Touching the Pulse Beat of the Universe

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by BawBaw on August 11, 2010

I regard myself as a person of faith, though I acknowledge that few would classify me as religious. The hallmarks of my faith are simple:

- I believe in the absolute unity of God. This belief in the unity of God gives me hope that humankind may someday be able to achieve a parallel spiritual unity.

- I attach spiritual value to the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

- I strive for integrity in my life, though I am well aware that I often fall short.

- I believe fervently that the only reward one should expect for a life well lived is the satisfaction of having lived honorably in the sight of God and man--in that order.

I find these simple criteria both worthwhile and affirming as expressions of my faith. If others regard them as a fragile basis for experiencing God, I am not overly concerned. Faith, after all, is a personal matter and does not require the approval of others.

You would be justified in concluding based on the brief sketch just provided that I do not attend services regularly. By my own description, I am a secular person of faith. Nevertheless, I have benefited tremendously from some profoundly religious experiences that I can only attribute to the convergence of my own innate sense of faith with one or another of, for lack of a better term, "sacred places." These special places include great cathedrals, simple meetings halls, circles of standing stones, ancient kivas, and sites that have witnessed great sorrow or joy.

I say these things mostly to serve as background for my subject--the sacred place known in Hebrew as Kotel Hama'aravi, a remnant of the ancient Temple retaining wall in Jerusalem. This sacred place is also known as the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, or the Wall of Lamentation.

The Kotel is located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem, just a short walk from the Dung Gate. Over the centuries Jews have journeyed to this place to mourn the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E./A.D., thereby bringing an effective end to the politico-national life of the Jewish people for nearly two millenia. This long-venerated site came into Israel's hands as part of the aftermath of 1967 Arab-Israeli war--thus, in the eyes of many, symbolizing the completion of Israel's return to the Middle East as an independent nation.

The Kotel is also an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, governed by the Chief Rabbinate and divided into separate (and very unequal) areas of worship for men and women. It is the site of numerous religious and national celebrations, and it is the goal of pilgrims of many faiths. (Because the Kotel is an active synagogue, "modest" dress is recommended for visitors.)

Those who visit the Wall often leave prayers scribbled on small scraps of paper that are then wedged between its huge stones. Such a prayer is thought to bring a special blessing. My prayer was very simple: just a list of the names of people I love, along with a fervent plea for their well-being.

As I stood for the first time before the Kotel with my hand and forehead on the stones, I felt connected to every person of faith who has ever stood in this place--or longed to stand there. I felt time had been suspended. I felt both significant and insignificant in the grand scheme of God's great design. God was there in that wall. I could almost sense the Divine pulse beat if you will, the pulse beat of the world . . . of the universe--all of which could be felt through these stones that were so cool to the touch. Being in this place filled me with a sense of wonder and appreciation for the life I had been gifted with and for all that made it so special. I have never felt physically or spiritually closer to God--except perhaps when my children were born.

This profoundly spiritual experience has been repeated each time I've returned to the Kotel and, indeed, each time I return there in memory. It is for me a sacred place filled will symbolism and mystery and simplicity. It has the power to bring me, my thoughts, and my life closer to God and to an appreciation of my faith. It provides a mirror into my soul that is both humbling and exalting.

- BawBaw/DAnneC
Western Wall
Western Wall Plaza
Jerusalem, Israel

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