Halacha Date: 13 Av 5782 August 10 2022
Question: Does the Kotel (Western Wall) have any special sanctity?
Answer: Our Sages (Midrash Shemot Rabba, Parasha 2) taught: “Hashem’s divine presence has never moved from the western wall of the Holy Temple.” Our Sages added, “The verse states, ‘Behold, he stands behind our wall’-this refers to the western wall of the Bet Hamikdash which Hashem swore would never be destroyed.” The Midrash Eicha explains that our enemies wished to destroy the Western Wall, however, it was decreed in heaven that it shall never be destroyed, for the divine presence of Hashem rests in the west. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that this refers to the Western Wall of our days and he proceeds to support this based on the words of all of the commentaries who write that the Western Wall refers to the wall of the Temple Mount and this is the wall from which the presence of Hashem never budges, for this wall is directly opposite the Holy of Holies within the Bet Hamikdash which, in turn, is directly under the Heavenly Bet Hamikdash. (Chazon Ovadia-Arba Ta’aniyot, page 441)
Pirkei De’Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 35) states that when one prays at the Western Wall, it is as if one has prayed before Hashem’s Throne of Glory, for in this place, there is an opening for all of the prayers of the Jewish nation to be accepted, as the verse states, “This must be the house of G-d and this is the gate of Heaven.”
It is therefore customary among the entire Jewish nation to pray from the depths of one’s heart to Hashem next to the Kotel, the last remnant of the bet Hamikdash and founded by King David. It is for this reason that the Kotel was not destroyed, based on the teaching of Rabbeinu Moshe Chagiz (in his Sefer Eleh Mas’ei) who writes that “this wall has never been destroyed because build on the foundations that King David laid and which no enemy ever had control. Indeed, we can clearly see that these stones still stand whole in their place as if they had just emerged from the hands of a Heavenly craftsman who placed them there almost in a miraculous manner, for it is unnatural [for it to remain standing so long] based on their height and thickness. It is almost impossible for something like this to be built by man without Heavenly assistance.”
Indeed, the great Ari z”l supported the custom of praying next to the Kotel. Although in those times there were individuals who knew exactly the parts of the Temple Mount where it was permissible to pray in purity, nevertheless, they did not follow their hearts to pray there, for there is no greater prayer in Jerusalem in our times than at the Western Wall where the divine presence of Hashem rests.
We should point out that in the past several years, three additional rows of the Kotel’s stones have been discovered deep in the ground. The newer looking top eighteen rows of stones were built by Sir Moses Montefiore zt”l to protect the preexisting, sacred Kotel stones from being damaged and ransacked by enemies. (Chazon Ovadia, ibid, page 443)
Summary: One who wishes to pray in the sacred parts of Jerusalem may do so at the Western Wall, for the divine presence of Hashem does not move from there. This was indeed the custom of the greatest luminaries of the Jewish nation already from the times of the saintly Ari z”l who would pray only there and not anywhere else on the Temple Mount.