1) Site of the Holy Temple
The Western Wall is a surviving remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed
by Titus in 68 C.E. The Temple, the center of the spiritual world, was the main conduit for the flow of Godliness into this
world. When the Temple stood, there was respect for God, for His Torah - and for each other. There was no doubt about God's
existence. There were no atheists. Every body acknowledged one God and understood the genius of His laws. The world was filled
with awe of God and love of God.
The Temple Mount is also called Mount Moriah. This is the spot where Abraham bound Isaac, and where Jacob dreamt
of the ladder reaching to heaven. The Sages explain that the name "Moriah" is actually a play on words: "Moriah is the place
from which instruction (horah) goes forth, from which the fears of heaven (yirah) goes forth; from which light (orah) goes
The Holy Temple served the non-Jewish world as well. When King Solomon built the Temple, he specifically asked God to
heed the prayer of the non-Jew who comes to the Temple (Kings I 8:41-43). The Jewish prophet refers to the Temple as a "House
for all nations" (Isaiah 56.7). The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, a concentrated point where God-consciousness
filtered down into the world.
In ancient times, the service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings. This,
the Talmud explains, corresponds to each of the 70 nations of the world. In fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans (who
destroyed the Temple) would have realized how much benefit they themselves were benefiting from the Temple, they never would
have destroyed it!
2) Permanent Reminder of God's Presence
The Sages prophesied that after the Temple's destruction, the Divine
Presence will never leave the Western Wall. For this reason, the Wall will never be destroyed. The Wall is endowed with everlasting
sanctity. The Talmud (Megillah 3:3) says: "And I will make your sanctuaries desolate" (Leviticus 26:31) - this means that
the sanctuaries retain their sanctity even when they are desolate. (See "Mystical Secret of the Western Wall")
The Wall is therefore a symbol of the Jewish People: Just as there have been many efforts to destroy the Wall - and yet
it remains eternal, so too the Jewish People have outlived its enemies and remain eternal!
In the Torah, God assures us that the Jewish People will never be destroyed. In establishing the eternal covenant, God
tells Abraham: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations,
an eternal covenant, to be your God and the God of the descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7).
As Mark Twain wrote: "Other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they
sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence,
no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.
All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"
3) Place of Pilgrimage and Tears
During the times of the Temple, Jews from around Israel would make pilgrimage to
Jerusalem three times each year. During the 1900-year exile, Jews would travel to Jerusalem at great expense and danger, just
to have the chance to pray at the Wall. There, they would pour their hearts out to God, beseeching him for Jewish redemption.
They watered the Wall with their tears and melted the stones with their kisses.
The Talmud (Brachos 32) teaches that when the Temple was destroyed, all the Gates of Heaven were closed -- except for
one. That is the Gate of Tears. The Western Wall therefore also become known as the "Wailing Wall" - because of all the tears
Jews have shed there.
From 1948-1967, during the Arab occupation of the Old City, Jews were forbidden access to this holy cite. Imagine the
joy each Jew feels today at the easy opportunity to go and pray at the Western Wall!