Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Kotel and the Liminal

So there I was at the Kotel. I had just inserted a woman's prayer on the men's side. Then I davenned Ma'ariv from Paths of Faith, complete with the matriarchs. I choked up during Hashkiveinu, something about reciting a prayer of protection at the site of so much conflict. When I got to the risha'im in the Amidah, I realized that I was thinking of the ultra-frum all around me, even as they would be thinking of me when they encountered it in their siddurim. As I finished praying the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa mosque, just visible over the Kotel, emanated its call to prayer. I turned and looked up at the Plaza and there was Aish HaTorah's new yeshiva side by side with Chabad's Soup Kitchen. These two competing ideologies in ultra-orthodoxy looked to me to be looming over the Kotel, over Judaism, like Godzilla and Mothra locked in struggle, careless of how many Tokyo residents became collateral damage, careless that the quid-pro-quo theology that ultra-orthodoxy teaches can produce only zealots or atheists. And beyond these august institutions was visible the dome and cross of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Kotel stands at every border: borders of faith, theology, gender, past and present. I choked up at Hashkiveinu because I was praying for protection while standing in front of what I can only describe as a wound in history. And I think that in one way or another, every prayer offered at the wall is a prayer for the healing of that wound, however that healing may look to the petitioner.

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