Thursday, December 15, 2005

December Religion Series: The Western Wall

The Western Wall in Jerusalem has a haunting, mournful beauty.
The Western Wall (HaKotel HaMa'aravi), or simply The Kotel, is a retaining wall from the time of the Second Temple. It is sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall, or as the al-Buraq Wall, in a mix of English and Arabic. The Temple was the most sacred building in Judaism. Herod the Great built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, expanding the small, quasi-natural plateau on which the First and Second Temples stood into the wide open spaces of the Temple Mount seen today.

It is believed that inside the Temple was the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle housing the dwelling of God, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

Reconstruction of the Holy of Holies

In a future post, I will have to discuss the intriguing parallels between the structure of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount Mosque built on the platform above it and the manner in which Islam was built on the foundational structure of Judaism.

I also find the similarities between the Western Wall and the Kaaba fascinating. Pilgrims travel from across the globe to come up against walls. The faithful press against these ancient structures and mourn their separation from God. One can come close, but never arrive in the full presence of the Lord.

As an old professor of mine observed, the temple is the site of a cleavage:
"Cleave" means not only divide, separate, split, and fissure, but also adhere, stick, and cling. Cleaving, therefore, simultaneously divides and joins. . . . "Temple" derives from the Latin templum, which, like tempus, (time), comes from the Greek temnos. While temno means "cut," temenos designates that which is "cut off". Accordingly, templum is a section, a part cut off. By extension, templum is "a space in the sky or on the earth marked out by the augur for the purpose of taking auspices; a consecrated piece of ground, especially a sanctuary or asylum; a place dedicated to a particular deity, a shrine." . . . [T]he site of the temple is a cleavage . . . .
Mark C. Taylor, Altarity, 48-49.

For a fee, an Israeli postal service called JPostil will take your emailed message, print it out, and fold it into a crack in the Western Wall.
Your message will be placed between stones of the Wailing Wall within 30 min from the moment we'll get it. The tradition of placing prayer written on the small piece of paper into a crack in the Wall is going back hundreds of years. The Western Wall, called Ha Kotel Ha Ma'aravi in Hebrew, is considered the holiest Jewish site on account of its proximity to the destroyed ancient Temples. Because it was so close to the Temple, it is said that the gate of heaven is situated directly above the wall.


mhelbing said...

Your posts on religion this week have been really interesting. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Yes, good posts. BTW, EJ tells me Mark Taylor is in the hospital in IC. Something serious.


Octopus Grigori said...

MH: Thanks!

MK: Thanks. And Yikes. I hope he is okay.