Build That Wall!

Question

Dear Rabbi, when I visited Jerusalem for the first time I noticed the divider at the Western Wall. What is the purpose of this division? Thanks.

, , , , , 3 months

Answers

  1. The Western Wall is a holy place where people from everywhere come to pray. The partition that you noticed is there to serve as a division between the men and the women during prayer. It’s basically to help us focus on prayer, and not on other things. It’s an equal opportunity divider, separating men from women and women from men.

    The law requiring this separation, called a “mechitzah” in Hebrew, is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Succah 51b, 52a. There are a number of reasons given for this:

    • So as not to cause those who are unmarried to feel left out.
    • We come to synagogue to relate to God as Jews, not as spouses, husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. With a mechitzah, spouses do not sit together. That way, we are more of a congregation than groups of individuals.
    • To prevent there being an atmosphere of socializing, and conversation during prayer.
    • The atmosphere during prayer should be serious. One way to help achieve the proper atmosphere is by creating a division between men and women.
    • To promote modesty, and to prevent the distraction from prayer to both men and women from the presence of members of the opposite gender, to whom there is a natural attraction.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team