My favorite place in Jerusalem was the Western Wall, sometimes incorrectly called the “Wailing Wall.” In Hebrew, it’s Kotel — it rhymes with motel. I used to go to the Kotel to leave messages for God. We all believed messages left there got to God (or whoever was In Charge) faster than other messages. I have no proof of this, but it’s as close to belief as I get.
I loved the approach to the Temple mount. I would stand for a while, looking down at it from the approaching steps, trying to form an image of what it looked like when it was the hill where God talked to Isaac and said He would never again ask for another human sacrifice. I guess this was not counting war, Holocaust and genocide.
Then I’d walk down the stone steps to the wall and get as close as I could, so my nose grazed the Wall. I would lay my cheek and the palms of my hands flat against it and feel the humming of power in those ancient stones.
From close up, you see the messages, tens of thousands of messages rolled tightly into tiny scrolls tucked in the crevices between the rocks. Every kind of prayer, every kind of message, all on tiny folded pieces of paper, cradled by giant stones.
Tucked between the stones were all the prayers, hopes, fears, and gratitude of people who came to this special place to leave a messages for God.
The Wall talks to you: “Please leave your message here. God will check his messages and get back to you.”
I always brought a message and tucked it into the stones. I knew God would read my message and get back to me. As surely as I knew Jerusalem is the center of the universe and closer to Heaven than any other point on planet Earth, I knew because I lived down the street from his message center. If every prayer is heard, prayers left at this address got there sooner.
There were groups of rabbis who spent their lives praying at the Wall. For a small fee, they would pray for you. If you believe there is a special potency to the prayers of pious men, the rabbis of the Kotel were worth a donation. They didn’t ask for much – whatever you could afford and for your money, you got a prayer specialist to put the word in for you.
I probably went to the Kotel more than a hundred times over the years, but I most remember this day above all others. I went that day because my mother was dying. I wanted to ask God to give my mother and I some time together. I wasn’t sure if I believed in the Jewish God or any God, but sometimes, you hedge your bets. This was one of those times.
It seemed pointless to pray for her cancer to be cured. It had spread too far, invaded too much. I accepted her death, but a little more time didn’t seem too much to ask.
I bought prayers from the rabbis, then went to the Wall and left my message among the stones.
Almost forty years have passed. I bet my message is still there, exactly where I put it with all the other messages left for God in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.