Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Not visiting the Kotel

Yes, I'm in Israel right now. Yes, I'm a religious Jew. And yes, I'll be spending most of my time while here in Jerusalem. But no, I won't be going to the Kotel. And though on previous trips I've always made my obligatory visit, this time, with a tight schedule, I won't be weeping on an archaeological wall and stuffing prayers into cracks. Why?
1) Its religious importance has been overstated. It's the retaining wall of the temple mount, not the wall of the temple itself. The history of the wall as a place of religious devotion over the centuries lends it significance as a medieval synagogue, but the centrality of the site is a more recent phenomenon.

2) I'm a bit of a contrarian, so when I'm told I'm supposed to feel something, I tend not to

3) Don't get me wrong. Israel is very inspiring. But the idea that the Shechina rests in one place is distasteful to me. Treating a wall as if it somehow enables a direct connection to God seems a bit avodah zara - like.

4) Judaism would not have survived as a temple-based sacrificial religion. While the destruction of the Beit HaMikash was a tragedy for many reasons, the forced transition to a vastly different type of practice (Rabbinic Judaism) is what created the religion we have today, and was ultimately beneficial to Judaism.

5) The recent increased conflict over Women of the Wall's right to pray there highlights how much the Kotel has become a symbol of Charedi control and intolerance. That significantly diminishes any feeling of emotional connection I might have had before.


  1. I have to disagree.
    1) While God is omnipresent and omniscient we also recognize that He has ordained sanctuaries in times and places for us to connect with Him. According to your logic we don't need Yom Kippur. Any day of the year should be fine to set up a 25 hour fast and pray for repentance since God hears equally well at all times of year. Similarly there are places in the world where spiritual outpouring is more conducive to connecting to Heaven.
    2) The point of going to the Kosel is reflect on our lost glory and our continuing lack of return to the highest level of connection to God. This reflection should lead each person to think "What role am I playing in the continuing exile of my people and the Shechinah? How can I change things to bring the Redemption closer?" That the Chareidim don't understand this doesn't mean you should miss the opportunity.

  2. I mean, if you don't feel any more connection at the Kotel than you do anywhere else, it seems like a waste of time to go. I felt enormous connection there, and greatly anticipate the next time I can make it there, but if I didn't, I probably wouldn't bother.