I almost missed it. Although I had been told that it was a definite not-to-be-missed highlight of a Sukkot trip to Israel, the strong allure of a beautiful sunny day and a family trip of hiking and picnicking in Masada and Ein Gedi beckoned. But rising at the crack of dawn I reasoned that I would be back by the time everyone else was ready to set out and tiptoed quietly out of our rented apartment in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, unprepared for the scene that was unfolding outside.

As the ancient stones glistened in the already intense Middle-Eastern early morning sun, they were coming. Tens of thousands of them, all ages and nationalities: families, couples, singles, schoolchildren, teens, tour groups, and more. A spectacular ocean of humanity flowing through the gates of the Old City, filling every inch of the Kotel (Western Wall) courtyard and its enveloping plaza, crowding the rooftops, cramming the porches and staircases surrounding it. And miraculously, like in the Holy Temple of old, the space seems to expand to accommodate the masses.

Yet everyone is calm, serene, earnestly praying and waiting with mounting excitement, anticipating the magnificent culmination of the prayer services—the three-fold Priestly Blessing. Answering the call of the chazzan (prayer leader), hundreds upon hundreds of kohanim (priests) from all over Israel gather on the dais and raise their hands towards the assembled congregation and begin the collective blessing.

May G‑d bless you and guard you.

May G‑d illuminate His countenance towards you and be gracious to you.

May G‑d turn His countenance to you and establish peace for you.

Considering the vast numbers of people, the stunning silence that ensues is impressive. And for a few minutes, as the kohanim chant together, the individuals of the conglomeration look inside themselves. The mother from Meah Shearim with children clutching the folds of her dress, the tired old European woman who is fulfilling her long awaited dream of visiting the Kotel, the jewel-bedecked lady from Beverly Hills who is enjoying the holiday at the King David Hotel, the laughing Canadian college student who prides herself in being an atheist, the toned and tanned Tel Avivian, the large cluster of American seminary students in their long jean skirts—all are moved, stirred to great emotion by the experience. The tears streaming down the distinctly diverse faces are identical, interchangeable.

For a moment, barriers break down—the distinguished essence of each Jew is revealed, the fundamental connection to G‑dliness at the core of each being that transcends the levels of conscious awareness openly apparent. Only the physical bodies divide the Jewish souls one from the other.

When the Jews approached Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, they camped "as one man, with one heart." This oneness created the spiritual climate necessary for the giving of the Torah. Similarly, to merit the Divine revelations that will accompany the Redemption, a microcosm of the Sinaic revelations, unity is necessary.

United, the Oneness of G‑d rests upon His children and He fulfills our prayers, acquiescing to the blessing of the Kohanim, hastening the coming of the era when G‑d's all encompassing Oneness will permeate the totality of existence, when He will bless us... guard us... and finally establish peace for us.

Note: The largest Birchat Kohanim in the world occurs biannually at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On the first day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot and Passover, thousands of Kohanim gather to bless the tens of thousands of Jews assembled in the Kotel Plaza for this moving ceremony.