REALIZING THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM
The Academy of Jerusalem Monographs - #3 March 95
5. The New Heavenly Jerusalem - Heaven, Havannah and Bniyah
The main problem with using the vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem is that in the past it was used in Christianity in a strongly dualistic manner of the "heavenly" as opposed to the "earthly." The Heavenly Jerusalem was used to negate the earthly Jerusalem, seeming to negate all earthly concerns. Most people are in any case conditioned to dualistic perceptions and assume that if something sounds "spiritual" then it must be automatically the opposite of "real" or "practical." So the "Heavenly Jerusalem" often conjures the image of "a pie in the sky" that cannot have practical uses. A "heavenly" orientation will be worthwhile to the extent that we can arrive at meanings of the term "heavenly" which go beyond its old dualistic connotations and incorporate more systemic scientific and theological insights, such as those of the Kabbalah, which studies the system of the ten divine emanations, the sefirot (single, sefirah), and their dynamics.
In the Kabbalah, the Heavenly Jerusalem is often identified with the Higher Shekhinah, literally "habitation," which is the sefirah of binah, "understanding" equated with "The World to Come" (Olam haBa). This concept of haOlam haBa is not in dualistic opposition to haOlam haZeh, "The World That Is," but continuously penetrates our world and renews it.
This process of the transformation of this world is symbolized by the seven sefirot of bniyah, which are below the sefirah of binah and which correspond to the seven days of Creation. This process is seen by many sources as requiring six thousand years for its completion, during which haolam hazeh is transformed into haolam haba. As we have seen, this new world can also legitimately be considered "the world of understanding," and in this, the Kabbalistic insights accord very well with the new insights of cybernetics.
We could absorb these learned relationships by capturing them through easily pronounced relations. We may thus associate the English word "Heaven" with the Hebrew havannah, "understanding." Another such condensation is achieved by equating the reaching for the Heavenly City with bniyah, "building." In Hebrew there is a ready connection between binah, "understanding," and bniyah, implying that we need not just sit and wait for the coming of the Messiah with some Cargo-from-the-sky, but build both ourselves and our environment through and to ("heavenly") understandings. This paper advocates realizing, or building, Heavenly Jerusalem, expecting that understandings could grow and coalesce into large coherent structures, as a city grows, until they cover the whole earth, as prophesied.
In the introduction of the canonical work of Kabbalah, the Zohar, an explanation is given of the verse "...say to Zion, Thou art my people." (Isaiah 51:16) The Zohar asserts that one should not read there ami (My people) but imi (with Me), implying that those who are called "Zion" are literally co-creators who are building the New Heaven and New Earth together with God. This co-creation is done by reaching excellent innovative teachings. (Excellent, metsuyanim, is connected to Tsion-Zion).
Such concepts of building "Jerusalem" as building the spiritual or holy part of Zionism were foreseen by Rav Kuk. His teachings on the sanctification of the profane are worth recalling here. An extract: "The kodesh (holiness) must be built upon the hol (profane, and also sand). The hol is the material of the kodesh, and the kodesh is its form. The more stable that the material becomes, the more significant the form will be."
Yaron (1974) has summarized Rav Kuk's approach to building the kodesh thus: "The method of connecting the kodesh to the hol in the philosophy of Rav Kuk resembles a ladder in which man climbs from the hol to the kodesh. ...Each stage prepares the man for the next stage. But even after he has arrived at the highest level and reached the stage of holiness, he cannot neglect the prior stages. The kodesh must be attached to the hol....In the ladder of hol-kodesh all the rungs are required for the maintenance of the ladder. The kodesh not only cannot exist without the hol, but the very nature of the kodesh obliges it to be infused within the hol. The material-hol receives its purpose from the form-kodesh, but the form is also dependent on the material and is attached to it.
...The relationship between the kodesh and the hol, as between the spirit and body, is a relationship of continuous mutual influence. The kodesh becomes strengthened and fortified through the connection of man with the actual world in which he lives."
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6. Heavenly Jerusalem as a Symbol of Future Zionism
While symbols can mean different things for different people, they have an integrative power and tend to reinforce certain values. The Heavenly Jerusalem as the symbol of future Zionism gives an optimistic outlook to a rich future and is pregnant with many meanings and potentialities. We shall discuss below a few of them.
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6.1 Heavenly Orientation and Aliyah
The Heavenly Jerusalem emphasizes a new kind of "Spiritual Zionism." It offers a remedy for the current situation in Israel where life is becoming increasingly materialistic, narrowly focused, and subgroup-oriented. Its adoption could orient us for a more meaningful spiritual and social life.
