Rabbi Sacks on Jerusalem
JInsider (March 2010)
When my great-grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Leib Frumkin made Aliya in 1871, the old Yishuv of Jerusalem asked him to write the official history of Jerusalem, which he did in a four volume work called Toledot Ḥachmei Yerushalayim ‘A History of the Sages of Jerusalem,’ tracing the history of the unbroken Jewish settlement from 1265. It had collapsed during the crusades when as you know Jews were systematically murdered and it was Nachmanides in 1265 who began to rebuild the Yishuv. And my great-grandfather wrote the history of it. So I feel a kind of special family attachment to Jerusalem, apart from the fact that I have two brothers and many nephews and a niece living there.
So Jerusalem for me is the beating heart of Judaism, mentioned over 600 times in Tanach – the Hebrew Bible. Jerusalem, said the poet Judah Halevi, and the philosopher Moses Maimonides, is the place from which the Divine Presence never departed, even though sometimes it was deeply hidden. Somehow or other, when you are in Jerusalem, heaven seems very close.
Celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem, and you will experience it like nowhere else on earth.
My family and I were there in the midst of the Gulf, First Gulf War in 1991, as 39 scud missiles were raining down on Israel and there in Jerusalem on Shabbat. You could honestly believe the world was at peace.
There is something about Jerusalem that means you can almost reach out and touch the wings of the Divine Presence.