Hitting a Wall (By Stuart McCarthy)
Today I hit a hit the Wall. Actually several Walls.
Emotionally, spiritually and (not quite) physically.
Waking up in Yerushalayim with only 3 hours and 24 minutes sleep, (the almost physical wall), I hemmed and hawed about morning minyan. I mean, it was 20 minutes earlier than the day before and well, a cup of tea sounded mighty good. But how could I NOT daven shacharit my first morning in the City of Gold? Glad I DID!
Soon, breakfast beckoned. After a quick fill up, this Jewish army of 180+ men – like all other armies – marches on its stomach. It was off to Aish Hatorah at the Jewish spiritual ground zero – adjacent to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
We went up to Aish’s rooftop viewing deck where Yerushalayim lies before you in all her splendor – the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the many homes and businesses, the Mount of Olives, and the Dome of the Rock. Tantalizingly, the Western Wall beckoned us. But first, the suspense would build.
Once again, Charlie Hararey took us through an inspirational rollercoaster of connective lessons, elevating us to a higher plane of communication and spirituality as only he can. Never miss an opportunity to learn from Charlie!
After learning how to better connect with our families and each other over the past couple of days, the next level was about how to connect with Hashem. We learned about the difference between Big Hashem – the one we typically connect with at shul (big, powerful, sometimes scary Hashem with whom we only seem to know how to communicate through prayers written by others), and “Dad Hashem”. Dad Hashem is the trusted, friendly, caring father figure we should really learn to talk to openly, from the heart, in our own language and not structured out of any sense of fear.
We took that lesson and walked silently through Aish Hatorah’s private entrance into the Western Wall courtyard down to the Wall, remaining silent until we reached the Wall, touched the Wall and spoke to Hashem in our own voice.
And then I lost it. I hit my emotional wall.
As my personal prayer and confirmation unfolded, tears started to flow. A lot of baggage was unloaded. Then – and – only then – as Charlie instructed us, did I place my written personal message in a crack in the Wall.
I turned around, my eyes still streaming, to be surprised by a neighbour from Ottawa who also was at the Wall by chance. Coincidence? Who knows? But now my emotional experience was being shared by someone outside our men’s group. And I thought, "Isn’t this part of what our trip is about? Sharing the impact and power of Hashem?"
Later after lunch, we got to visit the archeological excavations at the southern end of the Western Wall and the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount on our tour of the Old City. Now we were at street level, walking alongside the Second Temple, looking at the massive base stones of the Temple Mount Wall.
Looking at the excavated mikvahs where people cleansed before entering the Temple, the stalls and shops that existed outside the Temple Walls – I had a more tangible, physical connection to the Second Temple than our earlier, emotional experience. Yes, we had hit another Wall!
Our afternoon tour wrapped with mincha prayers at the base of the Southern Wall. As our guide Patrick Amar answered numerous questions, I found that walking by this part of the Southern Wall, an original section of the Temple Mount, in the footsteps of Temple goers thousands of years ago, was a more spiritual connection that our earlier prayer experience.
Between our structured mincha prayers at the lower Southern Wall and the spiritually emotional experience at the upper Western Wall, I discovered that one set of prayers on top of the other was an exponentially awesome experience.
Oh, and that personal/psychological/physical wall? After six kilometres, hundreds of steps, up and down and across the Old City on a few hours sleep, I’m exhausted. I’ve taken a break from the evening activity (going to catch up to the group later) but I needed to get this down on my computer while it was still fresh and burning in my heart. But I’m still emotionally jazzed!
Tomorrow – Masada beckons. Bring it on!