March 30th, 2007
I just had to share this with you…
Yesterday I got a call from my friend Abi. She said she hadn’t been to the Kotel in too long and she wanted to go. Could I come?
So I ditched all my psychometric exam studying, picked up my things and hopped on a bus to Jerusalem. Because when you’re Jewish, and you live in Israel, you have to remember that one of the things about living here that no other Jew in the world has is the ability to just hop on a bus and go to the Western Wall.
You probably know all about the Western Wall, but here’s an elaboration for ya. The Western Wall (known as the “Kotel” in Hebrew, which means “wall”… and as the Wailing Wall) was an outer wall of the Herodian Temple (the second one). It, along with the Southern Wall discovered relatively recently, is the only remaining structure from the Temple, so it’s considered the holiest site forJews. (The Western Wall is more important to us because it has been there throughout the centuries, the one piece of our Temple we could pray to the whole time. I remember Abi saying that soon, God willing, we would be praying to the Third Temple; but I said that I think we will still retain a lot of respect and awe for the Western Wall as the only part of the Temple that stayed with us throughout the entire Diaspora period.) Of course, the Temple Mount is holier, but the Muslims took over and built their stuff on top, officially removing all chances of Jewish excavation to discover solid proof and further artifacts from the Temple. *grumble grumble* Anyway, all Jews pray in the direction of where the Temple once stood. Outside of Israel we pray towards the east; inside Israel, in the direction of Jerusalem; in Jerusalem, in the direction of the Kotel. All Jewish faces are turned to this one spot when they pray.
So Abi and I arrived in Jerusalem and caught the #1 bus to the Kotel. We got off and started walking towards it. On our way up, a lady asked us for charity. There are people like that all over Jerusalem. I keep a pouch of change for them. So I emptied the contents of the pouch into her hand and wished her a happy holiday. As we walked away, she called me back and said, “You deserve a Magen David!” And handed me a red string bracelet (typically charity collectors hand these out; they are supposed to be against the Evil Eye according to the Kabbalah) with a little gold-colored Star of David pendant on it. 🙂
There is a custom that when one hasn’t seen the Kotel in 30 days and sees it again, s/he rends his/her clothes in mourning. Instead of ruining perfectly good clothes, I brought along a headscarf for the purpose and wore it as I walked towards the Kotel. When it came into sight, I whispered, “Im eshkachekh Yerushalayim, tishkakh yemini, tidbak l’shoni l’chiki im lo ezkereikhi, im lo a’aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simchati” (“If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning, let my tongue cleave to the palate of my mouth if I do not remember thee, if I do not raise Jerusalem above all my joy.”) and tore the corner of the scarf as a symbol of my mourning for the Temple.
We walked to the women’s section and passed by the praying women to stand near the Wall. There’s something about the Kotel you just can’t describe in words, Josep… one day, with God’s help, I will take you there and you’ll understand what I mean. The silent reverence all around, broken only by the sniffles of passionate tears and whispers of prayer and the occasional wail… the cool Jerusalem breeze… the rustling of the plants sprouting from the cracks in the stone… and the cool, smooth stone itself, softened by the wind and rain and tears of two thousand years… and the doves that live in the larger cracks coo during the prayers, and sometimes you’re not sure if it’s one of the people crying or a dove. But maybe it doesn’t really matter.
Some people write notes to God and stick them in the cracks in the wall. To pray for healing or success, or anything at all really. These wishes and dreams and prayers have become a part of the wall; the little pieces of paper melted together from exposure to the rain… I brought a note along with me and fit it into a crack in the wall. Among other things, I asked for God to guide you in finding your true spiritual path and helping you walk it in joy and with a whole heart. I also asked that He help you with your studies to help you fulfill your purpose in the world. 🙂
I said the afternoon prayers and then some Psalms chapters, opening my Psalms book to random chapters and reading what was on the page. Everything turned out appropriate. Eventually I managed to get a place right in front of the wall, and I leaned my forehead against the stone and prayed…
When we were done, we backed away (out of respect, we don’t turn our backs on the Wall until we’re a good distance away) and then climbed the stairs into the Jewish Quarter. Abi and I spent far too much time in this great Judaica store which I am SO taking you to one day. Our favorite part was the books. They have amazing, amazing books on Judaism and if I’d had enough money I would have bought out the whole store! But they also have CDs of religious music, beautiful Judaica like candlesticks for Shabbat (Abi and I were joking that we should get you a pair so you can light them in the basement), washing cups for ritual handwashing, menorahs, etc… we were intending to stay for a lot less time than we did! Then we went and bought food, because we were both hungry, and then bid our last farewell to the Kotel and caught the #1 back to the central bus station, and from there home to Rehovot. 🙂
You were on our minds for much of the way. I guess there’s just so much I wish I could show you!
Looking forward to hearing from you soon, once you dig yourself out of the flood of e-mails I’ve been sending you! 🙂
Have a great weekend,
And you know what’s awesome?
I did actually get to take him to both the Kotel and that bookstore… 6.5 years later.