Naomi Shemer wrote in her famous song “Jerusalem of Gold” that “some people have hearts of stone, and yet the Western wall embodies stones that reverberate with the hearts of men.” Nestled deep inside a country that is a hotbed of emotion is a wall of stones that is a depot for the most intense passions of men. It is here that men and women bring their greatest joys. It is here that men and women bring their most profound grief. This place is a lightning rod for raw emotions of all sorts.
The Western Wall, which is located in the centre of Jerusalem, is the last tangible remnant of the Holy Temple built in 20 B.C. by King Herod. It was here that the Jewish people over the ages would gather together in fervent prayer. In fact, Jews were enjoined to leave their homes, wherever they may be, three times a year and come to the temple to commune with G-d. While Jews believe G-d’s presence is truly everywhere, the temple is the place He calls “Home.” Historically, it was here that man could feel especially close to their creator. That feeling has intensified and attached itself to the Western Wall, and it persists until this very day.
As you approach the Wall there is an aura of awe that descends upon you. Although the Wall isn’t that large in a physical sense, it packs an enormous emotional punch. There is a “Wow” factor from the first moment it comes into view. Why? One cannot help but be overcome with the realization that within arms reach is a tangible connection to the bible itself! For Jew and non-Jew alike, there is a holiness and spirituality attached to the Wall simply because of its historical significance.
A close look at the stones themselves reveals evidence of further emotional fallout. The stones above ...
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...LaMa? LaMa? I was not privy to the details of his emotional plight, but I began to imagine all kinds of scenarios—personal, familial, military. What I was witness to at that moment was grief. Raw. Pure. Deep.
When one walks away from the Wall, tradition holds that one should not turn his or her back on it. Rather, one should walk away backwards, taking slow and careful steps. There are many reasons for this practice. One reason is that it would seem disrespectful to turn ones back on G-d’s presence. Another reason, is that this curious goodbye walk is a symbolic nod to the emotional component of one’s visit to the Wall. By saying farewell slowly and respectfully, it shows that we are reluctant to part with the genuine emotions we have recently experienced. We want to hold onto to them and cherish them in the hopes that they will make us better people.
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