Jerusalem And The Held Back Scream

The Jerusalem Talmud recounts:  When David came to dig the foundations of the Temple he dug fifteen thousand cubits but had not reached the Deep.  Finally, he uncovered a cluster of stones and was about to lift it when one rock spoke to him and said:  Do not touch me… Even so, David did not listen and once the rock was lifted the Deep arose, threatening to submerge the world.

Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount at its center, is the place where the heavens and the depths touch. The very foundation of its foundation is a place of awe-filled and awful power. Says the poet, Yehuda Amichai, it is upon this precarious foundation that Jerusalem exists:

Jerusalem is built on the arched foundations
of a held back scream. If there were no reason
for the scream, the foundations would be shattered, the city would collapse,
if the scream should be screamed, Jerusalem would explode into the heavens.
arches

The living, breathing architecture and anatomy of Jerusalem are one and the same. The arch of the inflated lungs is the foundation of the city. The arch keeps its shape only because of the stopped throat holding back the justifiable scream, a scream that takes no sides.

The city exists because of the tension between reason and responsibility.

So we have been warned by David, Jerusalem’s the ancient poet, and by her modern poet Amichai:  brazenness that ignores Jerusalem’s complexity threatens the core of the world.

This entry was posted in Jerusalem, Poetry, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Jerusalem And The Held Back Scream

  1. Susan Breitzer says:

    Thank you for some needed timely (yet timeless) perspective on current events.

  2. Barbara Pegg says:

    “So we have been warned by David, Jerusalem’s the ancient poet, and by her modern poet Amichai: brazenness that ignores Jerusalem’s complexity threatens the core of the world.”
    Given the announcement on the news today about the President of the US, himself “deciding,” that Jerusalem is to be the Capitol of Israel and that the US Embassy will move there seems the height of brazen ignorance of Jerusalem’s complexity and it does, therefore, threathen the core of the world.
    Thank you for this post.
    Barbara

  3. Bob Gutman says:

    Our President released a scream that predecessors said they understood but would not utter. Screamers are now threatening destruction for a statement of truth and a promise of bold steps in the future. Early rash responses may give way to an understanding that telling the truth and keeping a promise may yield a useful credibility

  4. cvdhmd says:

    Wow. Fantastic Rabbi. There are so many things I love about you and your wisdom is just one! Good shabbes.

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