Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Kotel or The Western Wall

I have been so excited for the last four months to go to the Western Wall. This is where the Jews come to lament the fall of the Temple and look toward where the Holy of Holies was. They place written prayers in the cracks of the wall and face the wall without ever turning their backs to it. It was incredibly quiet there when I went. The women and the men are divided and the men (even the non-Jewish men) where kippas (Hebrew) or yarmulkes (Yiddish) on their head.
The Women’s Side

I had the chance to go to the Western Wall last Friday night at sunset when the celebrations of Shabbat  began. I was excited all day Friday waiting for sundown to come. It was incredible seeing the people there and a really beautiful experience. Some men wore wide fur Russian hats, black brimmed hats, kippas, tallit (prayer shawls). 

The women were very modest. One Jewish woman told us that the Jewish people have a tradition of covering up the things that are most precious to them. There are many layers in the synagogue to get to the Torah scrolls and so the women are covered.  We wore skirts and long sleeves and tried to blend in with the women in the black dresses and their head coverings. 
The men sing, dance, and chant but for the most part the women only pray in their section of the wall. The Jewish woman we were talking to explained that they believed that public was not the place for the women to do these things and that their celebrations were done in the home.
I love the Kotel. I love that people come there to be close to the presence of God. It is tradition to never turn away from the wall as they walk away from the wall because they don't want to turn their back to God, so they walk backwards through the crowd, with their heart always facing toward God. Most of the women had their Siddur (prayer book) and were beginning the evening prayers. The tradition is to pray three times a day: morning, afternoon, and night by reciting a certain prayer. But they can also pray their own personal prayers anytime and anywhere. But going to the Western Wall to pray was a shortcut to heaven according to our Jewish friend. Prayers come to the Temple Mount first and then go straight up to heaven from there so that's why so there is a tradition of placing written prayer in the cracks of the walls. 

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