מִצִּיּוֹן מִכְלַל יֹפִי אֱ|לֹהִים הוֹפִיעַ
If the incomparable extra genus beauty of this city is to been appraised on aesthetic terms built on its own soil, the configuration of an appropriate colour theory and its application would be a necessary propadeutic. As over many other cities on this great lovely marble of ours, the sky is blue. And yet here in Jerusalem the sky is blue somehow more conspicuously than elsewhere. When there are clouds, for example, one could swear that they too are blue. Likewise, in certain moments unchecked by critical thought and in refutation of Freud’s Akhenaten theory, the sun.
וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת
But certainly all romantic colorations must be resisted. The blue is altogether inconclusive. It leans outside itself. Refractively. It shies away from its own loveliness like a blushing girl. If it is indeed to be classified as techelet, this hue does not tend toward white or leek green or any other identifiable colour. The mishna specifies these two colours as contrasts for the sake of identifying the transition between twilight and two distinct lights.
(מאימתי קורין את שמע בשחרית משיכיר בין תכלת ללבן ר’ אליעזר אומר בין תכלת לכרתי (ברכות ט,ב
But the blue of Jerusalem’s sky persists, even under the harshest sun, as a inwardly precarious, irreducible twilight colour. The most that can be said, consequently, is that it is a metaphorical hue of blue. The hue is not literally there, even as it is certainly there to see plain as day. Like the blue of the sea in the medium of water, this blue in the medium of air stands in for a transparency that would be too much for the eye of flesh and blood to handle on a daily basis. The sky over Jerusalem, in short, is transparent. As if the fact that the sky is nothing more than a preferential refraction by blue-scattering nitrogen and oxygen molecules were rendered visible, and the blueness itself is nothing more than one strand of techelet among, and hinting at, the disheveled transparent threads among which it weaves its resting position.
And once a proper theory of colour were worked out to account for the quality of transparency in the blue of Jerusalem’s sky, the political issues regarding what lies beneath the sky might be better illuminated as well. Doesn’t the whole issue of “land” as it is applied to this fair city, in the manner of cartographers, surveyors, real estate agents, mayors, prime ministers, police commissioners, etc., becloud the hint that is constantly given by the inconclusive blue above such measures? Which is not to say that this should be a kind of “city of refuge” whose levitical inhabitants do not have the option to buy property. The notion of an “international city” tries to get away with such a suggestion, even as the notion does touch on something essential.
Jerusalem is a transparent city, the site of transparency between heaven and earth. It can be assumed quite categorically that no issues of land will ever be resolved or even adequately approached until the blue issue, with all its corollaries pertain to refraction and transparency, is acknowledged and properly addressed by an appropriate colour theory.
I have never been so aware of just how many times the word ירושלים occurs in my quotidian liturgical life. The meaning of the word is re-shuffling the wall-stone tiles under my feet. It used to have such a securely geographic meaning. No longer. The new meaning, shifting into a pure temporality, counted in seasons, became clear to me by the end of my first Seder here. What ירושלים means, the word, is:— n e x t y e a r . Or, what amounts to the same: — n o w !
Yerushalmi rudeness.— Souls simply unable to bear how fiercely they desire one another. A blessed brutality alone, nothing less, is what makes it possible to bear the burden of this fierce passion. One can only be this rude with family.
A Jew does not need to be a prophet to feel that the people of Israel are in the process, still, of cultivating a general condition in which Jews can reach down into each others souls in order to tap something of vital value to human life on earth. The fact that the state is fashioned on an Idumean model is of course the great internal blockage to the upward flow. But it would seem, to the extent than an average lay Jew is permitted and perhaps even required to intuit the divine supervision at work in his socio-political circumstances, that this blockage is not severe enough to make it still necessary for Jews to continue their cultivation efforts in a state of exile. The plumbing work that remains is best done in a concentrated population of Jews on old soil. The high degree to which the Jewish soul has achieved a inner civil relaxation, having extended the feeling that it is legally acceptable if not morally permissible to “take off one’s shoes” even beyond the private domain and in the public domain, is bound to dissolve this Idumean blockage. The Israeli Jew just needs a little more time—not very much more—for his excitement over the entrance ticket to Idumean civilization to grow stale and insipid.
In contemporary Israel, each and every cab driver has a highly articulated political opinion. Much more so than, for example, an average American cabby. This “interest in politics” is not what it seems to be. In reality, it is both nothing more than a tending to one’s cactuses on the balcony and nothing less than a messianic itch.
The state machinery might do well to take care of the Ishmaelite brother in our midst. If only as a matter of politesse. Perhaps something like a Marshall Plan would be in order, where the state could invest in the growth of Arab settlements and towns through education in the Jewish way of life and thought. Likewise perhaps the Koran should be taught to Jewish youths as a text of critical historical importance for fostering sympathy.
The contemporary Israeli convention of distinguishing Hilonim from Haredim—that is, so-called non-religious Jews (literally, “profane ones”) from so-called religious Jews (literally, “quakers”)—is a remarkable irony of the exilic mind. Exile denuded (gala) the land of its inhabitants precisely because the Jews were becoming mere Haredim, Jews fanatically preoccupied with supra-rational divine decrees, hukkim, at the expense of being just as busy with rational social laws, mishpatim. Read Isaiah and Jeremiah. To permit and even promote quaking as definitive of the identity of an authentic Jew is therefore nothing less than to perpetuate the sins of those who were extradited to Babylon. There is no such thing as a Hiloni, a “non-religious Jew.” This is an oxymoron. Jews, as the Rebbe taught, all Jews, without exception, are “believers children of believers”—where “belief” has dire little to do with propositions and professions of creed. If we find it so needful to insist on this kind of distinction, the most that can be said is that many Jews tend to fall into one of two camps: those who are enthralled by hukkim, and those whose life is enframed by mishpatim. What shall we call them—Hokniks and Mishpatniks? In any case, they are both absolutely right—absolutely “orthodox.”
The word opportunity assumes a new inflection here in Jerusalem. The usual notion of a waiting potential—Aristotle’s dynamis—is certainly still there. But the opportunity that is Jerusalem is inflected as something quite palpable, tangible, a kind of actuality. As if the essential thing were already realized, and the fact that reality has not caught up to the Realized were an accidental matter. It was from the Bostoner Rebbe זצ“ל that I first heard the word “opportunity” used this way. But to actually hear the inflection one needs to pace up and down Machane Yehudah.