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Jerusalem of Light

Jerusalem Festival of Light

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.” — Isaiah 55:1

The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11–55:5.

Summer is a wonderful time to be in Israel. Jerusalem, in particular, is bursting with special activities. A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend one such event, the Jerusalem Festival of Light. For one week, artists from around the world collaborated to turn the ancient, walled part of Jerusalem into one luminescent piece of art. Hidden behind corners and around the many twists and bends of the small cobblestone streets awaited works of art made with light. Beautiful!

Even more beautiful were the crowds of people pouring through Jerusalem’s gates. People from all walks of life could be seen and languages from around the world could be heard as we shuffled together through the crowded city streets. They were excited, joyful, and inspired. It was very appropriate that one of the exhibits featured this verse from Psalms 122, Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem” (v.2.) The verse before it reads, I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (v.1).

I could have easily pretended that we were living in the times of the Messiah. If I didn’t know better, I would be sure that I was watching a fulfillment of the prophecies mentioned in the Bible – when Jerusalem will be rebuilt and people all over the world will come there to experience the light of holiness in Jerusalem and God’s Holy Temple. At that moment, messianic times felt so close.

This week’s Haftorah, like the two before it, is not related to the Torah portion, but is one of the seven readings that are meant to comfort the Jewish people and prepare us for the High Holy Days. In this week’s selection from Isaiah, we read about the Jerusalem of the future, the messianic Jerusalem.

The prophet described how the city will be rebuilt from precious stones and how all war and terror against her will cease. Then the prophet issued the following invitation: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” The Jewish sages explain that this is a reference to the nations of the world who will be invited to Jerusalem to benefit from the holiness and teachings they will receive there. This soul-food will nourish them.

The Jerusalem Light Festival was spectacular. Even more spectacular is when people seek out the light of God. That shift is happening now before our very eyes. Every time we seek out the Word of God, more precious than the shiniest diamonds, we will be a part of the change that will one day change the world.

Honor Rabbi Eckstein

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