“Oh no, not a good sign,” my husband announced.
He was referring to the three cars double parked in The Old City of Jerusalem, on the street right before the entrance to the Jewish Quarter. I bit my lip in consternation. Had we been totally foolish to come on the morning of the first day of the month of Elul?
“Maybe someone will be leaving as we drive by,” he ventured hopefully.
“Maybe,” I agreed, but as he snaked down the hill and made a right turn by Dung Gate we saw that not only were there no empty spots, several cars were parked illegally.
“We’ll try the first parking lot.” My husband was staying optimistic, except that the entrance was blocked. At the second one we did find a space. However, as we got out of the car we realized it was a spot for motorcycles.
“We’ll go around again. Maybe something opened up.”
Two minutes later, though, we spotted a legal spot on the left side of the street. After a quick u-turn my husband parked neatly and set the parking meter. Our walk was ten minutes longer than normal and the heat wave was already full force at seven in the morning, but that didn’t matter to us. We’d made it to the Kotel.
Although we try to go every week many people aren’t so privileged and visit only for special occasions like holidays and new months. The beginning of Elul, the month that falls before Rosh Hashanah, always draws a big crowd. As we made fast strides down the street I remembered a particular visit to the Kotel on the second day of Elul six years ago.
It was our oldest grandson’s third birthday. His parents kept the custom of waiting until he was three to cut his hair and they chose a spot in the Old City overlooking the Kotel to hold the ceremony. Not only was it the second day of Elul, it was also the beginning of Ramadan and Friday, a day off for many in Israel. The Old City was packed with Jews, Arabs, and tourists from everywhere. Many stopped to watch as we took snips of my grandson’s hair. With each snip my husband blew his shofar, we sang and clapped, and my daughter-in-law offered cookies in the shape of Hebrew letters to the on-lookers.
That was six years ago. There have been some minor changes at the Kotel since then. A new building, an office for the Rabbi of the Kotel, was completed. The women’s plaza was enlarged. And the bathrooms have been refurbished. What, I wondered would another four years bring?
Passing the worshipers outside I heard all kinds of prayers: prayers with songs, prayers with tears, prayers with cries that came from the heart. Suddenly it hit me. Not only was it the first day of Elul. It was forty days until Yom Kippur. I had forty days to prepare myself for the awesome day of forgiveness. Would I be able to meet the task? I entered the tunnels and instead of the handful of women normally there I saw dozens. Yet, no one pushed. No one shoved. No one fought over the sparse amount of chairs.
Maybe we were all truly preparing ourselves properly for the Days of Awe. Maybe, just maybe, this would be the year that we would do it. Maybe we really could bring the Moshiach. And then, in another four years, instead of having my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel we could have it at The Holy Temple. May our prayers make it happen!
|courtesy of jewishmag.com|