I admit I had some trouble writing this post. It's very difficult to put the importance and meaning of the Kotel (Western Wall) into words. It's a heavy subject, and I was intimidated to broach it. People from all different countries, cultures, religions, and walks of life flock to the Western Wall. It is one of the locations in the world that has universal significance and deep impact. Its stones hold no judgement. They practically whisper to us, "come touch me, write to me, pray to me, stand by me. I'll hear you. Your message and prayers will get to where they need to go. You are safe with me." Whether the stones actually possess true magic will always be debated. But it's not important. If we believe they do, and that belief gives us comfort, peace, hope and, a safe place to divulge our innermost prayers, grievances, fears, and emotions, isn't that enough? Just the belief elevates us, even if it's just the few minutes we are there.
It's beautiful how the purity of this ritual has remained steadfast and intact. It will never change.
There's a great Friends episode where Phoebe is convinced that this wandering street cat holds the spirit of her dearly departed mother. The whole episode is Ross trying to get her to see how crazy that line of thinking is. At the close, she snaps and says something to the effect of, what damn difference does it make?! I know it's not my mother but if it gives me comfort than it shouldn't bother you, and that's all that matters. I've never forgotten that episode because the message was so powerful. I did not see it as a rerun since Friends reruns annoy me (but I can watch 30 Rock until my eyes bleed). Out of all the crazy, destructive, divisive beliefs people cling to, this one is pretty wonderful. Visitors to the Kotel often bring intensely personal notes and stick them in the cracks of the stones, desperately hoping God will get these messages. It has always amazed me that there is always enough space for these billions of wads of paper. There are no texts or emails to HaShem:)
It's customary for women to dress with the utmost modesty and reverence at the Wall. And we aren't supposed to turn our back on it when we leave, rather we walk backwards. In a world where so little true respect is shown to too few things, these practices are a gift to keep us fully aware of our higher power. That notion has nothing to do with religion, it's a universal deference to core spirituality. If we have respect for an inanimate object, no matter how powerful it may or may not be, imagine our true capacity to respect our fellow man. It's not the Wall itself that shapes us, after all, Man shaped the Wall. But the Kotel in all its unmovable strength, reminds us to tap into the most sacred places in our hearts. And to never let anything destroy our truth. We are indestructible in spirit, now why can't we believe that as well?