Just the mere mention of the words Shuk Machaneh Yehudah, Jerusalem’s open air food market, conjures up vivid images and an almost visceral reaction: the colorful fruits and vegetables, the sweet aroma of spices, coffees and pungent fresh fish, the taste of sweet rugalach, the nuts and dried fruit, the warm pita fresh out of the oven, the Yemenite Medicine Man who sells tonics made from Etrog- guaranteed to cure what ails you, the hustle and bustle of the crowd, the shouting, the bargaining. Its rich tapestry is a sensory overload.
The Shuk is an experience like no other and quintessentially Jerusalem.
But for me, the Shuk is a sign of geulah, Redemption.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) sees bountiful produce as a sign that redemption is “at hand”:
R. Abba said there is no greater [signal of] the end of the Exile than this, as it says ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come (Ezekiel 36:8).’
In fact, elsewhere the Talmud evokes the same verse from Ezekiel to explain why the prayer for sustenance precedes the prayer for the ingathering of the Exiles in the daily amidah (See TB Megillah 17b). According to the Gemara, it is the fruit of the land that heralds in the redemption. Maharsha (16th-17th C. Poland) in his commentary to the Talmud (ad loc.) explains that the abundant growth at the beginning of the Redemptive process is due to the many years the land laid fallow. That “growth potential” lays dormant ready to be released at the right moment. That is what accounts for the incredible bounty.
While things are far from perfect, there is so much growth in Israel today. Israel is at the forefront of so many technologies and industries. Yet, they still can’t finish the light rail in Jerusalem. But the torn up streets and the traffic are just a part of this redemption sprouting forth; flourishing. Wherever you walk in Jerusalem you see Israel’s national bird- the crane. The construction crane that is!
It is an exciting time to be in here in Eretz Yisrael. I love shopping in the Shuk with my family. Besides for the bargains, it keeps me inspired!
May we merit seeing the complete Redemption, speedily in our days, amein.
And I will see you in the Shuk!