My First Time: A Magical Visit to the Kotel

By Mindy Rubenstein

This morning I pressed my forehead against the cool limestone of the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

How can it be that I was actually there? For years I longingly watched the Kotel live online. 

It was like a dream — a place only others were fortunate enough to visit. And then suddenly, it was my turn. 

Three weeks ago I made Aliyah with my family. The whole process took just a few months, plus 2,000 years of Jewish exile. 

It’s true that I was able to feel G-d’s presence (the Shechina) more there, by this hauntingly holy remnant of our Beit Hamikdash

At first I just stood in awe and took it all in. The magnitude of it — the history, the spiritual heights — consumed my consciousness. 

Slowly, with my daughter and my siddur, I walked closer toward the Wall. There was no space up front, so we found a nice spot to the side. Still, I didn’t start to pray yet. It felt like a beautiful dream, as I watched other women consumed in prayer. 

Finally, I looked down at the familiar words and began to recite the Shema and the Amidah. I admit my concentration was off in these new, yet deeply familiar surroundings. 

I wanted so much to touch the WalI before I left, so I walked forward, sat in a white plastic chair and waited. After watching a woman boldly and decisively find her spot there, I put my face in the siddur and prayed for the courage and space to do the same.  

She turned around, we smiled at each other, and then it was my turn. 

I stepped forward, gently touched the Wall with my fingertips, and then — as I instinctively pressed my forehead against the ancient stone — I realized there was a concave indentation that held me perfectly. It was oddly comfortable, like a hug. ‘You fit. You belong here,’ it seemed to say.

And I began to sob, to pray without thoughts or words, from deep within and beyond. And then I heard the women on each side of me begin to cry as well. 

After a few minutes, I backed away from this holy space. I didn’t want to leave. Like I had connected with an old/new loving friend and our time together was too short. 

All too soon I was back in the buzz of the mundane world, walking through corridors of people selling wares left and right. How can I exist here again, after experiencing that glimpse into eternity, into my true self? 

But that’s exactly what I must do. Exist in both worlds — to connect the Godly and the mundane in my daily life, to infuse the profane with holiness. And to bring a bit of Heaven down here to Earth. 

Until we meet again, beautiful Kotel, I’ll continue to long for your safety and sanctity. Thank you, Hashem, for the powerful reminder that I can always find you within me, even when it doesn’t feel that way. 

Mindy Rubenstein has worked as a professional journalist and writer for more than two decades. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications around the world. She also serves as founding editor of NisheiORA, a literary and arts magazine for Jewish women. Mindy is a mom of four living in the hills of northern Israel. Read more here.

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