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Hebrew is Magic: The Whole in Peaces

Last week, we concluded our Passover Seders as we always do, with the familiar phrase “Next year in Jerusalem.”

This expression has always struck me as peculiar, considering that Jerusalem is already under our control (and has been for nearly 76 years).

However, this year the contradiction feels even more poignant. With hostages still in Gaza, Israel at war with Hamas, and the IDF gearing up for a potential confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, is it really Jerusalem that we’re longing for in the year to come?

Yet, when we delve into the Hebrew meaning of this remarkable city’s name – Yerushalayim – we find that this aspiration isn’t so peculiar after all.



is actually a combination of two words: yeru

an ancient Hebrew term for “city,” and shalayim

derived from the root shen-lamed-mem

which forms the basis for two familiar words: shalom

(“peace”) and shalem

which means “whole.”

This brings us back to “Next year in Jerusalem.” What we’re truly praying for at the end of our Seders (and our most recent ones especially) is a year of wholeness – one in which all living hostages are returned to their families, and those who are deceased are given proper burials here in Israel.

And, we long for a year of peace, whatever current war zone we happen to find ourselves in, be it the Gaza border, Israel’s northernmost city of Kiryat Shmoneh, or a college campus on New York’s Upper West Side.


Joel Chasnoff is a stand-up comedian, podcast host, and co-author of Israel 201, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award. You can find out more about his comedy, books, and upcoming tour at, and sign up for his weekly newsletter, Hebrew Is Magic, to learn more about the hidden life lessons in Hebrew words.  

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