Last Friday, when deciding which synagogue to attend in Jerusalem, I ultimately chose the Kotel, the Western Wall. Approaching the Kotel, you hear the calls of “Minyan, Minyan.” Groups coalesce to form the required quorum of ten. As the crowd swells, confusion settles in. On my right I heard Sephardic melodies. On my left, I listened to Ashkenazic niggunim. I found myself singing the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach, surrounded by young yeshiva students and soldiers. As we turned to face the plaza and welcome the Shabbat bride, a group of Americans looked at each other, and asked, “What do you think these people are singing about?” I engaged them in conversation, and learned they were part of Passages, Christian Birthright, from Indiana University. They had never been to a synagogue, even more so to a place where thousands of Jews rushed to welcome in the Sabbath. “What do you think?” I asked. They were speechless.
This week the Jewish world started the cycle of Daf Yomi, where Jews learn one page of Talmud each day, for the next 7 and a half years to complete the 2711 pages of our Rabbinic tradition.
Aba Binyamin taught, “One’s prayer is only heard in a place of song.” Experiencing the Kotel on a Friday night is the embodiment of our Talmudic tradition. Song from every direction you turn. Words, no words, melodies and chants, all turned upward towards the Heavens. The Talmud concludes its teaching on prayer, “One who leaves the synagogue should not take large steps. However, when entering a synagogue it is a mitzva to run.” As I looked at my watch at the conclusion of the service, I did not want to leave, breathing in the tastes of Judaism around the world, centered at the Temple Mount.
There is much to be worried about in this world. Warring nations, political strife, local poverty, and the striving for equality for all.
Yet, for those few moments, the essence of Shabbat became clear- a taste of the world to come, where we simply sing the praise of the Holy One above.