Last Shabbos, Parshas Vayetzei, I had the privilege to be in Yerushalayim for Shabbos. When I come to Yerushalayim, I am always drawn to the Kosel. If I am there to sing a wedding, I try to make it to the Kosel before I have to be at the hall. It’s always amusing walking down to the Wall, because I am wearing a suit, and the tzedakah collectors usually assume that I am a chosson.
Naturally, staying in the Ramat Eshkol area, it was a no-brainer to make the forty minute trek on Shabbos morning to daven at the Kosel. When I got there, a Chassidishe boy noticed my arrival and led me to a minyan that was just beginning. It is hard to go to the Kosel and not find someone you know. The Jewish world is really a small world. At the minyan was a prominent member of my parents’ bungalow colony, who also happens to be the gabbai of the bungalow’s shul, so he asked me if I would lead the davening of Shachris. I acquiesced.
From the start I was uncomfortable at the amud. When one is trying to sing in an open area, surrounded by the not-so-quiet hum of many people davening all around, it is difficult. Besides for this, my voice was feeling weak, and I struggled to be heard. But the one thing that struck me was that I realized that there was a minyan to my right, as well as a minyan directly behind me, that were both in the same exact place in the davening! Each one had a separate ba’al tefillah, and a separate bimah, despite the fact that all three minyanim were davening the same nusach!
Ordinarily, this would not have bothered me too much, because I would have convinced myself that I was in some way part of all three minyanim. But as the one leading one of the minyanim, it was hard for me not to notice the separation that I, myself, was creating between these three groups. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.
It brought home to me an idea that I have thought about on a number of occasions. I have noticed that the Kosel is a place that is like a ‘minyan factory’ – minyanim are constantly beginning and ending. You can find a minyan there at any time. This seems like a wonderful thing, but the truth is that it shows that we have trouble getting ourselves together, to just daven together, as one. There are no set times for the davening, and no sense of unity. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have set times, so that more people can daven together – ברב עם הדרת מלך? And of all places, shouldn’t we have some unity at the site of the Beis Hamikdash, which is the central point of all of our prayers throughout the world?
The answer is, that it is absolutely true that the Kosel, and more accurately, the Har Habayis, is the point of unity of the Jewish people. We all focus our tefillos to this most Holy place. It is the place that was the central spiritual meeting point of the entire Jewish people as long as the Beis Hamikdash stood. But the deep truth is that despite the fact that we have returned to Eretz Yisrael, and the ingathering of the exiles has begun, we are still in Galus. The exile that we find ourselves in is most apparent at the place that represents our unity. It is not a coincidence that the Kosel is a ‘minyan factory.’ It is a stark reminder of the fact that despite the fact that we have begun to come back together, begun to coalesce as a nation, we are still in exile, we are still disparate. Because that is truly the definition of Galus, it is a state of separation and distance. As long as the Shechina does not dwell on that mountain, and it is instead inhabited by an עם הדומה לחמור, we remain separate from spirituality, and we remain separate from each other. As the light of Moshiach grows stronger and greater, the Jewish nation will slowly begin to sense the true nature of our unity with each other, of our oneness as a nation. This will be a reflection of the unity we will begin to sense with Hashem, and the greater desire we will have for spirituality, as we begin to identify more and more with our spiritual selves, as our very minds, which are in a state of disparity between our emotional and intellectual selves, become more and more unified as well.