The Trace of Jerusalem
Our parsha discusses the yearly cycle of the holidays. The Jewish calendar follows a
unique cycle of wave-like spiritual energy. There are weeks or even months without a holiday in
which the energy is “low.” Then, we begin to think and prepare for the upcoming holiday with
our focus and connection intensifying until we peak at the holiday itself. When the holiday
passes we then re-enter our regular routine until the next holiday.
One can ask a question on the divine logic behind this system. If we are to assume that
our purpose in this world is to become and feel close to God then why have a calendar filled with
ups and downs? Why not make every day a holiday and then we can live at the peak?
The Me’or Einayim explains that God wants us to experience the ultimate pleasure of
being close to Him. However, the Baal Shem Tov taught that “constant pleasure is not pleasure.”
In order to properly experience and appreciate the sublime spiritual joy of closeness to God we
must also experience the regular routine with less overt spiritual energy. Therefore, our year has
its ups and downs – spiritual pleasure and prosaic mundanity.
It is important to note, though, that this process is not purely cyclical. After the holiday
one does not immediately revert back to the pre-holiday closeness to God. Rather, a “reshimu” or
trace of the holiday remains even after the spiritual high mostly dissipates. Instead of an endless
circle, the calendar holidays should be thought of as an upward spiral as each holiday leaves its
impression and changes the person forever.
It can be suggested that the same system exists in the realm of space as well. There are
different locations in the world with different levels of sanctity. Of course, Yerushalayim is most
sanctified spot in the world.
Over the course of most of our lives we travel back and forth between the sacred and
mundane realms. We spend time in Yerushalayim but then we leave, only to begin to plan our
next visit. The benefit of this system is that each time we leave Yerushalayim for a time and then re-enter, we appreciate its uniqueness and sanctity to a greater degree. Constant pleasure is not
pleasure and the pleasure of Yerushalayim needs to be punctuated by spurts of mundanity.
But we should remember that even a visit to Yerushalayim leaves its trace. We leave the
city transformed and elevated, even as parts of the experience dissipates when we re-enter
regular life. Just like a holiday, the “reshimu” of Yeurshalayim stays with us forever.