Approximately 1.5 million people have been to the Western Wall during the month of Elul and the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They participated in the age-old tradition of, as the piyut says, pouring prayers and seeking forgiveness from God, asking for a good year for them and for the people of Israel.
Throughout the month, the massive flow of people to the Western Wall plaza has brought together men and women from all walks of life. Religious and secular, young and old, it was a testament to the profound connection between the Israeli people to the Western Wall and Jewish traditions.
Every year, the number of worshippers who pray at the Wall during the high holidays increases. The sight of the dozens of thousands of people arriving at the Wall at nighttime is truly unforgettable. And now, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is preparing to welcome hundreds of thousands that will come to celebrate Sukkot.
This Yom Kippur eve, the main Selichot event was hosted at the Wall, together with the Hatarat Nedarim prayer and in attendance of 100,000 people and of the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Ha’Rishon Lezion, Hagaon Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef shlita and Ha’Gaon Rabbi David Lau shlita. Also in attendance were Ha’Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz shlita – Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites; the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion; the Minister of Internal Security, Mr. Gilad Erdan; and chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Knesset member Gabi Ashkenazi. The esteemed chazzan Rabbi Moshe Havusha has led the prayers.
It should be noted that around 20,000 people took part in the many Selichot tours the Western Wall Heritage Foundation offered to the public.
Ha’Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz shlita, Rabbi of the Western Wall, has said at the end of the event:
“Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, may his memory be a blessing, who was called ‘the Defender of Israel’, never missed an opportunity to see the best in his Jewish brothers – even in the greatest sinners. I believe that if he could have been to the Western Wall plaza these days, the days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he would have stopped everything he was doing, raised his eyes to look at the plaza and be blessed by the sons of daughters of God. It could have been enough for him to join us tonight, when we are standing alongside each other, young and old, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, men of learning and men of labor, Jews of all kinds and of all opinions, here to take part in the Selichot tradition. He would have surely say to God: look how beautiful they are, and how wonderful is what they do.
It has been a touching experience to see the worshippers come here, at all hours of the day and night, joining the tens of thousands of strangers, together in a unifying prayer that can break all barriers – and there is nothing more Jewish than that. Yachad Shivtei Israel, all the tribes of Israel together – as possible only at the Western Wall.”
Photo credit: the Western Wall Heritage Foundation