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.