Tisha B’Av: Our Eastern Walls

Posted by Rabbi Ron Symons on July 28, 2017

Each morning, as I leave my bedroom and head downstairs, I find myself facing east on the midpoint landing on my staircase.  Just before I turn right to make it all the way downstairs, I come face to face with these eternally contemporary words:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

Let my right hand forget itself.

Let my tongue cleave to my palate

If I do not remember her;

If I do not raise Jerusalem above my greatest joy.

—Psalm 137:5-6

It is a simple piece of artwork.  The letters are cut out of a single sheet of gold-like metal in Hebrew.  The artwork hangs on that wall in particular for two reasons.  The first is a traditional concept that many Jews observe.  We place reminders of Jerusalem on our eastern walls (in the western hemisphere) so that we will always be centered on Jerusalem just as many synagogues are oriented to the east with the ark on the eastern wall.  While we have several eastern walls in our home, we choose this eastern wall on our stair landing because it forces us to come ‘face to face’ with Jerusalem every morning of our life.  The second reason why we picked that wall is because we want Jerusalem to be in front of us on a regular basis.

My next door neighbors have an eastern wall as well.  Their family room fireplace dominates the lower part of that wall.  The upper part of their wall is dominated by a similar piece of artwork, a picture of Jerusalem with an Arabic inscription.  I just saw it last Saturday night at a neighborhood gathering in their home.  Of course, as we are reminded through recent news coverage, our Western Wall is situated just under their Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of The Rock, the place where both Temples stood in the days of Ancient Israel.

As we commemorate the destruction of both Temples (along with other Jewish tragedies) on this Tisha B’Av (Ninth Day of the Hebrew month Av – beginning at sundown on Monday, July 31) I am focusing on the core meaning of the Hebrew word Yerushalayim: The City of Peace and Wholeness.  We are often reminded by rabbinic interpretation that Jerusalem was destroyed because of free-flowing hate.  Even with the news as it is from Jerusalem these days, I am hopeful that we can turn our energy towards free-flowing love and respect of neighbors who both have eastern walls with sacred words on them.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all of the world.


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