The Timeless Charm of Jerusalem

By: Rabbi Avraham Norin
February 9, 2023

The Ariel Center is a small museum, hidden within the winding alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem. Out of all the incredible museums Jerusalem has to offer, this one has a special place in my heart. The museum’s focus is the First Temple period, the time when most of the Hebrew Bible took place. The friendly museum curators guide you through the museum, showing items discovered in archeology that correspond to passages in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The tour climaxes with an impressive First Temple period model of Jerusalem, and a film about an artist, struggling in his attempts to draw a picture of Jerusalem. The film concludes with (spoiler alert!) the artist’s realization that he is not capable of capturing Jerusalem’s full magnitude on an easel. 

Similarly, Psalm 48 attempts to describe the greatness of Jerusalem. Like the artist in the film, the writer of the psalm finds that he is unable to fully capture the city’s magnificence with a single description. Therefore, the psalm is divided into two sections, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the city. Each description is exactly fifty-three words in length, demonstrating the equal importance of each section.

What are the two sections of the psalm and which aspects do they each focus on?

The first section of the psalm highlights Jerusalem from the perspective of other nations. For them, the city represents God’s holiness and inspires praise. Its beauty befits a king, its high walls symbolize God’s protection, and its sight causes mortal kings to tremble with awe. These kings acknowledge the truth of the reports they have heard about Jerusalem and confirm that they have seen it with their own eyes, declaring that it is the city of the God who rules all.

The second section of the psalm focuses on the nation of Israel’s view of the city. The section begins with a prayer from the people of Israel, asking that Jerusalem may forever display God’s love and affection towards his people. The people are depicted as being inside the city, admiring its walls, counting its towers, and exploring its palaces. The psalm extols God’s attributes of kindness, righteousness, and justice as embodied in the city. It concludes with an imperative to the people of Israel to maintain their connection with the city, which will enable future generations to understand the unique bond that the Jewish people have with Jerusalem.

Psalm 48 has withstood the sands of time. Throughout the ages, the concept of Jerusalem has inspired the world at large. As for the Jewish People, our loving connection to Jerusalem has never faltered. We face Jerusalem in prayer, remember Jerusalem on joyous occasions, mourn for Jerusalem, and hope for the return of her glory.

Perhaps this is why I like the Ariel Center so much. It conveys the message that Jerusalem is our home. And it’s great to be back home again!

The Israel Bible Team

Rabbi Avraham Norin

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