My Blindness and Jerusalem’s Limp

I and Jerusalem are like a blind man and a cripple.
She sees for me
Out to the Dead Sea, out to the end of days.
While I hoist her on my shoulders
And walk blind in my darkness below.

(Click here for Yehuda Amichai’s poem in Hebrew and English)

Amichai summons an ancient image of which the rabbis made use:  Once there was a king who assigned two men—one blind and one lame—to watch over the best of his orchard’s early fruits.  One tempted by sight, the other by fragrance, the lame watchman sat upon his blind partner’s shoulders directing him towards the fruit.    The king was not fooled by the alibis of his guards:  “Could I have seen the fruit?”  “Could I have climbed up to take it?”  Rather, he realized that they had accomplished together what neither one could accomplish alone.  (Click here for the parable)

From her mountain height Jerusalem has her eyes fixed on the horizons of space and time—of the sea/yam and of days/yamim.  But, she, alone, cannot carry her own vision forward.

Can Jerusalem ever be viewed separately from those who carry her forward?  Can Jerusalem’s loyal and loving carriers—of whatever creed—blindly rely upon a vision (the city’s vision?) of space or a vision of the end of days?

Unlike the narrative voice of the parable, it is the blind accomplice himself who tells the tale and underscores his limits: blind, in darkness, and belowBelowl’matta—is another reminder that any vision of Yerushalyim shel ma’alah, “Jerusalem above,” requires the carrier of Yerushalayim shel matta, “Jerusalem below.”

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