The Heavenly Jerusalem

An idealized Jerusalem arose out of the ashes of the Temple's destruction and the city's ruins.

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A couple of centuries after Rabbi Luria, a new movement arose in Eastern Europe, Hasidism. The Hasidim embraced the teachings of Rabbi Luria and added some elements of their own. Hasidism, generally speaking, believes that ordinary Jews can bring the messianic age by serving God in joy and by observing various precepts of Jewish tradition more fully. With regard to the idea of a heavenly Jerusalem, various Hasidic teachers believed that Jews could build the heavenly Jerusalem through actions and deeds. The Ropshitzer Rebbe, for example, taught, "By our service to God, we build Jerusalem daily. One of us adds a row, another only a brick. When Jerusalem is completed, redemption will come." This saying attests to the power and durability of the idea of a heavenly Jerusalem over the centuries. For Jews who never saw the earthly Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem inspired and sustained their faith.

Heavenly Jerusalem Today

The emergence of the State of Israel in our days, and the recapture and reunification of the earthly Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967, has for some Jews brought the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem together. However, for Jews who believe in the divine messianic redemption of the world, modern Jerusalem is still just a shadow of the Jerusalem that will exist in the future. Obviously, for them the heavenly Jerusalem is not yet completed, or the era of the messianic redemption would have arrived. For most Jews today, however, the achievements of the State of Israel in unifying and expanding modern Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the dreams and prayers of almost two millennia. 

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Rabbi Art Vernon served as the spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavas Sholom and Congregation Beth Torah, both in New Jersey. He previously served on the staff of JESNA, the Jewish Education Service of North America.