On Friday and Saturday nights, April 19 and 20, Jews will celebrate Passover by holding a Seder on each night. A Seder is more than a festive meal and a family gathering. It is also a religious program, containing 14 steps. These steps direct us through the evening, making sure that we say the appropriate blessings and prayers at the appropriate times and guiding us, as we share the story of the Exodus and the lessons with our families.
Interestingly, we end our Seder with the words “L’shana habaah b’Yerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem.” Why do we say this particular phrase? Once, at a community Seder, a young boy asked me if it meant that I was taking everyone to Israel next year. As I explained to him, the statement is not one about planning a trip; It is about our hopes for the future of the Jewish people.
Our ancestors added the phrase to the Passover Seder nearly 2,000 years ago when the Romans destroyed the Jewish city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. When we say, “Next year in Jerusalem” we are recalling that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation and the center of the Jewish world since 1100 BCE when King David founded the city as the capital of Israel. We are recalling how we were forcibly exiled from our land in the first centuries of the Common Era, and how, despite our being dispersed to the four corners of the earth, we never gave up hope of returning to our land and fulfilling our destiny as a light unto the nations.
During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, the United States government recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its importance to the Jewish people in the 1990 House resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. During the Clinton administration, the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed. In 1997, Congress passed an act commemorating the 30th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
The first resolution states: “Whereas since 1967 Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city; Whereas the President and the Secretary of State have demonstrated their strong desire to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and have worked diligently toward that end; Whereas ambiguous statements by the Government of the United States concerning the right of Jews to live in all parts of Jerusalem raise concerns in Israel that Jerusalem might one day be re-divided and access to religious sites in Jerusalem denied to Israeli citizens; and the search for a lasting peace in the region: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress (1) acknowledges that Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of the State of Israel; (2) strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic religious group are protected; and (3) calls upon all parties involved in the search for peace to maintain their strong efforts to bring about negotiations between Israel and Palestinian representatives.”
Fulfilling the will of the American people, expressed through Congress, President Donald Trump finally moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.
Jerusalem, pronounced Yerushalayim in Hebrew, means “The City of Peace.” This year when we say L’shana habaah b’Yerushalayim — Next year in Jerusalem at the Passover Seder, we will pray that the Holy City, the capital of Israel, will always be a symbol of peace and the light of God.
Graber leads Temple Hillel in North Woodmere.