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The Kosel – An Overview

by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Photo Credit to Nechama R. – Original acrylic painting is available for sale: Contact author for details [email protected]

On the 28th of Iyar of 1968 (and possibly of 1969), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zatzal recited the Hallel.  He did not continue reciting it, however, in subsequent years.

Why did he recite the Hallel?

It was because on that momentous day, almost 57 years ago, for the first time in nearly two millennium, the Temple mount came back under Jewish control.  There were open miracles in the battle, where enemy forces threatened to annihilate Eretz Yisroel and its people.

A bomb landed on the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.  Miraculously it did not detonate.

And of course, we got the Kosel back – a place we could not even visit for nineteen years – since the Jordanians captured it in 1948.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth where Hashem’s Divine Presence was and is still most concentrated.  The Kosel is the last remaining wall that surrounds Har HaBayis, the Temple mount and is called the “Wailing Wall” because Jews have gathered before it to cry over the loss of the Temple, the Beis HaMikdash.   The day that we got back the Kosel and the eastern half of Jerusalem is known as “Yom Yerushalayim” and is commemorated on the 28th of Iyar each year.  It might therefore be beneficial for us to review some aspects and halachos of the Kosel and how we must relate to it now in its current state.


Firstly, let us note the significance of the Bais HaMikdash and its ever relevant enormity in our own times as well.  There is a verse in Ovadiah (1:17) that states, “And on the Mountain of Zion shall be the salvation.”  The Emek HaMelech (14:134) writes that this verse teaches us that the prayers of the righteous and great people of Yerushalayim at the Western Wall are what saves the world.  He writes that their tears and supplications keep the world intact, and were it not for their prayers at this most holy of places the world would be destroyed.


The Midrash tells us (Shmos Rabbah 2:2) that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, has not budged from the Western Wall.  The presence of the Shechina, according to the Alshich (VaYikra 25:29), is the surety the promise, that Hashem will ultimately redeem us.


These two sources indicate to us a positive, hopeful aspect of the Makom HaMikdash, in our times.  It is a place of enormous Kedusha – holiness, and one which brings current salvation to the world now, and the hope and promise of the ultimate future redemption of the Jewish people.  This is remarkably inspiring and uplifting.


Yet at the same time, the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash evokes deep feelings of sadness and pain.  We rip Kriyah when we see it. It is not just a regular Kriyah but the more serious one that occurs near the heart itself.  When we rip Kriyah, the ripping should never be repaired completely.

The destruction should move us.  Indeed, the Mishna Brurah (561:4) writes that on the day that a person first sees Yerushalayim in its state of disrepair it is proper and appropriate for that person to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine.


The fact that we do have sovereignty over the Temple Mount and its regions obligates us in maintaining its sanctity.  Technically, gentiles should not be allowed to enter the inner section of the Temple Mount – from the “Chayil” and further in (See Mishna Keilim 1:8 and Tzitz Eliezer 10:1:10 for the contemporary application).

Indeed, in 1871, Charles Clermont Ganneau, a French archaeologist and diplomat, found a stone with an inscription in Greek which forbade entry to all gentiles past that point. 

Thus a travel agent should not promote a tour to Israel for gentiles who will ascend to the inner section of the Temple Mount.  Indeed, it is even forbidden for a videography editor  to request a gentile to film sections of the Temple Mount because he will stay there longer on account of the request.


It is important to note that when dealing with the Bais HaMikdash and davening at the Kosel ,our focus must  on HaKadosh Boruch Hu and not on the physical aspect of the Kosel itself.  Indeed, a fascinating point, confirmed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, is that when davening at the Kosel one should not face completely toward the Kosel.  Rather, one should face left toward the Kodash HaKadoshim.

Another question arises as to whether there exists a Mitzvah to go to Eretz Yisroel during the Shalosh Regalim  even in its current state of destruction.  The Rambam in Hilchos Chagiga (1:1) states that there is no Mitzvah because the obligation is only to bring a Korban Chagigah and Olah and to appear in the Temple.   The opinion of the Tashbatz (Responsa III # 201), however, at least according to the way most achronim understand him, is that there is indeed a Mitzvah of Aliyah l’regel, even nowadays when there is no extant Beis HaMikdash.  This is also the view of the Sdei Chemed, the Chasam Sopher (Yevamos 44a), and the Aruch LaNer.  The RaN in Taanis (first Mishna) also writes this.

Rav Elyashiv zatzal was careful to observe this Mitzvah and go to the Kosel every Yom Tov.  When he got older and could no longer make the walk he would do so during the latter days of the Yom Tov – the 7 days of Tashlumim.  [Once, my brother-in-law accompanied him on the way back from the Kosel on Yom Tov and had asked him where one puts up a Zecher l’Churban in a house if there is no place to put it opposite the door.  He responded that one should place it above the door in such an instance.]

The fact that we currently have access to the Kosel, thus has remarkable relevance, as we can now fulfill this Mitzvah of the Tashbatz,

The ideal method of performing the Mitzvah, however, is on the first day of the Yom Tov as Rav Elyashiv had observed it.  This can be seen from the words of the Rambam  in Chagiga 1:1. So, whoever is in Yerushalayim and can make the walk to the Kosel on the first day of the Yom Tov should definitely do so.  If one can afford to go to Eretz Yisroel for Yom Tov from Chutz LaAretz, then one should do so as well.  Affording it, however, is quite another story.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

One Response

  1. “It was because on that momentous day, almost 57 years ago, for the first time in nearly two millennium, the Temple mount came back under Jewish control. There were open miracles in the battle, where enemy forces threatened to annihilate Eretz Yisroel and its people.”

    This is the usual “Religious Zionist” idolatrous propaganda. It came under Zionist, not Jewish, control. We have no right to control it until Mashiach comes, regardless.

    The Zionists’ enemies did not threaten to annihilate “Eretz Yisrael”. They went to battle against the Zionists and their regime in a portion of Eretz Yisrael. Of course, the Zionist State of Israel is not at all synonymous with Eretz Yisrael.

    The Zionists won a routine military trouncing of a victory, not a miraculous victory. Yes, there were individual incidents like the bomb that landed on the Mir, but the war itself was known in advance to be a cake-walk for the Zionists, as anyone can see on the CIA’s website.

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