Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

For the peace of Jerusalem, pray: ‘May those who love you prosper’

Published: April 20, 2002

By Jerre Roberts

In the past few months our attention has been riveted on the tragic events in the Middle East, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I remember the day 21 years ago, entering Jerusalem on a small bus as we prayed the words of Psalm 122.

“I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem.”

During these times of sadness, I have found myself turning frequently to the Bible, especially to the psalms, for prayer and hope. As a storyteller, I have been nourished by stories of peace and justice that my friends send by e-mail and call to tell me.

A gentle combination of Scripture and story can be found in Jewish literature known as “midrashim.” A simple definition of a midrash is that it is a story about stories in the Bible, created and told by rabbis who would ask questions of the sacred texts.

One of the stories that is circulating these days focuses on the peaceful roots of Jerusalem. In her book “The Classic Tales: 4,000 Years of Jewish Lore,” author Ellen Frankel titles the story “How the Temple Site Was Chosen.”

This is that story: On Mount Moriah in Jerusalem there once lived two brothers. One had a wife and children; the other was unmarried. They all lived together in one house in perfect harmony. Each day the brothers would rise early and together work their fields.

When it was harvest time, they reaped their grain and brought the sheaves to the threshing floor. There they divided the sheaves into two equal piles and went home.

That night the brother who had no family said to himself, “I am alone, but my brother has a wife and children to feed. Why should my portion be equal to his?”

So he rose from his bed and went to the threshing floor. He took some sheaves from his own pile and added them to his brother’s.

That same night, the other brother said to his wife, “It is not right that my brother has the same number of sheaves as I. For I have a greater share of happiness since I have a wife and children, but he is alone.”

So the brother and his wife went secretly to the threshing floor and put some of their own sheaves on the single brother’s pile.

The next morning the two brothers rose early and went to thresh their sheaves. Both were astonished to find the piles were still equal. That night they both went again to the threshing floor and met each other there. When they realized why they were both there, they embraced and kissed each other. That is why God chose their field as the site of the Holy Temple, for it was there that two brothers showed their great love for each other.

Frankel cites the references of 2 Chronicles and Psalm 133 as references. The texts read: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord on Mount Moriah, on the spot which David had selected, the threshing floor of Ornan.” And from Psalm 133: “How good, how delightful it is for all to live together as brothers.”

We are called by Jesus to be people of hope. And so we pray the closing words of Psalm 122: “For the peace of Jerusalem pray: ‘May those who love you prosper! May peace be in your walls.’”

Jerre Roberts is a sacred storyteller who tells stories and leads workshops and retreats in schools, churches, universities and libraries throughout the country. For more information contact Roberts at jerre@txk.net or (870)773-5038.