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Behind the Song: “Maybe Next Year”

One of the most meaningful moments of my life was last year at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I wasn’t supposed to, but I used my phone to record the sounds of the Jews singing as the sun set that Sabbath, marking the beginning of the Jewish new year.



I moved among them in awe, thinking about how similar our longings were: theirs for the reestablishment of the temple, for the coming of the messiah; mine for the descent of the New Jerusalem, for the return of the Messiah and the age when God will make his home with us again. When I touched the wall—closer than I’ve ever been to the place where God’s presence once dwelled—and prayed with the throng using the same words of the psalms and prophets, I wept. (I did a lot of crying in Israel.) It reminded me of Lucy climbing into the wardrobe to get back to Narnia only to find the way closed.

I wanted to see the King in the New Jerusalem so badly I literally felt a pain in my chest. At the end of Fiddler on the Roof, one of my favorite musicals, the displaced Jews say to one another, “Next year in Jerusalem.” It’s a phrase often used at the end of a Passover meal, pointing to their longing for home, and it sums up my own longing for the New Jerusalem well.

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