by Reb Gutman Locs at Mystical Paths
The Kotel is not the holiest place in the world. The Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) is. The Temple Mount is on the other side of the Kotel, to the east of it. The lower rows of the Kotel stones are a remnant of the western retaining wall of Herod’s Temple. Herod completely reconstructed the Second Temple around 2,000 years ago. It was destroyed eighty years later. The Second Temple was originally built by Jews who returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon centuries before Herod’s time. The First Temple was built by King Sholomo on this mount and this is the very place where the Third and final Temple will stand, may it be today.
The first question has to be, since G-d is everywhere, why come here to pray? Not only do we come to the Kotel to pray, but wherever we are in the world, we face here when we pray. G-d is equally everywhere. So why direct our prayers to G-d only at this place?
Yes, G-d is equally everywhere, but it is here that He allows His Presence to be more easily found. Avraham called this place, “The mount where Hashem will reveal Himself.”[i] Why does G-d do this? He is directing us to His Torah, His Service and His Mitzvoth. The Temple represents our prayers, our spiritual avodah (service). We are all searching, searching for those essential blessing in our lives, and G-d is telling us that when we follow His ways we will be blessed.
So why then are we praying at the Kotel? Let us go up to the Temple Mount where it is most holy. There are two reasons generally given as to why we do not go there, just yet. As with all Torah subjects there are various opinions about this, too. Whereas the vast majority of Torah authorities alive today instruct us not to go up to the Temple Mount, there are a handful of rabbis who say that we definitely should go up, and these Jews do go up today!
The first reason given for not going up is due to the spiritual uncleanliness of our bodies. Those who go up say that this uncleanliness can be cleansed by going to the mikvah (ritual immersion) and waiting until sunset.
The main reason given for not going up is that we are not sure of the locations of the various holy areas of the Temple. This means that if we go up we risk walking where only spiritually pure priests are allowed to go. We might very well trespass on the area of the Temple that is Most Holy and reserved only for the High Priest! Some say that even if we know the location of the holy areas, and even if we only go up to the safe areas now, we could become careless and end up going into the holy areas, too. Others argue that since the destruction of the Temple there is no holiness at all on the Mount, so we can go wherever we want!
Those who go up say that they know the locations of all the holy places. And when they go up they stay to the edges where they feel comfortable that no forbidden areas lie. The majority remind us that there are at least four “authoritative” maps of the Temple Mount and that we do not know which, if any, is actually correct.
There is another reason, and in my mind a much more important reason not to go up now. When the Kotel was first returned to Jewish hands in 1967, there was such wonderful awe surrounding this place. When we approached the Kotel, we did so with great reverence. Then, as the years went on, this level of awe and reverence decreased and decreased until the Kotel has, for most people, become just another place to visit. Without going into the gruesome details, the vast majority of Jews, and certainly non-Jews have absolutely no change in their attitude or behavior when they visit the Kotel today from when they are on any other tour in Israel.
When the Redemption finally comes, there will be a worldwide increase in spiritual awareness accompanying it. If we go up onto the Temple Mount today, without waiting for this increase in G-d’s revealed Presence, we will take today’s very troublesome attitude with us. This should not be allowed to happen.
What should we do? When we see virtually all of the leaders of the generation doing something, or, as in this case, not doing something, then to follow the handful who go against them is not worth the possible loss. If they are correct and our treading on the Mount now is a desecration … who would want to bring such a thing upon ourselves? If the tiny minority is correct and we do not go up, they say that we will have lost a spiritual opportunity … the opportunity to experience more holiness now. If the vast majority is correct, and we go up, we stand to lose a lot more than an opportunity.
Obviously, G-d wants us in Israel now. It is clear that we are being brought Home from all corners of the world. Should we just go up on the Temple Mount now and start building the Final Temple, or should we wait for the Moshiach to guide us in it construction?
My feeling is that we should exert every effort possible right now to do whatever we can do spiritually to build the Temple. This means that we should increase our spiritual efforts with ourselves and with all those around us. If G-d is waiting for us to cooperate before He brings the Redemption, then there is no better way to cooperate than to increase our joy in serving Him and our efforts to help bring others to His lovely ways.
[i] Genesis 22:14
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא