In 1798, during the Napoleonic Wars, Rebbe Nachman bravely made the pilgrimage from the Ukraine to the Land of Israel. Under the constant threat of death, the journey took more than 4 months. When he finally set foot on the holy soil and took four steps, he turned to his attendant and said, “I have attained everything I came for. We can go back now!”
The Land of Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem, is the heart of the world, as Isaiah prophesied “דברו על לב ירושלים” (Speak to the heart of Jerusalem). Those words aren’t an embellishment. Jerusalem is truly a heart!
What’s a heart? Besides being a central organ in our bodies, we use the word heart to describe our emotions. “He has such a good heart…” “My heart goes out to her…” “She broke my heart…”Rebbe Nachman teaches in Torah 49 that all of our expressions (a.k.a. attributes) stem from our hearts. All of our passion, yearning, despair, empathy, ecstasy and shame are born in our hearts. So not only is Jerusalem the center of the world, as evidenced by every faith’s interest in it, but all the emotions and feelings of the world are rooted in Jerusalem.
What does this mean?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and here’s the only way I can understand it.
Our hearts are broken because Jerusalem is in ruins. Yes, there’s Mamilla and the Waldorf and even the Western Wall, but the Jerusalem we see is devastated. But don’t we see that people are still joyous and passionate even in this exile? In truth, I would say no. But because of God’s kindness, and the performance of mitzvos, to a small extent we still have positive feelings often. But our joy is a mere fraction of the joy we would experience in redemption, may it come speedily in our days. Amen!
מי שלא ראה שמחת בית-השואבה, לא ראה שמחה מימיו
מי שלא ראה ירושלים בתפארתה, לא ראה כרך נחמד מעולם
Whoever didn’t see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city in their life!