On a wonderful day in March 2010, I left for Israel with 15 others from my shul in Memphis. People from all over the country and Canada joined us in Israel, including Phyllis, my friend from Manhattan. She was my roommate, and happily that lowered my expenses a great deal. It was my first trip to our Holy Land and for some others in the group it was their first time, too.
Once late in the day we took a boat ride on the Kineret. It was a delight to the senses to see the beautiful sky darken as the shore moved by, while we listened to a recording of happy Hebrew songs.
Some of us went twice to the Kotel to a Netz Minyan, a prayer service at sunrise. I was grateful that Phyllis was okay with my getting two very early wake-up calls even though she herself did not go.
There were so many other highlights during my trip, but by far the most amazing was one that I could never have expected. Down through the years I heard friends’ accounts of their experiences at the Kotel. Most described the awe and joy they felt. One person, however, told me that she had a negative feeling, as if she did not belong there. She did not stay too long.
I was fortunate to have gone to the Kotel many times, once to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of a young man from our group. However, at no time did I feel anything special. It was very nice to see the Kotel because instead of my seeing it in picture form it was right in front of me. Also, I did know some of its history. I just felt that there was something lacking in me for not being able to experience the elation most people had.
The disappointment lasted until the day our tour guide took us down a tunnel near to where our Holy Temples stood thousands of years ago. When we got to our destination, we stood facing an extended wall. The tour guide pointed to a narrow panel, very ordinary looking. He explained that that part of the wall stood opposite the Holy of Holies, which once was the most sacred of places, where our Creator’s Divine Essence dwelt. Alas, both of our Temples were destroyed. Now what we had was that panel, which was the closest we could get to where our Holy of Holies had once been.
Our guide informed us that we would each have a turn to pray at that part of the wall. I was holding my prayer book, but when my turn came an amazing thing happened. As I strode ahead I experienced a unique “whoosh,” both a sound and a feeling, rush into my heart. I had no need for my prayer book because, amazingly, my sincere heartfelt prayer came out spontaneously and instantly; I did not have to even think about what to say. My prayer was complete and unique – just for me alone. Everything that I needed to say was said. I never had that powerful feeling before or since.
Later on, when I was back home, I realized that the part of the wall that was so average looking and narrow contained an immeasurable amount of holiness. That underlines Hashem’s message to us that humbleness is a virtue, best represented by Moses our leader, who was most humble. Also, Hashem chose Mount Sinai, a small and humble mountain indeed, to be the site where we received the Ten Commandments. On top of that small mountain was where Hashem gave Moses His commandments to give us. We then became Hashem’s Nation.
Lastly, an important lesson I learned was that even though Hashem’s Home, His two Temples, were utterly destroyed, He did not abandon us. If we open our hearts to Him, He will listen; we should never feel alone.
This story is in memory of my parents and brother, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Myers and Norman Louis Myers.