Dec 22, 2010

The Beauty Of Davening At The Kotel

In this week's free edition of the Yated Neeman there was an interesting letter posted in the community board page.

The author writes (I am providing a rough translation):
I turn to anybody who has the ability to work to improve the deteriorating situation at the Kotel HaMaaravi. When I can get there in the morning, it tears my heart from pain to see:
Many times the number of people davening there is about 30% while the rest of the people are non-Jewish tourists dressed in a frightening way. It is clear to me that in no other place in the world would they allow, not Christians or Muslims, to treat their holy sites with such disrespect. There you need to be quiet and behave in a restrained manner, yet at the holiest place in the world there is no guarding [of sanctity] and only of security...and it becomes a historical tourist attraction. 
On Mondays and Thursdays many "distant" Jews come, and b"h they are at least searching for some close connection to the House of God to celebrate their sons bar mitzvahs. Due to lack of knowledge there is a tremendous amount of disrespect for the place by immodest dress, idle chatter, calling out from the mens side to the womens side and vise versa. It is very disturbing for those who have come to daven, and it is disrespectful to the holy site.
"Religious" youth groups come there at special occasions and turn it into a cheap carnival. Mixed singing very loudly. On the night of the eve of 9 Av they sang there happy songs in a mixed environment at a great disturbance to everyone around. When I approached one of the counselors and pointed out that it is a time of mourning and not of wild celebration, he apologized saying I was right, and while I expected them to stop singing, all they did was change to sing more "serious" songs.
Please direct this to anyone who has the ability to make changes to the situation that they should appoint people in charge of tzniyus, noise, etc.
It happens to be that overall I agree with him. What goes on at the Kotel can be very unsettling at times, along with disturbing. Personally, the sense that all these people are coming to the Kotel in my mind is more important that the fact that they dont know how to act appropriately in the place. Despite their missing a constant connection (some of them), they still feel the importance to come and daven, come see it, stick a note in a crack, take pictures as a remembrance of their visit, have their significant family events there.

Besides for that the Kotel is really just a wall that some people (granted, a lot of people) converted to a shul. It is not the holiest site on earth, nor is the plaza in front of it really special in any way. the holiest site on earth lays behind it. As a matter of fact, in the times of the Beit Hamikdash, where the wall was just one of many and was just an entry point into the Har Habayit and Temple complex, there was an active market, a shuk, along the wall.

The shuk, like any other shuk I imagine, had people fighting over business. While much of what was sold was relevant to the temple, such as animals for sacrifices and oils and wines and flours, etc. there were also money changes and I am sure they must have had vendors selling other things too. I can imagine the calls for "2 pigeons for 10" or "get your lamb here!" and "hot fresh falafel for only 5 coins" and other similar calls. Just go to Mahane Yehuda and imagine what the shuk at the wall must have sounded like.

Yes, all the tourists can be disturbing. I personally find it very difficult to daven at the Kotel. I will almost never daven there, and if I do so, I plan to daven there at vasikin before the crowds show up and cause their distractions and disturbances. Any other davening for me is a brief personal prayer and one can easily go further in and find a place where his concentration will not be disturbed for a short amount of time.

And I have come to enjoy the crowds, as a reminder to me that people still feel connected, and still want to feel connected, no matter how they appear. Whenever I do go, I spend some time after my davening to just enjoy watching the crowds, watching the bar mitzvah celebrations, watching the people connect. I find that, often, even more inspiring than davening at the Kotel itself.


  1. Great, Rafi. I found your comments very meaningful. It is truly an uplifting experience to see, as you put it, "that people still feel connected, and still want to feel connected, no matter how they appear"!

  2. Hey Rafi,
    Thanks for posting. I had no idea that the talking in shul problem had been resolved. If people cannot act properly in shul, why should the Kotel be any different. As my Rosh Yeshiva would say, children who run around and talk in Shul become adults who run around and talk in shul.

    Earlier this year, while waiting for my minyan to arrive, I watched the Women of the Wall and how everyone there reacted. It was quite interesting.

  3. I also love seeing all sorts of people at the kotel. It is very uplifting to see it. The only people I don't like seeing at the kotel are those incessantly annoying shnorrers that constantly get in your face and interrupt any good thoughts (or kavanah for that matter) that you may be having at the time. It's worse for those of us that give a few coins when asked because the others see you giving one (or more) folks and then follow you around.

  4. they are annoying, but they are all over the shuls as well..

  5. I give all of the money allocated for Tzedaka to my 6.5 year old daughter. She chooses who is worthy of getting Tzedaka and they usually don't give her a hard time for not giving enough.

    She gets the joy of doing the mitvah as well as being showered with brachot. I don't give a 2nd thought to ignoring the shnorers. The only drawback is a friend taught her to be on the lookout for the ones that give out a "prize".

  6. ehwhy - The only drawback is a friend taught her to be on the lookout for the ones that give out a "prize".

    Oh, you mean like Kupat Ha'Ir :-)

  7. Could someone tell me where one could get the free copy of the Yated Neeman? Is there a shekel copy of the Yated? Are they both available in Yeushalayim?

  8. they generally distribute it on Tuesdays in the frum neighborhoods to mailboxes. sometimes they dont put it in the boxes (like this week) but have them in piles by the makolet or supermarkets


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