The prayers of Gentiles

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Your most recent column on “The Wailing Wall” was very interesting and brought a question to my mind. I was unaware that Gentiles were also interested in it: to the point where they come, caress it and leave a note in one of its crevasses. That being the case, does it mean that Hashem listens to their prayers and answers their requests? I guess so, as you told the story of your neighbor’s wife who was healed thanks to your prayers. Does that mean that our Wall isn’t just “ours,” rather it belongs to everyone?

Thank you Rabbi, Zamira R.

Dear Zamira,

You are essentially asking two separate questions: Does G-d answer the prayers of Gentiles? And, if so, does the Wall belong to them as well?

The answer to the first question is, of course! There are many proofs of this in our writings. But suffice it to be implicit in the verse that we quoted in the column you refer to, “… for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Isaiah 56:7). 

That verse, in context, reads as follows: “And also the sons of the Gentile that join themselves to G-d, to serve Him and to love the Name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, all that hold fast to My covenant. Them, as well, will I bring to My holy mountain and make them joyous in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and gift offerings shall be accepted on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (ibid. verses 6-7). 

These verses speak for themselves; clearly G-d is saying that in His holiest place the Gentiles are invited to join in prayer and to offer their offerings to G-d. When they bring them, it is our Cohanim, the Jewish priests, who actually bring these offerings for them upon the altar. This shows that it is a mitzvah for the Cohanim to offer the gifts of Gentiles who want to pray to G-d at this place. 

The fact that it is “called a house of prayer for all the nations” is not, however, a sign of ownership by all. It is the Jewish Temple and owned by the entire Jewish people, not by all of the world. It is open to all those who would like to connect to G-d through it, not owned by them. 

There is some interesting Talmudic discussion whether or not there is any tribe which has ownership of the real estate upon which the Temple was built. The final decision is that Jerusalem was not given out to any particular tribe, although it rested upon the land given to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It is, rather, owned by all of Israel. (See, for example, Talmud Tractate Yoma 12a and Megillah 26a.)

For this reason, as I wrote, there’s no reason a Gentile should not insert his or her prayer request into the holy crevices of the Wall, together with the thousands of other notes entered therein. 

When we recite the Shema Yisrael daily, that Hashem is our G-d and He is one, the classical commentary Rash”i explains that our fervent acceptance is the following: Listen (accept), all Israel, that Hashem who is our G-d now, will one day be the G-d of the entire world, and they will serve Him together with us. (See Rash”i to Deuteronomy 6:4.)

May that day of peace and harmony be soon!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.

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