by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler
Psalm 137 carries a sorrowful statement of the grief felt by the people of Judah in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent exile.
“By the rivers of Babylon, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung up our harps…”
The Babylonian captors couldn’t understand this reluctance to sing and play, even dance. They urged them, “Sing us the songs of Zion.”
To the Babylonians, the Psalms were merely like our top 40 hits, meant to entertain. To the Judeans, these songs were expressions of love for God, expressions of joy in Him and of their relationship with Him, now so tragically broken. “How can we sing in a strange land?”
The Babylonians couldn’t grasp the angst of a people so desperately grieved. Without the land and the Temple, the music had lost its meaning.
So, the people longed for restoration. “Jerusalem, if I forget you, may my right hand lose its skill.” The exile was prophesied to only last 70 years. Maybe then, they could sing again.
The good news is that God has restored Jerusalem and the people to it. There is more to come. The harps are coming off the trees. God will fulfill all His good Promises, and, all Israel will be saved.
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.