Mar 26, 2007

better than Yom Kippur

On Yom Kippur we prostrate ourselves before God four times during the repetition of the Mussaf services. We do not do a full prostration and that which we do do is done on a towel of some sort. It is prohibited to bow before God on a stone floor. That is, it is prohibited outside of the Mikdash area.
On Har Habayit, and only on Har Habayit, when prostrating before God, one does so using the full prostration method. That is fully extended laying on the floor. not on the knees. Fully laying flat with arms extended. And directly on the stone.

Today I went to Har Habayit. It was the day for the monthly ascent for our group from Bet Shemesh.

The past few months we have had a paltry turnout for our monthly ascent. We have averaged between 2 - 4 people. While those visits were nice and we had our opportunities to daven to Hashem on (nearly) the holiest place on Earth, it is not the same as a large group.

In anticipation of the Nissan ascent being another small group, I sent out the following email a week ago to the Bet Shemesh Har Habayit email group list:

Dear all,

Aliya L'Har for our group is coming up this coming Monday.
Our groups going up in the past few months have been disappointingly small. 2-3 people each time the past 3-4 months at least.

I know it is difficult. We all work and have tight schedules and it is hard to make the time to go up. I, too, have not always been able to make it.

This month is Nissan, the time of the geula, both past and future.We who go up have shown our desire and yearning for the Beis Hamikdash to be rebuilt. What better time to express that than in the Hodesh Ha'Geula!

Also, the relevance of Har Habayit in our religious lives is especially strong during Nissan. We have the time of a Hag coming up with the extra significance of Korban Pesach. Rabbi Ari Shames in the past has led our groups on occasion and has wonderfully woven the significance of the relevant time period with Har Habayit. I did not ask Rav Shames in advance of this email, but maybe he would do so again this coming Monday describing Korban Pesach along with the other korbanot. This would make the upcoming holiday especially meaningful.

But even if he does not, we all know enough that being there right before Pesach will make the holiday especially significant.

And who knows - maybe this year we will be able to bring korban pesach and our going up one week before and "scouting" out its location will help us!

We have a week to try to work out our schedules and arrange it so we can each go up. Please try your best to join our group this month and show Hashem that in Hodesh Ha'Geula we really are m'tzappim l'yeshua!

Kol tuv,

I did not know what to expect. I was going to send out a reminder a couple of days ago, but decided not to.

Today's group was 15 people. A few of the people (and I did not ask around) told me that they came because of the email I had sent out. They had not been there in many months and my email motivated them. I was happy that I was the catalyst for such a nice turnout.

We went around. We were led by two phenomenal talmidei chachamim who are extremely knowledgeable on all materials related to the mikdash. As we made our way around the Mikdash area, they (in turns) spoke about the relevance of our time period with the mikdash. Being nearly erev Pesah, much of the discussion was centered around the korban pesah. How it was done. Where it was done. The purification process. And much more.

The area was fairly lively and busy. Down by the kotel were lots of people. The area was bustling. Going up to the Har were various groups, most of whom looked like non-Jews, going to tour the Har. We were slightly delayed because there were so many people the police were shorthanded and we had to wait for them to bring a police escort for us from elsewhere.

We finally make our way up. As we are making our rounds, the policeman escorting us was unusually watchful of us. While he kept a further distance than usual, he kept his eyes on us much more than usual. God forbid we should present a danger to someone by praying illegaly!

At a certain point we had stopped and the leader was talking, describing some process related to Pesah. I took the opportunity to close my eyes and concentrate my thoughts on some prayers. The policeman noticed. He did not make a big deal of it, but he did tap me on the shoulder and motion for me to stop. It is unusual because usually they only do so when someone is shuckling or mouthing prayers or the like. Just thinking usually does not warrant police intervention, but it did today.

Another trick we use to get prayer in, even openly, is by the leader saying a relevant chapter of tehillim out loud in the tone of a tour guide, as if he is talking about something else. It sounds like general discussion and the policemen are generally not religious and therefore do not recognize the words as tehillim. This policeman, despite being not religious, heard us at one point and recognized it as a tefilla and made us stop. On the one hand he made us stop, but on the other hand he recognized it as a tefilla where others do not. So that was a positive point.

Along the eastern wall of Har Habayit is a pathway we walk upon. This pathway is separated by a wall from the previous area and we descend to the pathway via a series of steps. The policeman was far enough away at this point and distracted talking to some of the local Arabs that as we went behind the wall, his view was blocked. A number of us took the opportunity to do (the above described) hishtachavaya - prostration before God.

It was an uplifiting experience, as it is a rare opportunity to be able to serve God in that manner, let alone for so many people in the group to succeed in it. We had 5 people do hishtachavay (that I saw), and I did so twice.

The policeman seemed to realize he had lost us and I guess we looked a bit suspicious. He came over fairly quickly with a nasty look on his face. But it was too late, as we had already done what we had done and he had missed it. So he could not do anything. He backed off and we continued on our way.

I took some pictures and some video. Later, when I have a chance to download them to my computer, I will see if anything came out good and I will post them here..

We begin our ascent via entering the Mugrabim Gate. We conclude our ascent by departing through the Chain Gate, which leads into the Arab shuk, with a turnoff for the Kotel area. Every month as we depart from Har Habayit, after we exit through the gate, we break out into song (which we cannot do when on Har Habayit). Today we sang a Pesah song from the Haggada - Kel B'neh, bnei beitcha b'karov, etc.

May this Nissan be the month of redemption for all the captured soldiers and Jonathan Pollard, and for all of Israel.


  1. I heard someone once say that there is no proof bigger that Har Habayit is ours, than the fact that the arabs do not want us praying when we go up there. Ever heard of a church that doesn't let you pray in their church? It is an honor for them. While the arabs may claim it is a "disgrace" to them, that only proves that what we say means something... the irony whenever i think about it is shocking.

  2. do women go up also?

    -ari kinsberg

  3. Nice post, Rafi.
    May we all be able to fulfil the Pasuk:
    וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, יִתָּקַע בְּשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל, וּבָאוּ הָאֹבְדִים בְּאֶרֶץ אַשּׁוּר, וְהַנִּדָּחִים בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם; וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה בְּהַר הַקֹּדֶשׁ, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם

  4. RafiG: Amen.

    (Going up to Chomesh at midnight...will report back in the AM)

  5. Good work. My first ascent was almost 27 years ago and during those first few years, we were more often than not thrown out, literally (can't find now the Jewish Chronicle snap of me). My last visit was Chanukah time and you can see a record of my visit here. May you merit soon an uninterrupted visit.

  6. ymedad - I have been going up for the past three os so years, since they reopened the Har to Jews... I try to go once a month, though I sometimes miss...

  7. Sorry, my math was off (I hope my wife doesn't see this). My first ascent was in September 1970 which is lamost 37 years ago. Was I trying to make myself younger by 10 years? Oh, my.

  8. dont worry - I won't tell her...


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