Jerusalem in Judaism

Biblical Sources:

1 Kings: Chapter 8, 22-43

And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven.

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; much less this Temple that I have erected. And You shall turn toward Your servant’s prayer and to his supplication, O Lord my God: to hearken to the song and to the prayer that Your servant is praying before You today. That Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place which You said, ‘My Name will be there;’ to listen to the prayer that Your servant will pray toward this place. And You shall listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel that they will pray toward this place; and You shall hear in heaven, Your abode, and You shall hear and forgive… When Your people Israel are struck down before the enemy, because they sin against You, and shall turn again to You, and praise Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in this house. And You shall hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers. When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You; and they shall pray toward this place and praise Your name, and repent of their sin, so that You may answer them. And You shall hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, and of Your people Israel, when You teach them the good way wherein they should walk; and give rain upon Your land, which You have given to Your people for an inheritance. .. Any prayer, any supplication, which will be (made) by any man, (or) by all Your people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house. And You shall hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart You know, for You, alone, know the hearts of all the children of men. That they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers. And also to the stranger, who (is) not of Your people Israel, but will come from a far country for the sake of Your Name. For they shall hear of Your great Name, and of Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm, and he will come and pray toward this house. You shall hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calls You for, that all peoples of the earth may know Your Name, to fear You, as (do) Your people Israel, and that they may know that Your Name is called upon this house that I have built.

1 Kings: Chapter 9, 3

And the Lord spoke to him: “I have heard your prayer and your petition, which you have petitioned before Me. I have consecrated this Temple which you have built to place My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart shall be there at all times.

Psalms – Chapter 122

A song of ascents of David. I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet were standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself. There ascended the tribes, the tribes of God, testimony to Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there were set thrones for judgment, thrones for the house of David. Request the welfare of Jerusalem; may those who love you enjoy tranquility. May there be peace in your wall, tranquility in your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and my companions, I shall now speak of peace in you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I shall beg for goodness for you.

Psalm 137

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember you,
If I do not set Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

Isaiah 2.

And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Zachariah 8:

Thus saith the LORD: I return unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called The city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts The holy mountain. Thus saith the LORD of hosts: There shall yet old men and old women sit in the broad places of Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the broad places of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the broad places thereof. Thus saith the LORD of hosts: If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvellous in Mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save My people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

Sources from throughout Jewish History

Third century BCE (Pseudepigrapha) Letter of Aristeas

When we arrived in the land of the Jews we saw the city [Jerusalem] situated in the middle of the whole of Judea on the top of a mountain of considerable altitude. On the summit, the Temple had been built in all its splendor. …. All the steel buildings that had once been built all those years ago had stood the test of time, and they definitely showed magnificence and costliness quite without equal. It was obvious that no expense had been spared…

The Temple faces the east and its back is toward the west. The whole of the floor is paved with stones and slopes down, so that water may be conveyed to wash away the blood from the sacrifices, for many thousand beasts are sacrificed there on feast days. And there is an inexhaustible supply of water, because an abundant natural spring gushes up from within the Temple area. .

We were greatly astonished when we saw Eleazar (the High Priest), both at the mode of his dress and the majesty of his appearance, which was revealed in the robe that he wore and the precious stones upon his person…. Their appearance created such awe and confusion of mind as to make one feel that one had come into the presence of a man who belonged to a different world. . .

In the Talmud:

Kiddushin 49b Of the ten measures of beauty that came down to the world, Jerusalem took nine
Sukkot 51b A man who has not seen Jerusalem in her splendour, has not seen a beautiful city in his life

Yehuda Halevy, 12th century CE:

My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west–
How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?
A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain —
Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.[1]

Rav Yehuda Zwi Kook (1967)[2]

“…Even if the shame of the destruction covers its appearance,
even if the signs of destruction stand out prominently from its back,
and the clouds of desolation overshadow its radiance…
even if it is hidden behind the thicket of shady and filthy alleys,
and even if it pushed aside and squashed in the battle of its neighbors
who surround it from every angle and try to invade its borders,
to diminish and wipe it out –
Like a stone fortress, it stands guard,
without moving and without its internal glory weakening,
pure and exalted in the strength of its identity…
Because it is a remnant of something holy and precious.
There are hearts and there are hearts –
there are human hearts and hearts of stone.
There are stones and there are stones –
there are stones that look like stones,
and there are stones which are actually hearts…”

Naomi Shemer, Jerusalem of Gold, (1967)

As clear as wine, the wind is flying
Among the dreamy pines
As evening light is slowly dying
And a lonely bell still chimes.

So many songs, so many stories
The stony hills recall …
Around her heart my city carries
A lonely ancient wall.

(Chorus) : Yerushalaim all of gold
Yerushalaim, bronze and light
Within my heart I shall treasure
Your song and sight.

Alas, the dry wells and fountains,
Forgotten market-day
The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain
No longer calls to pray.

The rocky caves at night are haunted
By sounds of long ago
When we were going to the Jordan
By way of Jericho.


But when I come to count your praises
And sing Hallel to you
With pretty rhymes I dare not crown you
As other poets do.

Upon my lips is always burning
Your name, so dear, so old:
If I forget Yerushalaim
Of bronze and light and gold…


Back to the wells and to the fountains
Within the ancient walls
The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain
Again so loudly calls,

From rocky caves, this very morning
A thousand suns will glow
And we shall go down to the Jordan
By way of Jericho.


[1] T Carmi (ed) ,The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Rei edition (January 1, 1997)

[2] Ze’ev Aner and Roni Shir, Eternal Jerusalem – the Poems, Songs, Sites and People.