In 2017, I attended World Mizrachi’s celebration of Jerusalem Day in Binyanei Hauma (ICC) along with thousands of others, in honor of fifty years of a reunified Jerusalem. I was sitting just seats away from Rabbi Sacks – the keynote speaker. I recall not only his passion and fervor but his powerful message that resonates as I read his words on this week’s Torah portion, for it was the last time I would hear Rabbi Sacks speaking just a few feet away from me. He spoke about Yerushalayim representing our legacy of the past and dreams for the future:
“No other people in all of history has had a relationship with a city to compare with ours – with Yerushalayim ir HaKodesh…”
It is said that in the early 1800s, Napoleon was passing a shul on Tisha b’Av, and he heard crying and tears and wailing and lamentations, so he asked one of his officials, “What are the Jews crying about?” His official said to him, “They’re crying because they’ve lost Jerusalem.” Napoleon said, “When did they lose Jerusalem?” The official replied, “1700 years ago.” Napoleon replied, “A people who have mourned Jerusalem so long will one day have it restored to them.” And so it was.
Rabbi Sacks would often speak of the importance of not just history, but Jewish memory, which reinforces our national and personal story, values, and mission for the future. As he explains based on this week’s parsha, “People who carry their past with them can build the future without fear.”
The new series of Covenant & Conversation: Family Editions features one new voice each week. We hope that this will further illuminate the ideas of Rabbi Sacks and encourage others to continue these conversations with the next generation, as we share the stories and ideas of Rabbi Sacks scholars.