This idea can be illustrated through the most basic Zionist commandment -- aliyah, immigration to the Land of Israel. Aliyah is now largely encouraged by material incentives and valued for its effect on population statistics. But aliyah has many meanings. In Hebrew, the Heavenly Jerusalem is Yerushalayim shel ma'ala and aliyah is, literally, the activity of reaching ma'ala. Aliyah as a commandment is the very last word of the Jewish Bible, expressly in the context of rising to volunteer and to participate in the building of Jerusalem (Chr. II, 36:23). Among religious Jews, aliyah is the honor given to certain people in the synagogue to go up to the Torah. Among the Kabbalists, aliyah is the peak of meditation, when the adept is lifted up to see the heavenly worlds, where also the Heavenly Jerusalem can be found.
The new concept of ascent/aliyah associated with the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is an urban and communal image, can become social as well as individual. It calls for rising up to behold, welcome, and help to bring about the Heavenly Jerusalem. It is reminiscent of the traditional communal pilgrimages, aliyah laregel, to Jerusalem.
In the Book of Psalms there is a collection of the "Ma'alot Poems," Psalms 120-136, which are pertinent to the vision of Yerushalayim shel Ma'ala. Psalm 122 gives a description of what the pilgrims see when they approach the gates of Jerusalem: "Our feet were standing at thy gates, O Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim which is built as a city joined together." Many of the traditional references to the Heavenly Jerusalem are based on this passage.
We shall utilize this stanza as a chart and expand its last six word-concepts to define twelve semantic symbols, which we may regard as "gates to the Heavenly Jerusalem" or as key topic names, to gain understandings of how to realize the Heavenly Jerusalem, namely how to rectify the world.
We shall now explore the values and possibilities which are emphasized as we join together various facets of this vision.
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6.2 (Torah & Shalem) Teaching wholeness - A New Torah from Zion
Science today is still largely reductionist, and is fragmented into many hundreds of disciplines which usually choose not to communicate with each other. Applications of science and technology to complex contemporary problems are usually fragmentary and often even exacerbate these problems. Our age sorely needs wholesome-holistic applications of science and technology.
The Mosaic Torah knows of wholesome social regulation of even the basic economic structuring of the society (the Jubilee principle). The Torah was greatly extended by the Talmudists, who developed conversational methodologies for their dedicated work. Though they were interested primarily in issues with practical importance, they knew how to build self-supporting and self-referring cognitive wholes.
Modern theories of wholes and system-theoretic methodologies also point to new possibilities of transcending disciplinary fragmentation and discovering wholes at every level, and we saw them as pointing to the Heavenly Jerusalem. The prophets's vision (Isaiah 2:3, Mikha 4:2) that "Out of Zion will come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" may well mean that this new Torah will be of "Yoru-Shalem" - to demonstrate the whole. If this would be the new orientation of Zionism, Jerusalem could be the natural center for holistic teaching, combining the excellence of the traditional and modern methods. The academic "Ivory towers" could then coalesce into the "metropolis" of the Heavenly Jerusalem, and this metropolis would in turn form a matrix within which to build a holistic technology for material, behavioral, and cultural applications, the antithesis of the Tower of Babel. Today this is a vision. But this vision is a most appropriate goal for the future Zionism - in line with Mikha's prophesy about the Torah that will come forth from Zion to the world.
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6.3 (Shalom, Bniyah & Havannah) - Building Bridges to Peace.
The peace suggested by the Hebrew word Shalom is a "positive peace" suggestive of wholeness and of holistic solutions. Building such a holistic peace is a major challenge for applying the scientific study of wholes. This paper shows that intercultural understandings are the holistic bridges to peace and that through them a whole "city of peace" (which is another meaning for the Heavenly Jerusalem) could be built. Our conclusion of the cybernetic Conversation Theory and of equating the "heavenly" nature of the city with havannah, understanding, is that the Heavenly Jerusalem can be built through the very endeavor to reach it. In the course of aspiring to the heavenly Jerusalem, people build understandings between themselves, and these can add up to constitute the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The Heavenly Jerusalem can represent a goal for Christians, Jews, Moslems and secular socialist idealists. When each party really desires to reach this universal goal, they will learn that they cannot succeed without considering the other parties. The more mutual recognitions occur, the more added chances there are for cooperation.
