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Why Pray at the Western Wall?

Why Pray at the Western Wall?

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Question:

Why do Jews pray at the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem? It seems redundant and out of place praying facing a wall, when one can pray in a synagogue or at home or anywhere, and G‑d will listen to their prayers. Is G‑d more prone to listen and answer prayers recited at the Western Wall than at other locations?

Answer:

I think what you’re really asking is: If G‑d is everywhere, why should prayer be more effective in one place than another? In truth, the same can be asked regarding praying in a synagogue vs. praying at home.

The question has been asked many times before in classical Jewish literature. Since this is a Chabad site, I’ll provide the answer given by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), the first rebbe of Chabad.

The essence of his answer is that although G‑d is everywhere, His light shines stronger in some places than in others. He compares this to the human body: You are everywhere in your body, yet you are far more conscious of your mind than of your toes. So too, in the universe that G‑d created, there are places, times and states of being where we are able to be more aware of Him—and it is from those places/times/states that our prayers can fly best.

Any person is able to create for himself a time of day and a special place from which he or she reaches out to G‑d. And we all should—somewhere in our homes or gardens, set aside a place of prayer and meditation, along with a time of day or week that we sit there and connect. Even more special is a place that was chosen not just by us, but by G‑d as well. And that is the Temple Mount, which G‑d chose as His dwelling place in the time of King David.

Ever since then, that specialness has never left the Western Wall, the only remnant left standing.

The Talmud tells us that every synagogue is a “minor Holy Temple.” Thus the above also applies—in smaller measure—to any location designated to be a house of worship for G‑d.

Refer to the following links for more information on these topics:

The Western Wall
Synagogues

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Dr. Harry Miami May 18, 2016

Why pray at wall? Sure, pray at the Wall, while the Muslims on Temple Mount laugh and throw rocks at you. Are you afraid to pray on the Mount, because "you might be standing on Holy ground?" Better, a Muslim urinates on G-d's Holy Place. If Jews had any self respect, they would march in mass to Temple Mount, throw the Muslims off, and re-sanctify the site. Make whatever excuses your Rabbis can come up with, give away the Land, and keep praying at the Wall of sorrow. Reply

Esther Cleveland January 29, 2016

Rabbi, I'm kept away from the Torah and from praying aloud. The Torah carried way in the middle of the men's side.

Some women need a service at some appropriate time of day--maybe at 11 am--when we can touch the Torah before & after it is read. If a male minyan is required for a Torah service, then let there be men there too, but let the Torah be available to women. Let the women pray aloud--the men can wear ear plugs if the women's voices turn them on. How can I worship if I cannot pray aloud as has been customary at my synagogue of origin all my life? I am older than you--I remember when this business about a woman's voice was not an issue. All the women prayed aloud; nobody noticed. We were kept out of Hebrew school in those days, but singing the melody helped us learn & remember the words.
I am sincerely interested in the "beautiful things" & "miracles" you say are "happening there". What should I look for or listen for if Gd lets me go to Israel again?

HERE, the Torah is carried on both sides of the mehitsah. Both men & women touch it. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL January 27, 2016

The "Oneness" is everywhere! Lucky are those who experience closely the effect of G-d’s presence at the Kotel. I had the privilege to be one of those many years ago. But, I must say that I have felt the same way in many other places when communicating with G-d. I know this is the place where G-d meant for us to pray to Him but I’m sure He realizes that it is not possible for lots of people all over the world. He is everywhere and acknowledges that we are well worthy of his attention no matter where we are. Reply

Tzvi Freeman January 26, 2016

For Esther I'm puzzled at your statement that you were "kept away" from the Kotel. There is a large section for women. Many beautiful things are happening there—some that will never happen on the men's side. There are some very holy women, and women have told me that the oneness they feel there is unmatched anywhere in the world.

Men and women have prayed separately since the earliest of times. It was this way by Isaac and Rebecca, it was this way in King Solomon's Temple, and it is this way because that is how prayer works. It has nothing to do with making a spectacle of yourself. The energies of men and women are entirely different, their prayer is different, and they each need their space to do it in.

The space is there. Go visit the women's side of the Wall. Join in the miracles happening there. Reply

Esther Cleveland January 22, 2016

Levi Bookin & other frum men who want to keep women away from the kotel Why is it that a woman cannot pray at the kotel without making what you call "an exhibition" of herself?

I wanted to pray at the kotel, but the site was monopolized by men, and I feared making "an exhibition" of myself and so I was effectively prevented from praying at the kotel and from touching the Torah. If it were a synagogue, I could go to another synagogue, but the kotel is uniquely sacred and it is simply wrong for men to be permitted to excluded from this most sacred spot.

