July 21, 2024
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The Deep Message of the Kotel HaMa’aravi

We all feel a special connection to the Kotel HaMa’aravi. Even on very short trips to Eretz Yisrael, a visit to the Kotel is a non-negotiable must. An in-depth look at Melachim I, Perek 9, Pesukim 1-9 helps us understand why our emotions run so high concerning this venerated location.

At the Beit Hamikdash’s inauguration, Shlomo Hamelech devotes a long tefilla asking Hashem (as recorded in Melachim I, Perek 8) to be forever receptive to the tefillot we direct toward Hashem via the Makom HaMikdash.

Hashem responds (Melachim I 9:3), promising, “My heart and My mind will always be on the Beit Hamikdash.” Hashem commits to keeping His presence in the Beit Hamikdash eternally.

However, in the following pesukim, Hashem informs King Shlomo, “If you disregard my beautiful Torah, I will have no choice but to destroy the Beit Hamikdash.’’

Shockingly, Hashem seems to be retracting His word. At first, Hashem promises that His heart and mind will always be on the Beit Hamikdash. But then, in the following pesukim, it seems that Hashem tells His children that His love is “conditional”—His presence will remain with the Jews in the Beit Hamikdash only if we keep His Torah. How are we to reconcile these conflicting messages?

Two answers are offered to this problem. According to Rashi (following Targum Yonatan ben Uzziel), both pesukim express the same thought. The first promise made by Hashem is also conditional. Just as when we do teshuvah, our tefillot sway Hashem’s mind to reverse an adverse order, if we sin and do not heed our Father in Heaven, Hashem reverses a favorable decree. Our sins can change Hashem’s promise to reside in the Beit Hamikdash permanently.

Radak, however, adopts a different approach. In the first set of pesukim, when Hashem says that His presence is permanent, Hashem refers to His presence in the Makom HaMikdash. The subsequent pesukim, which present a condition, apply to the building we call the Beit Hamikdash. Hashem may cause our enemies to destroy the Beit Hamikdash if we no longer deserve it. However, Hashem’s presence on the Makom HaMikdash, expressing His love for us, does not waver.

The Radak’s opinion is widely accepted. The Rambam (Hilchot Beit HaBechira 6:14-16) insists that the kedusha imbued in the Makom HaMikdash at the time of Shlomo Hamelech is permanent. The Rambam explains that the kedusha stems from Hashem’s presence, and nothing can uproot Hashem’s presence. Rav Ovadia Yosef demonstrates (Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 1:25) that almost all the Rishonim and Acharonim have accepted the Rambam’s approach.

The Makom HaMikdash permanently remains the nexus of our tefillot as is beautifully expressed by the Midrash (Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer; cited by Ramban to Bereishit 28:17) “כל המתפלל במקום הזה, בירושלים, כאילו התפלל לפני כסא הכבוד, ששער השמים שם הוא, ופתח פתוח לשמוע תפלה.”

In the absence of the Beit Hamikdash, the Kotel HaMa’aravi is our symbol of hope. Just because we have sinned and are not deserving of currently having the great Beit Hamikdash does not mean that Hashem has abandoned us. The Kotel symbolizes Hashem’s eternal presence in the Makom HaMikdash. The famous Midrash (Midrash Shir HaShirim, Parsha 2) stating that מעולם לא זזה שכינה מכותל המערבי, teaches that the Kotel is our everlasting symbol of Hashem’s presence.

We can lose the Beit Hamikdash due to sin, but Hashem will never abrogate His covenant with His special people. The miraculous resilience of the Kotel HaMa’aravi, through thick and thin of the turbulent history of Yerushalayim, is Hashem communicating that His love for us is unbreakable. The remarkable resilience of the Kotel matches and reflects the miraculous survival of the Jewish people. The Kotel’s story is our story. Hence, our deep bond and love for this unparalleled site.

No matter what, there is always time for a visit to the Kotel every trip to Israel. We never miss an opportunity to draw close to the loving embrace of Avinu Shebashayim. How much greater is it to move to Israel and permanently cling to Father!


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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