Jews are slowly finding that our Zionist ideals cannot be realized without our considering the hopes and dignity of the Palestinians. The Arabs are perhaps even slower than the Israelis in recognizing their need of the other. Both sides may require a period of self-reliance in order to appreciate themselves as well as the others. The Christian Arabs, being a double minority, may have a particular potential for playing an important role in both the Christian-Jewish and the Arab-Israeli dialogues.
People must come forward who will dedicate their time to seeking the proper partners and engaging in the relevant dialogues. The vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem built of understanding, as outlined here, is likely to be a guide and a strength for those pioneers. They may embrace conversational methodologies of reaching intercultural as well as interpersonal understandings, and exercise them in a rigorous, perhaps ritualistic, manner. Understandings are stable entities amidst the welter of existence; they can stand on their own, be reproduced, and be joined together into larger wholes.
The test of the new Torah of Zion could consist in the assembly of such genuine understandings into large coherent assemblies and in processing these so as to form the basis for popular media shows and new curricula for the coming generation. Some of the critical understandings discovered through the process may even become codified into new "rites of passage" for the increasing numbers of people intent upon reaching the Heavenly Jerusalem. A whole spirit of peace can develop out of these experiments in Zion, and might spread in the Middle East and the whole earth.
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6.4 (Bniyah & Ir) - City Building and Urban Living.
The Heavenly Jerusalem is a symbol of an ideal urban existence, but the quality of urban living has never been a priority of Zionist ideology, even though urban living is the actual lot of the majority of people in Israel.
Early Practical Zionism idealized an Eden of rural settlements; its "Revisionist" opponents had the fortress city of Beitar as their ideal, while much of the religious population has felt the importance of preserving its ghetto living patterns. Tel Aviv was born from a vision of founding the Heavenly Jerusalem, but its development was overtaken by a wave of materialism, and the initial vision was forgotten. The quality of urban living has been neglected; it is still not an acknowledged national priority.
The adoption of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the symbol of ideal urban existence, as our goal places urban conditions in our focus of attention. We can then see urban problems as symptoms of spiritual problems. In this way, an additional, symbolic dimension is added to our problems so that we do not become immersed in their superficial details.
As we aspire towards the Heavenly Jerusalem, we begin to reflect upon the cities we live in as extensions of ourselves. At that point the cities will come to life to teach us about our real situation and culture, as well as about what can be and needs to be done. (Note that the Hebrew word for city, Ir, has to do with being stimulated and awake, Er).
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6.5 (Hibur & Yahad) Joining Together - Mosaic Patterns
The first Ma'alot Psalm characterizes Jerusalem as "a city that was joined together" of many units. Even visitors to the presently-united Jerusalem sense that the unique character of this city is derived from the diversity of communities and neighborhoods with very different life-styles compacted together within a small area. Jerusalem can be compared to a vast mosaic made from many small pieces, each with its own simple color, which combine to make a rich and elaborate picture. This image of Jerusalem can help illuminate a fundamental point about the systemic composition of what are generally regarded as unitary "things." Being so used to regarding the world as being made of distinct objects, we fail to realize that this "reality" is an artifact of perception with many defects.
The scientific study of systems, as General System Theory or Cybernetics, addresses itself to the implications of systemic assemblies and of making an intelligent system out of simpler units. One scheme often used in such studies is of "Tessellation" or "Cellular- Automata." An Automaton can represent any system that has fairly predictable successive states. By definition, automata are not creative, yet cybernetics shows that a "society" of automata can give rise to intelligence and innovation, even when the members cannot. It is like a mosaic where a limited range of stones can be used to achieve very complex patterns. Mosaic-like patterns of units, which retain their autonomous behavior but are affected by their neighbors' states, give rise to more intricate and intelligent overall patterns of behavior which are not predictable from the behaviors of the individual units, but are more complex and intelligent.
This insight is very important whenever schemes of social and cultural unification are raised. The naive reaction is "the bigger the better," but we should heed the poet's warning (Stevens, 1955) that "Union of the weakest develops strength, not wisdom." On the other hand, the compact assembly of many "cells" (in our case as small autonomous communities) into a "mosaic" of cells (e.g. "neurons") promises not merely strength but the emergence of greater intelligence, cultural productivity, and self-organization. An observer may not appreciate the virtues of any particular community or culture within the assembly, but, as cybernetics has demonstrated, their juxtaposition is likely to give rise to more intricate patterns. Jerusalem can exemplify this pattern of unification for the world.
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