Year after year, we celebrate freedom at our Passover Seders and we conclude with the words: L’Shana Haba’ah Bi’rushalayim, Next Year in Jerusalem. Such a concluding statement seems to be contrary to the meaning of the rest of the seder experience. If our goal is to be reminded of our Exodus from Egypt, then why is the Holy City of Jerusalem the last lingering thought that we take away from our seder tables?
I understand that for most of our history, the Jewish people have been exiled from the land of Israel and the belief was that we would not be fully redeemed until we were able to settle in the Holy Land, and in the holiest of cities. However, the State of Israel will be celebrating its 64th birthday this year, and the city of Jerusalem has been unified since 1967. The Jewish people have returned to our land, so again, I ask, why do we hope that next year will take us to Jerusalem?
Maybe this last statement about Jerusalem is also a statement about freedom. Next year, may the freedom that we are grateful for and too often take for granted, be felt for among all those in Jerusalem – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. May the peace that we take for granted as free individuals be a peace that encompasses the entire city, a peace in which we unite instead of divide, in which we care about each individual – regardless of faith, ethnicity, religious observance, or political affiliation – as made in God’s Image.
Next year in Jerusalem, may we have the freedom to observe Judaism in the Jewish state the way that we seek to observe. May women have the freedom to read Torah at the Kotel, the holiest of sites, with tallit and tefillin, without fear of getting arrested.
May we embrace the freedom to disagree with actions taken by the government of Israel and still passionately support Israel and Zionism.
Next year, may the freedom that we celebrate, exude from Jerusalem, Ir HaKodesh, the most sacred of cities.
Chag Sameach! A Happy and meaningful Passover to all!
-Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky