Jrusalem Old & new – Buchukotai
The New Middle Ages
I’ve been trying to figure it out for ages: Why for something to be ‘in’ does it need to have been ‘out’ for so long?!
Who would have dreamed that my Grandmother’s dress back from the sixties, the orange gabardine with the brown squares, would one day be my 17-year-old daughter’s favorite pick of the closet?
Can we believe that those collars that our Aunt so delicately crocheted by hand would one day have a fashion value to match its sentimental one? And what about that pinewood chest of drawers? And tha green couch back from the seventies that you refused to sit on? But that’s fashion, my dear friends. What’s old is now the latest and hottest. Today, any self-respecting, fashion-conscious designer creates a special Retro line. Whether it’s clothing, furniture, linen or even soap! Antiques, exuding distinct charm and prestige, have and will always be collectors’ items. Modern articles, in contrast, radiate a feel of progress, cleanliness and advancement. But it’s all that stuff in the middle – not the 200 year old, but the 50 year old – that’s finally getting the appreciation it deserves! Why? Perhaps because contemporary mass assembly- line production emits a sense of cold industry, whereas reminiscing about the past fosters a special feeling that causes us to stop and just appreciate the slow and solitude.
Old & New
This week’s Parsha presents us with both options, Old & new, side by side. “And you shall eat yashan noshan – the old stock” (26:10). Rashi elucidates that the fruit was preserved and aged, giving three-year-old fruit a better taste than the fresh pick of the tree. Like good old wine, French cheeses, and vintage design, the flavor of old amasses strength and potency that is only emitted after a long period of time. “And you shall bring forth the old because of the new,” continues the verse. Rashi here explains that the granaries shall overflow with fresh produce to the extent that there will be no choice but to bring out the old preserves in order to clear room for the new abundant yield. Thus, it’s a double blessing – a blessing in the old whose potential shall be preserved, and a blessing in the quantity of the new yield, as well.
Jerusalem – A City Connected & United
Jerusalem Old & New. Photo: Meitav Imas
Yom Yerushalayim. Sunday, 28 Iyar, marks 48 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, stirring within me reflections upon this wondrous City of Gold. The Gemara teaches, “One who brings joy to a bridegroom and bride is considered as one who rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem” (Tractate Brachot 6b). Why does the Talmud liken bringing joy to a married couple on their wedding day to rebuilding the ruins of Jerusalem as opposed to building a new edifice in the city?
Personally, I think that anyone who takes a walking tour of Jerusalem and compares historically-preserved and renovated antique buildings to the monstrous cement towers shouting ‘modern luxury residence’ (that were built hear in the 80’s & 90’s) can figure it out himself. The association between a chattan and kallah and rebuilding one of the ruins of Jerusalem is crystal clear to me. Just as Jerusalem is a city featuring layers of antiques, holiness and tradition, qualities which we must account for and employ special tools and methods when rebuilding her scenery; so too a chattan and kallah strive to build a deep, stable, holy home with new, modern tools while drawing nourishment from their rich roots and ancestry.
Picture hanging in my Studio, of Bride & Groom at two sides of the Mechitza at the Kotel. The picture frame is an old window frame from a Jerusalem home. Photo & frame: Yoram amir
Indeed, Jerusalem is forever a city uniting old and new. It features antique buildings, renovated and restored ‘just like new’ such as the historic King David Hotel, Churvah Shul, and brand-new re built Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The king David Hotel in Jerusalm. Photo: Meitav Imas
And then there are new buildings designed to replicate the old, preserving the aristocratic charm of the past like the homes in the Jewish curter in the old city of Jerusalem, or part of the Mamilla Mall and surrounding environs.
The Old part of Mamila Mall that was restored. Photos: Meitav Imas
Mamila Mall -The new side. Photo: Meitav Imas
Formerly the Palace Hotel which closed down back in the 1930s, the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem was reconstructed and renovated at a cost surpassing 200 million dollars! The entrance to the building, selected for preservation, was knocked down in order to construct the hotel parking lot, however prior to the demolition, photos were taken from every angle, and a perfect replica was rebuilt using the photos and laser scans. (Did I mention that renovations cost 200 million?!)
Photos from the waldorfastoria website
It goes without saying that rebuilding new from old is expensive, requires intensive planning, effort and labor, and above all, understanding of the city pulse! But who if not for the builders and lovers of Jerusalem will adorn the city with her unique ornaments, preserving her singular beauty and charm of “Yeffe nof mesos tevel, kiryah l’Melech rav,” as so eloquently expressed by the poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.
In Parshat Bechukotai, Hashem blesses His nation with an abundance of economic, agricultural, physical and spiritual wealth: “And I shall provide your rains in their time, and the land shall bring forth its produce…And I will rid evil beasts in the land…And I will make you fruitful…And I shall walk among you…” (26:6,9). And then, the unbelievable! “And I will place peace in the land!” (26:6). Yet this, of course is all conditional to the very first words in this Parsha, “If you shall follow in My laws…” May we all merit fulfilling His Word and mitzvot with love! Amen!
Yemin Moshe neighborhood. Photo: Meitav Imas