The Bible depicts a perfect land, one flowing with milk and honey. But Israel has at all times been one factor in desires and one other within the tumult of on a regular basis life. When the 5 books of the Torah finish, the Israelites are nonetheless within the wilderness and Moses, our chief out of Egypt, has been denied the promised land. The message is manifest: The right place doesn’t but exist, and you could enter a messy and contested land armed with the imaginative and prescient God has given you. Jews conclude the Passover Seder with “subsequent 12 months in Jerusalem.” But if one has the Seder in Jerusalem, the conclusion isn’t “subsequent 12 months right here.” Moderately, it’s “subsequent 12 months in a rebuilt Jerusalem” — a metropolis that displays the beliefs and aspirations of sages and prophets, one marked with piety and lots.
For a lot of Jews, that imaginative and prescient is as related right now because it was in historical Israel. Meaning the previous, current and way forward for the land isn’t just an argument about settlements or constructions alone, but in addition a perfect of a spot of security, a heavenly metropolis on earth, one which we proceed to try and pray for, particularly after the violence of those previous couple of weeks.
Although we famously admonish ourselves to ever bear in mind Jerusalem in Psalm 137, the sacred metropolis of stone and tears isn’t the only real focus of Jewish craving. Israel is haunted by historic recollections. Within the northern city of Tsfat, a pilgrim can wander among the many graves of the Jewish mystics who re-established a group in that mountain city after the expulsion from Spain in 1492: Isaac Luria, who taught that God’s self-contraction made approach for the world; Joseph Caro, writer of the Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative code of Jewish regulation, who believed an angel dictated visions to him within the night. They had been joined there by Greek-born Solomon Alkabetz, who wrote the poem L’cha Dodi (Come to Me, Beloved), a lyrical love track to the Sabbath that’s sung in synagogues everywhere in the world every Friday evening.
Regardless of the deep meditations on evil and afterlife in Jewish custom, the idea of hell isn’t as developed in Judaism as in different traditions. Nonetheless, there’s a well-liked identify for it: Gehenna. It derives from a spot the place kids in antiquity had been stated to have been sacrificed to the pagan god Moloch.
In 1979, archaeologists started excavating within the space that’s believed to be historical Gehenna. Not removed from the partitions of the Previous Metropolis of Jerusalem, they discovered what is taken into account to be one of many oldest bits of scripture that exists on the earth, greater than 400 years older than the Useless Sea Scrolls. It dates from the time simply earlier than the destruction of the First Temple, the Temple of Solomon, in 586 B.C. The scorched floor yielded two rolled-up silver amulets which might be on show to at the present time within the Israel Museum. When painstakingly unfurled, the textual content was nearly verbatim to the Bible verses:
“Could God bless you and preserve you.
Could God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
Could God flip His face towards you and provide you with peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)