Have we hit a Wall?

I see the Kotel practically every single day.

I’ve gone at all hours of the day, all times of the year. I’ve seen it empty, I’ve seen it full. I’ve seen tourists visiting, I’ve seen Israelis coming from all over the country.

Everyone faces the Wall, the remnants of the Temple and pours out there hearts. I’ve heard people tell me that this was where they felt their closest connection to G-d. I’ve heard people referring to the Kotel as the Holiest place in Judaism. When people talk about it’s holiness, they often say that from around the world, people face the Kotel in their prayers.

What is this Holy Wall then?

Well, the understanding of most historians is that it’s the work of Herod, the king who rebuilt the second Second Temple, that’s not a typo. The Gemara relates that Herod had all of the Rabbis killed in the time of the Second Temple and before killing the last Rabbi in Israel, he stopped and asked him how he could regain the trust of the indigenous, Jewish people. The Rabbi responded that if Herod were to renovate the Second Temple, he’d regain their trust.

Herod expanded Mount Moriah, the location of the Temple, where the Dome of the Rock stands today, to include what is today the Al Aqsa Compound. The Kotel is a supporting wall of that expansion.

What then is it that flocks thousands to the Kotel every day? Why do I see people kissing the wall and writing letters to G-d and leaving them in the Wall? What draws people to it and says that this is the Holiest place in Judaism?

Maybe these aren’t the questions we need to ask. Today, that is our reality. People think of Jerusalem and its Holy Spots away from Ben Yehuda, and instantly think of the Kotel. The Kotel is symbolic of the Second Temple and its destruction to most.

I went down to the Kotel about a week ago and I started thinking about how many people were almost davening to the wall. I looked around and saw that so many people had this unbelievable sense of great accomplishment of a sort. So many people had traveled from the Diaspora and were here ready to throw their heads on the wall and Pray that they made it here.

It’s the collective story of the Jewish people. For so long, we traveled exile to exile. 2,000 years of unbearable suffering. 2,000 years of asking for the Temple to be rebuilt, and a State quenched this thirst. We waited 2,000 years and we returned to our homeland, reinstated our people’s native tongue, built up a Jewish army and started the process to true salvation. We lost our vision though, we lost our direction. We’ve hit a wall.

I am in no way, shape or form advocating to take the Temple Mount by storm or even to visit out of even solidarity. I am in no way saying that we must build the Temple today.

When we face the Kotel, when the former Temple stood to our left, we forget where we came from and where we are going.

From all over the world, Jews don’t face the Kotel, we face the Temple Mount. In his sefer, The Pininei Halacha, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed says that Halachically, we must face towards the left, at the Kotel when we say the Amida. Maybe, just maybe, this small change will change our perspective, provoke our yearning and desire. Maybe we will remember that the State is nice but not the end goal. The Kotel is holy but not the holiest we can aspire to.

This may sound like I am pushing my political agenda, but it may be time to turn a little left in order to move further.

May the redemption come with its promise of peace, equality and tranquility for all the nations, speedily.

The Kotel at Selichot

About the Author
Shai Reef is a Political Science student at York University.