Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What Is The Kotel?

I've found that people think too highly of the Kotel. Shifra told me MMY took their girls to the Kotel right after they landed, tired as anything. I was given to letters to put into the walls of the Kotel. Of course I did it, to fulfil their request, but, it felt weird, even though millions have done it before me. Before I left last time, a few people asked me if I'm going to the Kotel before I leave. I said, I don't know, but probably not. They asked why not? I said, I don't have kavanah their. (Update, 1145 pm, someone just asked if I was going before Rosh HaShana.)

Does anyone know what the Kotel is? It's a retaining wall put up by King Herod (not even a Jew!) for the 2nd Beis HaMikdash. On the south side, he put some living spaces I think, for himself. And party rooms to impress honored guests.

That's all it is.

Now don't get me wrong, it's wonderful to have it in our control, and that we can get so close to the Kodesh Kadashim (Holy of Holies) through the tunnels and such. No one is happier than me that we at least have a part of Har HaBayyis. Or, part of the area surrounding it. And that we can daven mamash 90 feet away from the holiest place on earth is wonderful.

But that's all it is, 90 feet away. Some people act as if the Kotel is the Beis HaMikdash itself. But it's not.

So, you ask, what about that midrash that says that God's presense never left the Western Wall?
Well, funny you should ask, but most (if not all) the commentators agree that that line is talking about the western wall of the actual Holy of Holies, not the wall we call the Kotel.

Sorry to burst your bubble folks.

It's funny, one is supposed to go to places like these (the Kotel, burial places of tzadikkim, etc.) to have more kavanah (concentration) in your davening (prayers). But I can never have kavanah at the Kotel -- how can you with 10 different minyanim going on all around you? One of them, of course, being the Sefardi minyan right next to you, where they're screaming every single part of davening? And also, since it's the month of Elul, you hear blasts from the shofar randomly.

It seems to me that some people act as if the Kotel is it. That the Kotel, if it were human, would be called, The Man, and not the Beis HaMIkdash itself (whatever, you get my drift).

How? Quite simply.

When one is davening, where are they supposed to face? No, don't say east. You\re supposed to face Jerusalem. It just so happens that half of the world is east of it. Anyway, what about when you're in Jerusalem? Well, the Beis HaMikdash. What about when you're pretty much there, like near the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount (where the Kotel plaza is)?

Yup, you guessed it -- the Kodesh Kodashim.

So then why, pray tell, do nearly 99% of the people NOT face the K"K, but they face the actual wall itself? And no, the K'K isn't right behind the Kotel, it\s actually quite tot he left a bit. Therefore, when at the Kotel, you shouldn't be facing the Kotel straight, but actually, tilted toward the left. and if you're right next to the wall, then like, an 80 degree tilt. Facing the Kodesh Kodashim. Not the wall itself.

So, what is the Kotel?

A wall built by a non Jew.


Blogger Bracha said...

I think most people know that its too the left(well people who go there on a regular basis anyways...forgeiners probably not so much) but people often forget.It's not in the nature of people to turn to the side to daven.People are used to facing straight towards something. Like in a shul in C"L every typcially faces the side of the wall with the ark...they don't face towards the ark itself. So when they get to the Kotel they think it's the same thing. What do you recommend? Arrows pointing which way to daven?
I've been trying to actively daven towards Kadosh Kadoshim while I'm at the Kotel, however it's hard to remember sometimes- perhaps it has to do with kavanah? I dunno.
Heres a thought....do you think, that by praying at an angle, more people could get into the plaza?

I was in the Arab quater on Shabbos on a tour and saw the stairs to the Temple Mount through the Arab shook...where the centrists say is where the K"K was. It was pretty surreal. We were kicked out of the area cuz some tourists tried forcing their way up...we were all just standing towards the side just minding our own business...oh well. That was surreal.
BTW- this word verification is long tonight....iphkdoqn

Wed Sep 20, 12:17:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Dani B. said...

Actually there is a gemara somewhere (I can't remember exactly where but I believe it was Rabbi Wolicki who mentioned it once. you can ask him) that said that any place that jews go to pray historicly has a certain amount of kedusha no matter what it's actuall signifigance. For example take king david's supposed tomb in the old city. Everone knows it's not for real but yet everyone still goes there to daven. Going there to daven is not without merit because it has historical signifgance as place where our people pray. It holy and a place to pray for that reason alone.

The same can be said for the kotel. The fact that it is a place that has such a history of people praying to hashem makes it a holy place where it is preferable to pray regardless of it's actual signifigance.

Don't just write it off.

Wed Sep 20, 12:19:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Karban Nesanel said...

bracha...yes, maybe there SHOULD be arrows...

yeah, the muslim quarter *sigh* we all know how i feel about that...

dani...yeah, i knew i forgot something in the "dont get me wrong paragraph." im not writing it off, of course it has kedusha, but only kedusha that of a makom tefilla, thats it. no kedusha of beis hamikdash or anything else like that, just of a makom tefilla.

im only writing off what should not have been written in the first place.

Wed Sep 20, 01:05:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Bracha said...

Write a letter to the Cheif Rabbi of the Kotel...maybe that will get some arrows in. Maybe a petition would be more effective...

Wed Sep 20, 02:51:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Special Ed said...

it's actually a machlokes rishonim I believe rambam and someone else as to whether the kotel has intrinsic kedusha. It is a makom tefilla, but more than that there is the distinct possible that the kotel was built on a angle, and tehrefore much of it hovers and/or touches har habayis. My Rebbe would never touch the kotel, and I've heard the same thing said by many other respectable talmidei chachomim.

Thu Sep 21, 03:28:00 AM 2006  

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