Next Year in Jerusalem-Transcript

This is the episode transcript. You can listen to the episode here.

(Intro) Welcome to American Rabbi Project, a podcast about American Judaism from the perspective of rabbis across the country. I’m Justin Regan.

(Justin Regan) This week’s episode is going to be a little different. Instead of profiling one rabbi in one state and discussing their views on a broad range of topics, we’re gonna hear from multiple rabbis about their thoughts on one specific question. And it has to do with the recently celebrated holiday of Passover, Pesach, the festival of freedom and stale macaroons. 

(Regan) It is a tradition to close the Passover Seder, the ceremonial dinner that kicks off the holiday, by saying ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’. Like many others, this statement intrigues me. What exactly does it mean? What are the hopes attached to this? How does this statement change meaning now that Jerusalem is part of a modern Jewish State? And my friends who help edit my scripts told me not to go on a long-winded rant about the pure logistics of cramming every Jew into the old town. So I won’t, even though I want to. If you’ve seen any interesting articles on that, please email them to me, justin@rabbiproject.com. But clearly, like many other things in Judaism, it’s something that’s open to personal interpretation. So I reached out to some of the rabbis I had already interviewed and asked them to record their answers to the question ‘what does next year in Jerusalem mean to you’? Some of the rabbis you’re about to hear from, you’ve already heard from, and you’ll here from others in upcoming episodes. And we’ll start with a familiar voice. Rabbi Sam Spector of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

(Rabbi Sam Spector)

When I think of the words ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ what I think about is the hope of our people. The thought that tomorrow can be better than today. The hope that each of us can find whatever it is we’re searching for.  With our ancestors it was finding a home. And that’s what their Jerusalem was. But perhaps for us, when we think about the Egypt we’ve left, maybe it was a bad relationship, an unfulfilling job, a town we just couldn’t seem to get ahead in and wander into the unknown we are seeking our promise land. Our Jerusalem our place of healing of love of fulfillment of home. And so for each of us, that ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ moment might be unique and different because it’s very personal. But it symbolizes tomorrow. And that we can never give up hope that no matter what situation we’re in, we too can find fulfillment in the days ahead.

(Rabbi Robert Haas)

Hi this is Rabbi Robert Haas. I’m the rabbi of Congregation Mikva Israel in beautiful Savannah. And it’s an honor and a privilege to be asked what does ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ mean to me?  

For some it’s pretty obvious. Next year means ‘next year I’ll be in Jerusalem’. But we also know that can’t necessarily be the answer because we’ve been saying ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ for thousands of years and much of that time it was impractical or even impossible to go to the city of Jerusalem. Some would say ‘next year we hope the messiah will come’ and that’s a beautiful way of looking at it. But I look at it a little bit differently. 

I look at it and say ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ means next year when Passover rolls around, I hope that I am a better human being then I was the previous year. I hope I’m a better father, a better husband, a better rabbi. Someone who’s more ethical then I’ve ever been before. ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ means next year I’m going to say to myself when people I didn’t know were around me and I could get away with bad behavior, I didn’t. When I had the chance to be moral I did so more often. I made fewer mistakes, but more importantly, I didn’t make the same mistakes over and over again as I have done before.

So when I look at Passover and the phrase ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ I look at a saying that next year I can be better and keep improving as time goes on. Because I want to demonstrate for my family, friends and community that what we are expected to do is not change the world in a grand fashion. But incrementally help make it better. 

‘Next year in Jerusalem’ means to me that next year I’ll say to myself ‘I’m the best I’ve ever been, and I hope I can improve’. So may each of us have a wonderful holiday season. Whether we are celebrating Passover, Easter or any other holiday and I hope that next year in Jerusalem each of us is just a little bit better then we are today. 

(Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman)

This is Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman from Boston, Massachusetts. When I say ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ I don’t usually think of the hope of physically being in the city of Jerusalem for Pesach, though I have absolutely loved being in the city for Pesach in the past. For me ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ is next year in ‘Yerushalim’ the city of Peace the city of wholeness. And thinking of Jerusalem as a symbol and a mythical entity that we can put our intention and visualize a world of more wholeness and more peace and more compassion. And that’s the Jerusalem we hope to be living in by next year.

(Rabbi Greg Kantor)

I’m Rabbi Greg Kanter of KKBE also known as Kahol Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina. 

