us with true shalom.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen