What is the meaning of the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem" or in Hebrew, shana habaa b'Yerushalayim that we say at the end of the Passover seder? "Next year in Jerusalem" means that all Jews should actually be living in their homeland of Israel where they can come to Jerusalem. It is of course very important to note though that the Jerusalem we are referring to is Jerusalem as it is ideally meant to be — with the Temple, the Sanhedrin and a Jewish Monarch! Even we here in Israel and in Jerusalem say "Next year in Jerusalem!"
Okay, you say, but with the world as it is right now, how can we possibly think that Jerusalem can return to what it once was thousands of years ago? The answer to this question is rather deep and something better left to others, but I can tell you that this longing and the belief that we can return to this ideal is one of the foundations of Judaism, and one of the reasons why the Jewish people have survived over thousands of years. And just by the way, this idea of never giving up hope on the human race, and always striving for peace is one of the gifts that the Jewish people have actually bestowed upon the world.
Connected to the idea of "next year in Jerusalem" is the phrase "remember Jerusalem" , seen in the remember Jerusalem wall hanging above, which is really the same concept, only something that we think about every day, as opposed to at the end of the seder. Okay, then so what does "remember Jerusalem" mean? The words, are taken from tehillim (psalms) written by King David and refer to the purpose of Jerusalem's existence, namely as a spiritual capital of the world.
It is true, the hebrew words on the plaque don't actually say "remember Jersualem", they say "if you forget Jerusalem" but for some reason that is how it is translated, I guess just to be positive about it, which is certainly legitimate. What else does the plaque say? Happy to tell you, just keep on reading!
The translation of the plaque is "If you forget Jerusalem, forget your right hand." Really means, if you forget Jerusalem it would as if you have forgotten your right hand. Huh? To understand this phrase you have to understand the meaning of "right". Right is the embodiment of human kindness, peace, and all good things. So forgetting Jerusalem would be as tragic as forgetting about the necessity of good in the world and forgetting that we have hands! Got it? Certainly something to think about this Passover.
Remembering Jerusalem, and cultivating the sincere hope that next year we will all be in Jerusalem is the answer to what one can do in these crazy times. There is no perfection in this world, and yet each and every one of us can make a difference by working to be kind, compassionate beings who will never loose hope for a world filled with peace. So lets get started on that, shall we?
Wishing you all a wonderful and meaningful Passover holiday!
Note: The Passover Seder is not just a meal, it is actually the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt! The text for the seder is found in the Haggadah, which contains the the narrative of the exodus from Egypt, as well as special blessings and rituals, and commentaries from the Talmud. Traditional songs are sung during the seder and at its completion. The holiday of Passover is 7 days in Israel and 8 days outside of Israel, and during this period we are very careful to only eat foods that do not contain any trace of leavened products. It is a beautiful holiday filled with many customs particular to each family depending on their more recent origins (European Ashkenazi, LIthuanian, German, Moroccan, Yemenite, Iraqi, Persian, Indian, etc.) that we observe rigorously in order to pass them down to our children. Yes, most of us work very hard to usher in this holiday, as preparing the house and especially the kitchen is exhausting, but that is part of remembering what indeed it may have been like to be slaves in Egypt, and to have that feeling of liberation as we sit down at our seder tables.