For me, when I say ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ I am transported to a city that was once my home. I am sitting on the meer pesset, Hebrew for balcony where I celebrated Passover with friends and classmates 30 years ago. Our seder went long into the night with a Haggadah we made for the occasion. Looking back, I realize now that was a time of everything Jewish converging for me. I was in my first year of rabbinic studies for a land I had only imagined for most of my life. Singing songs of freedom and redemption in Hebrew on a beautiful spring night in the holiest place in the world. I was with friends who were beginning their journey along with me it was spectacular. 

From there, I imagine going back sometime with my family and showing them the Jewish homeland I fell in love with that year. I imagine showing them where I sang, where I slept, where I shopped and where I really engaged and even sometimes struggled with the land and people of Israel. 

While it was only the beginning of my journey it was a wonderful year. I hope I can return for a visit or even an extended stay and share my love of Israel with friends and family in the future so they might get a taste of what I experienced once upon a time. 

(Rabbi Dovi Shapiro)

Hey this is Rabbi Dovi Shapiro in Flagstaff, Arizona. Justin, I love your question of what does it mean to me ‘Next year in Jerusalem’.  I think it is a fascinating question which I have heard all kinds of fascinating answers. But I want to make it personal. I would like to point out a general question about the seder. If you look at the Seder it’s all about the children. The whole order of the seder is so the children will ask questions. There’s a system of 15 steps and each step is makes the child to ask questions. And then comes  the rituals and the customs and the dippings and so on and things that make the children ask questions. And then we have the manishtanah that involves the children asking questions.

But what about us adults?  Where are we in the Seder? If it’s all about the children where are we? So what Passover is about is us being in touch with our inner child. Passover was when the Jewish people became a Nation to Hashem. It says in many places in Chaballah it’s as if we were born. We became a child. Being in the land of Egypt  was like labor and finally going out of our slavery was the beginning of our relationship with Hashem like a child has with their parents. And that is the whole point of the Seder. The Seder is not just about the children who are young in age. But each and every one of us should become in touch with our inner child. What does it mean to be a child? Is that innocence is the purity, is the faith, is the simple faith. What it means to be a slave is you have been bogged down and you have been affected in such a negative way from your life experiences that your purity has ben tainted that you see the world and all the darkness in it. However a child still looks at the world and sees all the beauty in it. And so to each and every one of us has the opportunity on Passover to reconnect to Hashem. To reconnect to G-d in the purest, most beautiful way. 

And that is the meaning when we say ‘this year, I am a slave and next year I will be a free person. This year I am here but Next Year in Jerusalem’ This is a metaphor to a time that we will not be slaves anymore. Not just slaves in the physical sense, but slaves in the spiritual sense. Slaves to all the external aspects of life and the illusions that distract us from the true reason why we are here and that taint our pure beautiful connection to G-d in the most beautiful way. Moshiach is going to come  and this is the literal meaning of ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ that we should all be together with Moshiach and the world will know peace. And there will only be beautiful things, and there will be no more jealousy and there should be no more war and there should only be love in this world. That is like a child, the pure essence of a child. You cannot have two children who truly cannot get along with each other. Which means if you  go to the essence of them there’s purity. The purest essence of them And that is what we are trying to get back to. The purest essence of ourselves  and our relationship with Hashem. And that is what the Seder is all about. Happy Passover. 

(Regan) Those were the voices of Rabbi Sam Spector from Salt Lake City, Utah, Rabbi Robert Haas from Savannah, Georgia, Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman from Boston, Massachusetts, Rabbi Greg Kantor from Charleston, South Carolina and Rabbi Dovi Shapiro from Chabad of Flagstaff, Arizona talking about what the phrase ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ means to them.

(Regan) I’m not going to spend too much time with my personal thoughts on ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’. But I will say that I see it as a ‘next year in a better world’ type of thing. I’d really like that. This especially resonates for me seeing as it was during the festival of freedom that an armed terrorist attacked the Chabad of Poway synagogue killing Lori Kaye and injuring three others, including the Rabbi. Some say it’s a miracle the gun jammed and more weren’t killed. And yes, it is true things could have been worse. But hopefully, next year things will be better.

(Regan) This special episode of American Rabbi Project was written and produced by me Justin Regan. Derek Povah handles the web stuff. I also want to thank Jeremy Krones, Sarit Rathbone, Beth Vander Stoep, Dylan Abrams and my parents for the assistance. Feel free to reach out to me by emailing justin@rabbiproject.com . More episodes can be found at my website rabbiproject.com. You can also follow me on twitter with the handle @rabbiproject and facebook.com/rabbiproject. And until next time, Shalom, Safe Driving and next year in Jerusalem. 


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