Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 16 July 2022 / 17 Tammuz 5782

The Amidah (Part 18) - Blessing of the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Prayer is not a miracle. It is a tool, man’s paintbrush in the art of life. Prayer is man’s weapon to defend himself in the struggle of life. It is a reality. A fact of life.” ( Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer)

The fourteenth blessing reads: “And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of David within it. Blessed are You, Hashem, the Builder of Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen (1828-1905) was the Av Bet Din (head of the Rabbinical court) in Vilna and one of the foremost experts in Jewish law of his era. Many of his rulings were published under the title of Binyan Shlomo. In Binyan Shlomo he wonders why our blessing describes Jerusalem as being “Your [Hashem’s] city” and not “our city.” He cites the Talmud (Ta’anit 5a), which explains there are two Jerusalems — one here in the physical realms and another one in the Heavenly realms. Our Sages teach us that Hashem declares that He will not enter the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’aleh — the Heavenly Jerusalem — until He has entered the Yerushalayim Shel Matah — the physical Jerusalem (see Hoshea 11:9). The Iyun Yaakov clarifies that Hashem is stating that He will not reside in His Heavenly abode until the exile of His chosen nation comes to an end, and the Shechina — the Divine Presence — once again resides in the Yerushalayim Shel Matah. Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen writes that this is the reason why the blessing is written as it is. It is our heartfelt request that Hashem can return to His Heavenly abode because, when He does so it means that the earthly Jerusalem will have been rebuilt both spiritually and physically. Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen’s interpretation is based on a verse in Zechariah (8:3), “Thus said Hashem: ‘I will return to Zion and I will dwell within Jerusalem…’” And when that glorious moment occurs, Jews from all over the globe will come pouring into the holy city. And yet, as the Midrash describes (Kohelet Rabbah 1), “Jerusalem will never be filled,” because its holiness will keep expanding to make room for everyone.

The Eitz Yosef points out that when Hashem destroyed His Holy Temple and forsook Jerusalem, He did so with a terrible fury that reverberated around the world. Now, we ask that Hashem’s return to His rebuilt holy city be done in the inverse way — that it will occur with great compassion.

According to the Midrash (Pesikta Rabbati 28), the third and final Temple will descend from the Heavens in a state of perfection, ready and waiting for the Temple Service to be renewed. Its holiness will be so intense that it will never be destroyed. It is in regard to the Third Temple that our blessing is referring when it uses the description of an “eternal structure.” And we ask that it be built “soon in our days” — soon according to our perception of time and not according to Hashem’s, when one of His days is comparable to a thousand years, as in Tehillim 90:4.

Our blessing concludes with a description of Hashem as being “Builder of Jerusalem.” It does not say “Who will build Jerusalem” in the future, but rather it is stated in the present tense because Jerusalem is continuously in a state of being built. Even when the Holy Temple was lying in ruins and Jerusalem was being overrun by enemies, the foundations for the final, everlasting city were being put into place. In Tehillim (147:2) it states, “The Builder of Jerusalem is Hashem.” As Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer eloquently writes in his indispensable commentary on Tehillim, “Moreover, even while the city was actually being destroyed and its walls shattered, Hashemwas merely clearing out the decayed old structures to make way for the new edifices that would better serve the needs of the eternal scared city.”

Modern day Jerusalem is truly a sight to behold! The city is a precious jewel and its innate beauty is enhanced by the exquisite, incomparable sound of Torah being learned day and night without respite. But the Holy Temple – the heart of the city and the heart of the Jewish nation — has not yet been returned to us. Only when it is will we finally understand what we have been missing for the last two thousand years.

What can we do to in order to experience the rebuilding of the Holy Temple? In Birkat Hamazon, which is said after eating bread, we recite the words, “Rebuild Jerusalem soon in our days.” Rabbi Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz in Galicia (1760-1827) was a Chassidic Rebbe whose followers numbered in the tens of thousands and whose influence was felt far and wide. After his passing, many of his closest Chassidim established their own Chassidic courts throughout Eastern Europe. He would explain that the prefix bet in the word beyameinu, “in our days,” can either mean “in” or “with,” depending on the context of the sentence. If so, the sentence can now read “Rebuild Jerusalem soon with our days.” The Third and final Temple will be built — may it be very, very soon — with all of the days that we have maximized to the fullest in the pursuit of spiritual development.

To be continued…

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