There should be special times of day for a mixed congregation (say a mincha service in the early afternoon) when women can go to the most sacred part of the kotel and pray there and touch the Torah. That way those few men who feel a need to hog the kotel to themselves could still pray comfortably three times/day, but the millions of women who need to experience this special closeness to HaMakom, but who fear making "an exhibition" of ourselves, would no longer be excluded from this unique place. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton January 22, 2016

Special experience! However, I still believe any other place you pray G-d is there to listen! Reply

Stewart Kelly January 21, 2016

Praying at the Kotel Having prayed at the Kotel, I can tell you it is a special prayer experience. For me I felt such a close presence with Hashem that made me weep. I look forward to the day I can return to Jerusalem. Reply

Tzvi Freeman June 26, 2015

Re: Please pray for my husband Joanne, provide us his Hebrew name and mother's Hebrew name.

And if you can't visit the Western Wall to pray, visit the Rebbe's gravesite in Queens. Reply

Joanne groshardt richardson June 25, 2015

please pray for my husband diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I know and need and want him to be with me longer Reply

Allan Koven Anaheim September 22, 2014

What makes the Temple Mount "special" ...chosen by God?
We allow Muslims to own the area. Was this God's plan?

All the prayer notes written and taken away...
Does not God know what is written before it is written? Do we really expect by
placing our prayers in small holes that God will be better able to read them?
Is is closer to the Aron Kodesh? Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL August 4, 2014

No distinction... Praying is done everywhere and anywhere even in a basement where one would think that G-d wouldn't see them, and it is the same for men or for women and children. It is the prerogative of every human being. It is not for anyone to say who can pray and where. G-d is everywhere and can see what's in your heart no matter where you are or who you are Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL September 20, 2014

No distinction... Praying is done everywhere and anywhere even in a basement where one would think that G-d wouldn't see them, and it is the same for men or for women and children. It is the prerogative of every human being. It is not for anyone to say who can pray and where. G-d is everywhere and can see what's in your heart no matter where you are or who you are Reply

boB NYC August 4, 2014

Question If you will not pray at the wall, why pray at all? Reply

Levi Bookin July 21, 2013

Women at the Wall It was not the case that "a small minority of men choose to be offended" but that a large majority of women expressed their distaste at the behavior of a small minority of women who like to make an exhibition of themselves. Reply

Devorah Esther Brooklyn July 19, 2013

Recent posts address "The" issue. Women at the Wall is not what this question is about. is that a small minority of men choose to be offended when women pray in the way that those women's souls need to pray.

A small minority of men seek to limit women's prayers.

However, "the issue" of this site is why Jews pray at the Kotel (THE Wall) at all.

But since Jews do pray thee, men's exclusion of women from certain major aspects of the service is bad enough, without a small minority of men pretending to be offended when some women pray in the way that their neshamas need.

No one can claim to know the suffering of another, or to deny anyone the right to pray in a way that nourishes one's own neshamah, much less to be offended when a hungry soul attains the nourishment it desperately needs.

I've encountered more than one man who erroneously imagined that whatever any woman needed to do "must" be centered in HIM rather than in her own soul's need.

Try to imagine men limiting THEIR prayers to the dictates of women.

Got to run. Time to bentsh licht. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL July 19, 2013

The Mount or the Wall! Maybe it is to avoid wars between two cousins each claiming possession of an historic and Holy site. Being so close to each other, they get the Dome, we get the Wall. In the long run, which one will sustain time? Maybe this way is G-d’s Will knowing which one is more reasonable than the other not to fight for a monument while there shouldn’t be any difference for G-d where you pray, as long as you do. It seems that G-d favors the bad one because he has to learn thru life lessons until he transforms unto a good one, while the good one is already there and there is nothing for him to change anymore. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL July 19, 2013

The Mount or the Wall! Maybe it is to avoid wars between two cousins each claiming possession of an historic and Holy site! Next to each other, they get the Dome, we get the Wall. In the long run, which one will sustain time? Maybe this is G-d’s Will knowing which one is more reasonable than the other not to fight for a monument while there shouldn't be any difference for G-d where you pray, as long as you do. Reply

david melbourne, florida via jewishbrevard.com July 19, 2013

Temple Mount Why do we pray at the Temple Mount retaining wall when we ought to be praying on the Temple Mount as that is where the Temple stood and where our ancestors prayed? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma July 18, 2013

Women at the Wall I have not followed this controversy, but it did seem, the verse in all this, in controversy itself, was a feeling, women were not being treated with equality. I could be wrong. I do not live in Israel but do not there is a politics to how Israel is run, that does put, secular Jews, another controversy, in "place". It feels like there are rules governing even those who are not religious in the Orthodox way. As to the WALL we all will go to the WALL in petitioning for a new chapter in a very old story. And that is the Wailing that has to do, with the bitter parts of life and story.

I only say this, because my life is so visibly NOT random, and I have already proved this on paper by way of a story that winds like smoke, a wreath, around this small life. Reply

Levi Bookin July 18, 2013

Women at the Wall Women have always prayed at the Wall, and will no doubt continue to do so.

The question in issue has been the behavior of a small minority who use the opportunity to offend the majority of those present. Reply

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