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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2006 /21 Elul, 5766

Space at the Wall

By Sarah Shapiro


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Sibling rivalry is not just for siblings, and family's not just the nuclear kind. Yesterday at 5 a.m., wanting some quality time alone with my Creator, the fact that #2 to the Western Wall was packed full of my brethren didn't seem like anything to celebrate, nor did the sight, when I stepped off the bus, of two long lines already at the turnstiles, waiting for the security check.

It's always like this in the weeks before Rosh HaShana, and shouldn't that make me happy? Happy it's not some end-of-season sale which has Jews of myriad persuasions rising in great numbers before the break of day, but rather, a desire to address G-d at this particular spot, and think one's innermost thoughts before these particular stones. Don't ask me how, or why — after all, it's been going on for centuries — but there's something about this place that inexplicably arouses our real selves. If you want to face yourself, face the Wall. If you want to see your life more clearly, come here and close your eyes.

In the gray half-light of dawn, a shrill shofar was piercing the air, and on the wide plaza stretching out adjacent to the site, about a hundred singing, flag-wielding children in a Bnei Akiva youth group sat cross-legged in a huge circle, arms draped over each other's shoulders, swaying back and forth to the beat of Zionist folk songs. Turning right into the women's section, I saw that my access to the Western Wall was hindered not only by whatever petty thoughts were going through my mind at the time, but also by a tourist group in yellow T-shirts and matching beanies, and women in headscarves Mea Shearim-style, and teenagers in long funky dresses a la Shlomo Carlbach. One long row of plastic chairs was occupied by about a dozen American women in yarmulkes and Reform prayer shawls .There were mothers with carriages, little kids running and talking, and an elderly Moroccan being pushed in a wheelchair. A fragile-looking Yemenite in her twenties — suffering from some debilitating illness — supported herself on a walker as she searched for an empty crevice in the stone to insert a handwritten note. There were schoolgirls in navy-blue pleated skirts; beggars circulating with palms outstretched; clusters of pony-tailed soldiers in IDF uniform.

All this might be a heartwarming sight, good for one of those "We Are One" ads put out by the Jewish Federations or for Israel's PR at the UN, another futile attempt to convince the world we're not racists. We are in fact a many-raced nation from many lands, disparate individuals drawn inexplicably to this particular spot and bonded in spite of ourselves by the ancient covenant which the majority of us find so hard to take seriously. Surely as individuals we have our fleeting private moments of epiphany and insight, and during war and emergency, do find ourselves more unified than usual, as in any country at times of danger. But do we really believe that we are one?

Eventually I spotted an opening and wended my way through the crowd. But no sooner had I touched my hand to the Wall than I was already distracted by the gesticulations and exclamations of the person on my right.

Garbed in the traditional white garments of Ethiopia, with a turban wound up high on her head, a woman in her seventies was leaning forward with eyes shut tight, elbows propped on knees, face up close to the stone. The gesturing of her hands was that of a person absorbed in a vivid argument with a friend — uninhibited disagreement and affectionate chiding, persuasion, impatient protests — and I couldn't help but listen in to the intimately murmured, insistent monologue carried on in her foreign tongue.

The vehement tÍte-ŗ-tÍte went on, and on, and my own prayer began to wilt. Unfettered belief such as hers was an unwelcome reminder, just then, of the tricky existential questions that nibble away at the back of Western minds. This woman obviously had no doubt that the Master of the Universe was paying close attention to every word she said; that He took her complaints seriously (more so, by far, than we take ourselves) and loved her as she was, with her weaknesses, even while continuing to send her the problems she was begging Him to solve. It was obviously no concern of hers who else might be talking to Him at the same time, nor did it present any sort of conceptual problem that everyone else was also clamoring for her Father's undivided love and individual attention. It was a given that listening to two human beings at once — or ten, or two billion — posed no problem for our Creator. Wonders incomprehensibly greater than this does He perform unceasingly.


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When it came time for me to rise and say the Amidah — the central portion of Jewish prayers which must be audible only to one's own ears, recited standing with both feet close together, without interruption or movement — I found myself hamming it up (for her benefit, if not His.) I took those three nifty little steps forward and back with pious precision, rising up on my toes like some kind of professional gymnast and bowing this way and that as if Queen Elizabeth were around.

