Monthly Archives: May 2024

Next year in Jerusalem

Pesach remembered – and hope for the future: Cantor Paul Heller on the words that conclude our seders

Residing in Jerusalem for two years during my twenties,and proudly bearing an Israeli ID with Jerusalem listed as my city of residence, I grappled with the city’s rich religious diversity. My encounters with texts in our liturgy helped me to believe strongly in the significance of praying for Jerusalem’s place in the world.

Allow me to elaborate further, albeit within the constraints of this page: in my daily prayers, in the context of Zechariah’s prophecy and the longing for the day when God will be One and His name will be One, I am convinced that that day will become possible.

At our Passover Seders, as every year, we raised the bread of poverty, the matzah, and sang Ha lachma anya: we invited all those who wish to join us to come and sit at our table, a reminder that we are not alone. From the tones of Vehi sheamda to the joyful melodies of Chad gadya, the Seder evokes a range of emotions, reminding us of the trials and triumphs of the Israelites’ journey to freedom.

Music serves as a bridge, transcending words, and inspiring unity in diversity. Whether through the liturgy, traditional hymns, folk melodies, or contemporary compositions, music has the ability to foster empathy, understanding, and dialogue among communities divided by decades of strife.

At our choral concert in memory of Henny Levin on 14 April in our beautiful sanctuary, the words from Isaiah 57:19, Shalom lekarov ve lerachok amar Adonai (Peace to the near and far, says the Lord) were sung. This is a call to all of humanity. As we hope for peace in Jerusalem, Ir hashalom, the city of Peace, let us remember that Shalom is also one of God’s names, therefore the translation of Ir hashalom is also ‘The city of God’. In the final moments of the Passover Seder, as we sing the traditional refrain L’shanah habah b’Yerushalayim, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, there lies a profound message of hope and inclusivity that extends beyond geographical borders. This statement, while rooted in the historical longing for return to the homeland, also serves as a call to action for global solidarity and empathy with all who yearn for freedom and peace.

‘Next year in Jerusalem’ takes on added significance this year. It becomes a prayer not only for the physical return to a sacred city but also for the restoration of harmony and coexistence among all inhabitants of the region. Regardless of nationality, religion, or ethnicity, this aspiration speaks to a universal desire for a future where individuals can live with dignity, security, and mutual respect.
The vision of peace in Jerusalem becomes a powerful medium for expressing shared hopes and aspirations of peace, not just for Jews. In the Middle East, where conflict often drowns out the voices of hope, our liturgy and music can serve as a powerful reminder for reconciliation and healing, not only for the Jewish people but for all.

Let’s sing again, with all our heart – L’shanah habah b’Yerushalayim
Next year in Jerusalem!