Why do we end our Yom Kippur services with the prayer: “Next year in Jerusalem?” Why not: “This year in Jerusalem?”
Last year when we ended our holiday services, many in my congregation meant just that: this coming year in Jerusalem. We were looking forward to a congregational mission to Israel that would bring us to the city of our prayers.
However, I think there is a lot more here than a travel advertisement for the Holy Land.
I think our Sages who crafted the Yom Kippur liturgy in the future tense–speaking of next year rather than this year–knew that Jerusalem is not only a very real city but also a prayer and a dream.
Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has rarely lived up to that name. Destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans, fought over by the Crusaders and Muslims, and the fault line between Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem may not currently be seething with violence, but it is roiling with tension. Jerusalem is far from being a city of peace, at least right now.
And perhaps that is the point of the prayer–that if not this year, perhaps next year, or the year after, Jerusalem can live up to its name and be a city of peace. Despite our fears over terrorism and concerns over finding a reasonable partner among the Palestinians to broker a secure and lasting peace, we can never give up the hope that someday peace will be possible, not only for us and all of Israel, but for our neighbors as well.