My final bow was especially deep, and long. But I myself was not convinced.


Afterwards, walking backwards — as is the custom, so as not to turn one's back to the Wall — I noticed Malka on the plaza's edge.

Malka, of indeterminate age, is a seventh-generation Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite). Pausing to drop a shekel in her upheld cup, I saw that she'd changed since the last time we'd met. The features on one side of her face were strangely distorted and twisted downwards in the distinctive manner of Bells Palsy, the sudden-onset neurological disorder.

"You know, there are people," she said wryly, "who pretend not to see us, the poor people begging. They want Hashem to look at them, but from us they turn away their eyes." She smiled as if at a private joke. Then, in her melodic, Hebrew-accented English (and as humorist Dave Barry says in his columns, I'm not making this up,) she then said: "Sometimes it happens that we cannot pray."

"Funny you should say that, right now," I said, trying not to look into the drooping eye on the affected side. "With all these people around, I wasn't —"

"Yes, at night sometimes I go up on the roof, with the stars, and I think Hashem, I am the only one with You in the world! But the Jews we should not separate ourselves one from the other. This is our strength, to put together our souls like one soul. To pray, we must all of us, everyone, make ourselves small."

It was at this moment that I recalled the one and only time — in three decades — that I'd had the Wall almost all to myself.


On the first day of Rosh HaShana in the year 2000, I woke early and decided to daven at the Western Wall. A recurring theme in Judaism is the importance of beginnings, and this was the start not only of a new year but also — by the Gregorian calendar — a new millennium, Actually, Y2K was on its way and for all we knew, civilization was about to self-destruct.

My husband and children were still asleep as I slipped out into the pre-dawn darkness. In Jerusalem on a major holiday such as this, the buses don't run, all stores are closed. And at half past five in the morning, it wasn't surprising to find that the whole world belonged to me. Walking along Rechov Shmuel HaNavi, continuing up Shivtei Yisrael as the sky turned a pale coral and pink-tinged clouds sailed fast overhead, autumn's earliest coolness was carried on the breeze.

Not a car could be seen. Passing under Yaffa Gate and entering the Old City, I paused. Should I take the shortcut through the Arab shuk (bazaar) or play it safe and go by way of the Armenian Quarter? I heard footsteps at my back and turned — a little scared, then relieved — to see a former neighbor. We'd forgotten each other's names but joined up together and decided to take the shorter route.

Our heels clicked merrily on the stone steps descending into the Arab market. It was now 6 am. My companion and I talked as we walked, but about halfway through, she said, "It's strange we're the only ones here, isn't it?" Even the usual men with their donkey carts were nowhere to be seen, and by this hour, at least some of the Arab storekeepers would have usually opened up for business.

We continued on.

When we emerged from the shuk's cavernous dimness, we stood at the top of the staircase overlooking the Wall — with the blue and gold dome of the mosque glimmering high in the background — and my heart rose like a bird. On the men's side, there were perhaps two or perhaps three worshippers, but the women's side was mine for the taking. Not even in the first years after making Aliyah, long before Israel's population explosion, had I ever seen it so empty.

My companion took one half of the women's section and I the other. My Rosh HaShana davening lifted me on wings, where I'd been longing to go, and with remarkable aim — in spite of having so few targets — one of the pigeons nesting in the Wall managed to crown my head that day as only they know how.

Only later did I find out why such peace had been ours. Having been so busy cooking and cleaning in preparation for the Holiday, I hadn't listened to the news. The day before, Palestinian rioters had thrown rocks from the Temple Mount onto the Jews praying down below, and a curfew had been clamped down on the Arab quarter.

It was the opening round of the cruelest, most murderous, most brutal of all the intifadas.

That's how I learned to love the crowded bus, and be glad at the Wall when there's no room at all.

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Sarah Shapiro is one of the most gifted writers in the Jewish world today. She writes regularly for publications in Israel and the United States, and teaches writing workshops in Jerusalem. She is the author of Growing With My Children: A Jewish Motherís Diary; Donít You Know Itís a Perfect World?; and A Gift Passed Along: A Woman Looks at the World Around Her.

© 2006, by K'hal Publishing. excerpted from "Inspiring Days: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Beyond --- Visions and Pathways for Spiritual Growth & Personal Potential"