After having arrived back in Dallas from Israel, I wanted to share with you a feeling about the Kotel, known as the “Wailing Wall.”
We stayed near the Old City this trip. Since the only nearby synagogue to pray at was in the Old City, known at the Ramban Synagogue, as well as the Wall itself, I was there quite often. I found that the Old City and the Wall really grow on you — and you begin to feel very attached.
There’s something very special in the air in that place that’s difficult to describe in words. There’s a feeling of holiness combined with excitement. It’s very alive, full of people of all stripes, types and ages walking to and from the Wall in all hours of the day and night. There seems to be an unspoken camaraderie among all those who are part of the hustle and bustle of the Old City.
One overwhelming feeling I experienced, time and time again, at the Kotel was that of the totality of klal Yisrael represented there. Jews far from and near to observance all come to pour out their hearts at that holiest of places. Even the most secular of Jews can be seen donning a kippah and approaching the Wall with reverence, caressing and kissing it and standing quietly before it. You can often see in their eyes how, at that moment, they are connecting to their souls, to their past, to their Creator.
That name “Wailing Wall” can be understood two ways. On one hand it is the place Jews come to pour out their hearts to the Al-mighty, connecting to thousands of years of Jewish tears which have drenched its stones.
Another is that the Wall itself is “wailing” for our people. It has withstood multiple destructions and fulfills the Talmudic dictum that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, will never forsake the Western Wall. From that place G-d Himself cries over the destruction of the Temple, once housed therein. He wails over the countless years of pain and travail that his children have endured during their long and often bitter exile. He expresses His inestimable pain over how distant many of His children have grown from their Father in heaven and His Torah.
We, G-d’s children, can feel G-d’s pain and it draws us to His palace to help, somewhat, to mitigate His suffering and bring Him nachat.
Another observation I had this time was how even Gentiles are so drawn to this holy place. I was recently approached by a Christian neighbor to ask me to pray for his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer. I told him we were about to leave for Israel and if he would write his prayer to G-d I would insert it into the Wailing Wall, together with thousands of others’ prayers, and they are said to go straight to heaven. He was back in no time with his folded paper, ever so thankful I would do that for him. I sent him a WhatsApp video of the insertion; he was elated. Later he posted a joyful notification for his friends that the prayers had worked and she will be fine!
Later I saw a man standing a distance from the Wall, looking a bit confused. I approached him and it turned out he was a Gentile from Europe who was simply drawn to this place. He wondered what people were inserting in the Wall. I told him about the prayers and that he, too, was welcome to pray there and insert his prayers as well, as the verse says the Temple is a place to call out to G-d for all the nations (Isaiah 56:7). He was overjoyed and thanked me for the guidance, proceeding to approach the Wall.
As long as the Wall remains unchanged in its holiness and we continue to observe that holiness, it remains a timeless magnet to people of all backgrounds and faiths, where they can connect to the Al-mighty like no other place….
May its core, the holy Temple, be rebuilt speedily in our days!
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.