When Rav Kook visited the United States in 1924, scores of people came to see and meet him. This was Rav Kook’s first (and only) trip to America, and his appearance generated great excitement. The purpose of the trip, however, was to raise funds for Torah institutions in Eretz Yisrael and Europe.
At one gathering in Rav Kook’s honor, a well-known philanthropist agreed to give a very sizable donation to the cause, but only if the chief rabbi could explain to him a Jewish custom that he found puzzling.
At the conclusion of both the Seder night and Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world declare their heartfelt wish: לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָיִם - “Next year in Jerusalem!”
“I understand why Jews in the Diaspora say this,” said the man. “But why do Jews who live in Holy City say it? Are they not already in Jerusalem?”
Rav Kook listened attentively to the question. “The matter is quite simple, my friend,” he explained.
“First of all, in Jerusalem we add a word to the prayer. We say, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָיִם הַבְּנוּיָה. ‘Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!’ And we still have a long way to go before that prayer is fulfilled and Jerusalem is fully rebuilt.”
“But I would offer an additional explanation,” continued the rabbi with a smile.
“When we beseech God, ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’ we mean that we hope to be there in the fullest sense — that we will be in Jerusalem in body, soul, and mind. We pray that our situation will be different than it is today, when people live in Jerusalem, but their thoughts are occupied with planning fundraising trips to America.”
Judging from the size of the man’s donation, it was clear that he was particularly pleased with the second answer.
(Adapted from “An Angel Among Men” by Simcha Raz, translated by Rabbi Moshe Lichtman, pp. 253-254)