What the sign says:
- The Western Wall is a holy place.
- Preserve the sanctity of this place.
- Wear a head covering.
- Avoid talking during prayer times.
- Please do not smoke.
- Please do not use your cell phone.
- Do not light candles.
- Comply with the instructions of the ushers.
- Donations to designated funds contribute to the upkeep of this place.
What the sign might also have said:
- The Western Wall is as holy as the heart you bring to it, just like every other place.
- Preserve the sanctity of this place by looking around you and noticing all the amazing people here who are searching for an understanding of who they are. Don't just stick a piece of paper in the cracks and mutter some ancient words. Be alive with wonder.
- Keep your head on your shoulders here. Don't let if fly away into the clouds. This is a place connected to the earth as much as it is connected to heaven.
- Talk loudly and crazily during prayer times. Engage in the conversation of your soul. Scream at God if you like. (By now, God should be used to it.) Be more concerned about how your words will affect you than how they will affect the people standing to your left and right. If you are a man, pay attention here, also, to the voice of woman and be spellbound. If you are a woman, spit in the face of anyone who says he knows how you should pray better than you do.
- Don't smoke. Ever. If you believe that this place has sanctity because it contains the presence of God, know that your own body is also such a place.
- What were you thinking of saying on your cell phone, anyway? If you must, put your phone to your face and pretend you are talking to your bus driver while you actually are beginning the afternoon prayers. Say, "Happy is the one who dwells in Your House…," into your phone as if you were ordering a pizza. That way you do not run the risk of praying only to show people how pious you are while you worship at the Western Wall.
- If you were to light a candle here and the hot wax were to drip down onto your hand, would you shudder in pain? Is that what this place is for? The pain you feel here should only come from the intoxicating awareness that you have lived so much of your life without noticing. Let that awareness light you from within.
- Comply with the instructions of your Source who is within you and within each human being.
- When you pass by the old man sitting next to this sign who rattles the coins in his cup as you approach and barks the word "Tzedakah" at you, take at least a moment to think about the choice you are making. Will you drop a two shekel piece into the cup and hope that it makes your prayer matter more? Will you avoid eye contact and walk by him briskly? Will you forget all about him by the time you walk past the lingerie shops in the Mamila shopping mall on the way back to your hotel? What, if anything, will this say about your relationship to your Creator?
Both signs are necessary. The first was written on a tablet of stone. The second is the hidden teaching whispered into the ears of our ancestors so that we would be able to hear it and explain it to our children.
Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser is the rabbi of Temple Beit HaYam in in Stuart, FL.
Originally posted at Reb Jeff