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Halacha For - Monday ,  - November 24, 2014

Behavior at the Western Wall

In the previous Halacha we have discussed the special reverence of the Kotel, the Western Wall, for Hashem’s divine presence never moves from this wall since the presence of Hashem is in the west. Hashem has sworn that the Kotel will never be destroyed, for it has been established by King David.

For this reason, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one who enters the area of the Western Wall must behave with the appropriate respect and seriousness and not to, G-d-forbid, act with levity in this most holy of places. This is especially true since this place has been sanctified by the prayers of millions of Jews throughout the generations. The sanctity of the Kotel is certainly no less than that of other synagogues and Houses of Study. This is indeed the custom of G-d-fearing Jews.

In order to illustrate how much people in earlier generations treated the Kotel with reverence, let us quote the words of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben-Shushan zt”l in the “Ha’Me’asef” periodical (Year 3): “I have heard from the elders of the generation that they have seen G-d-fearing individuals who were afraid to visit the Western Wall their entire lives out of fear of the Bet Hamikdash.” Nevertheless, Maran zt”l points out that this is an unnecessary stringency, for it is a Mitzvah to go visit the Kotel and pray there.

It is forbidden to enter the Western Wall area with one’s head uncovered; this applies to both men and married women. Women who visit the Kotel are obligated to dress and act modestly. Maran zt”l likewise stressed the importance of placing a partition between men and women at the Kotel to the parties in charge.

It is forbidden to visit the Kotel merely as a tourist attraction or in order to take pictures there. It is likewise forbidden to engage in idle chat, for the place consecrated solely for words of Torah study and prayer. Similarly, it is forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke next to the Western Wall.

One who act frivolously by eating, drinking, or smoking next to the Kotel transgresses a grave prohibition and regarding such an individual does the verse state, “Who requested this from your hand, to trample my courtyards?”

When seated next to the Kotel, one should not cross one’s legs, for this is an arrogant way to be seated in such a holy place, as the Sefer Mitzvot Katan and other Acharonim write.

Fortunate is one who can pray with fervor, concentration, and fear at the Western Wall, for in this way, one’s prayer shall certainly not return unanswered, as the verse states, “Prepare their hearts and your ears shall listen”- this means that if an individual praying has merited that Heaven assist him in concentrating on his prayers, it is a sign that the ears of Hashem are honed in to one’s prayer. (Chazon Ovadia-Arba Ta’aniyot, page 443)

One who prays with concentration at the Kotel shall merit that this prayer will ascend to Heaven. This is hinted in the verse “The wall has ears” and is based on the words of our Sages in the Midrash Tehillim. (Chazon Ovadia-ibid.)

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