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The Western Wall


Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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The Western Wall

The following are some interesting facts about the Kosel Ha’maaravi, the Western Wall.


1) The Midrash foretells that the Kosel Maaravi will never be destroyed.[1] This is astonishing since in the past 2,000 years, Yerushalayim has been conquered 18 times. This prophecy is reinforced by the fact that Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash with its walls were completely destroyed by enemies. Indeed, it says, ציון שדה תחרש וירושלים עיין תהיה והר הבית לבמות יער, Tzion will be plowed over like a field, Yerushalayim will become heaps of rubble and the Temple Mount will become like stone heaps in the forest.[2]


2) The Pardes Yosef[3] brings the following: Once when a small stone fell from the Kosel and landed on the ground, they asked the Rabbanim what to do. They answered that it should be put away in the Beis Midrash above the Aron Kodesh, and that is what they did.


3) In the 19th century, European travelers coined the term “Wailing Wall” for the Kosel when they witnessed the Jewish practice of coming to the site to mourn and bemoan the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.


4) The earliest time in history we have of placing notes at the Kosel occurred in the year 1599 when R’ Gedalya of Semitzi[4] visited Yerushalayim and the Kosel.


When R’ Chaim Elazar Shapira, known as the Minchas Elazar (1868-1937), was at the grave of the Ohr Hachaim during his visit to Eretz Yisrael in 1930, he related the following story. R’ Chaim ben Atar, known as the Ohr Hachaim (1696-1743), had a student who was very poor that poured his heart out to him. He wrote a note on parchment and told his student to place it between the stones of the Kosel.[5] On his way to the Kosel, a strong wind blew his hat off his head. However, he refused to chase it, for fear of dropping the parchment. Then the wind blew off his kipah. Having no choice but to get it, as he stretched for the kipah, the wind blew the note from his hand. When he told the Ohr Hachaim what happened, he took it as a sign of a Heavenly decree and decided not to write another note. Later, a rolled parchment was found blowing through the streets of Yerushalayim, addressing the Shechina on behalf of a poor Torah scholar, and signed Chaim ben Atar. This is what was written in the letter:אחותי רעיתי יונתי תמתי, אבקשך ברחמים להשפיע פרנסה טובה לפלוני בן פלוני, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one (addressing the Shechina).[6] I request with mercy that you should bestow good livelihood upon so-and-so. And then he signed it.[7]

[1] Shir Hashirim Rabba 2:4. Also see Eicha Rabba 1:31. In a similar vein, R’ Acha (Shemos Rabba 2:2) said that the Shechina did not depart from the Kosel (see also שות חתם סופר, Yoreh Deah, 233).

[2] Micha 3:12.

[3] Devarim 12:4. The author lived from 1875-1942.

[4] He was a kabbalist and rabbi in Tzefas. He was the brother-in-law of R’ Chaim Vital and a student of the Arizal.

[5] Today, more than a million prayer notes or wishes are placed in the Kosel each year. Twice a year, before Rosh Hashana and Pesach, the notes are and buried in the Jewish cemetery on Har Hazeisim (the Mount of Olives).

[6] Shir Hashirim 5:2. When R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz (1886-1948) would read the way the Ohr Hachaim addressed the Shechina in this note, he trembled.

[7] Masaos Yerushalayim, Maamar Yom Sheini and Taamei Haminhagim, p. 270. 

Author of the books Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights

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