Relaxing in the easy chair, the heat of the day generates an inner voice humming words that I remember from a 1950’s musical, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy….”
The phone wakes me from a semi-stupor. A surprise voice, one I haven’t heard in decades, my old friend Rachel is calling me from Cleveland. If I wasn’t hallucinating before her call, I am dazed when I hear her say:
“Listen Faigie, I had the same dream three times. I dreamed that I owe you money. Three times is a chazaka! That’s permanence. Apparently I owe you money, and I’m sending you an envelope.”
Dream? Why in the world would Rachel dream that she owes me money? I haven’t seen or spoken to Rachel in some thirty years, how can she owe me money?
Ironically, call it mental telepathy, Rachel was on my mind. I had tried to contact her a few days earlier. I wanted to share an article with her, but I didn’t have her email address, or any address, and I could not find a telephone number for her.
“You must be a tzadeikes,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about you, but not because you owe me. And here you are, phoning me today, as if you knew I was looking for you!”
Dreams are strange, and most cannot be interpreted, or understood. Yet “dreamers” fit a separate category. Dreamers are a breed that goes as far back as the Jews who were driven into exile after the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
“Al naharot Bavel… They sat by the rivers of Babylon, where they wept when they remembered Zion.” They were the first to dream of return. Yet, when the opportunity to leave Bavel availed itself, when King Cyrus the Great opened the gates for Jews to return to Jerusalem, even offering to pay to rebuild their Temple, only a small, straggly group of dreamers joined the Prophet Nechemia. Most Jews chose to remain in exile.
“Shiru lanu, m’shir Zion!” Our Babylonian captors asked that we sing for them Zion’s song, joyous songs, and we answered, “Eich nashir… al admat neichar? How can we sing the song of Hashem on foreign soil?” And this moving song continues with the words repeated at every Jewish wedding ceremony, “Im eshkachech, Yerushalayim… If I forget you O Jerusalem let my right hand forget its skill.”
Perhaps my own longing for Jerusalem started in summer camp, singing with Rachel and all the girls who loved to sing. It may have started with “Al naharot Bavel…” words that emanated from Dovid HaMelech, from Tehillim (137), set to music that touched a chord in my soul.
That chord stirred again after viewing a ceremony in David’s City last week. The inauguration of the ancient Jewish pilgrimage road excavated beneath homes in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem. Silwan is the Arab name for the Shiloach, the pool which served as the chief water source of Jerusalem. After the end of Judean sovereignty, the area was erratically occupied until Yemenite Jewish immigrants to the Holy Land settled a new village in 1882. These Jews were violently expelled from their homes during the Arab riots of the late 1930s, and Silwan, now an urban Jerusalem neighborhood is still occupied, predominantly by Arabs. The historical findings in the surrounding area, a road of stone steps ascending to Har Habayit is a remarkable archeological find that was discovered accidentally after a water pipe burst under a building in the Davidson Center.
“Whether there was ever any doubt about the accuracy, the wisdom, the propriety of U.S. President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I certainly think this lays all doubts to rest,” American Ambassador David Friedman proclaimed at the event. Then, with a sledgehammer, he broke through the wall erected for the ceremony, opening the subterranean stairway that served as a main artery thousands of years ago for the multitudes of pilgrims to ascend from the Shiloach pool to Har Habayit; surely further fulfillment of biblical prophecy that we in Israel encounter daily.
We are living in a time and place, in earthly Jerusalem, where although on Tisha B’Av we still fast and lament the destruction of our holy Temple, and pray daily for it to be rebuilt, we also take comfort in the knowledge that we have merited to return to our Land. The path is not strewn with roses, but we are not on foreign soil. We have returned to wells and pools, to steps and roads, to ancient walls and monuments that continue to furnish evidence of the truth: that the city of Jerusalem is indeed the Capital of Israel.
Every goal is preceded by a dream, and dreamers not only dream, they often sing. One meaningful song that we sing every week before Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat and the chagim is Shir HaMaalot (Psalm 126). Over seventy years ago these profound words set to music made famous by Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, were considered for Israel’s national anthem. I wonder whether anyone ever stops to pay attention to the meaning of King David’s prophetic words about Israel’s return from exile, an event that would take place centuries later.
“Shuva Hashem et shivat Zion hayinu k’cholmim… When Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with joyous song…
As our sages explained, when the long awaited return to Zion finally comes to pass, we will be like dreamers. Memories of the oppression of exile will fade, and will be remembered as a bad dream.
I swallow hard when I remember my husband’s tenor voice singing Yossele Rosenblatt’s Shir HaMaalot.
“Hazorim b’dima…They who sow in tears will reap in joy...” Every word, melodically enunciated, every intonation as he reached the finale, hitting the highest note, like a dreamer having reached paradise.
Summertime is that time for relaxation, for reflection, for dreamers to dream: it is time for those still captivated by admat neichar, by foreign exile, to return to the reality of Zion and Yerushalayim. May we who have made our way back to the Land, together with all dreamers, merit to see the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt in our day.