Rabbi Grossman’s post on the wish “Next year in Jerusalem” reflects the fact that for much of Jewish history Jerusalem has been more of an ideal than a historical or geographical reality. It is only in the last hundred-odd years that Jews have been able to return to Jerusalem in larger numbers and only in the past 40 that they have had access to the holiest sites in the city. It is only in our time that we must live with the tension Rabbi Grossman articulates-–between the vision of an ideal and the reality whose flaws and imperfections are thrown into even greater relief when compared with that perfect vision.
The gap between the reality and the ideal, I think, can bear great meaning for us in this season. We strive to do teshuvah –-to honestly reflect on our behavior over the past year, make amends, and change our ways–this is the ideal. In reality, we are lucky if we even make it part way there. And yet rather than denigrating ourselves for failing to live up to this impossible vision, we can reflect that there is still value in striving for the ideal while affirming what we have accomplished: Jerusalem as it is.
We are not perfect, the world is not perfect. When we say “Next year in Jerusalem,” we hold up that perfect vision to signify the damage and imperfection that remain in the world and within ourselves. Just as we break a glass at the conclusion of a wedding, acknowledging those places of brokenness even at our moment of greatest joy, we must be aware of our own shortcomings even as we come out of Yom Kippur, as sin-free and right with God as we will get in this lifetime. Jerusalem serves as a symbol both of the ideal we strive for and the lesser reality, which we attain. And that is precious despite its imperfections.