Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why the Kosel Wasn't Destroyed

Ariella of the Kallah Magazine blog asked for the source of the well-known story that when Shlomo built the Beis HaMikdash, the poor people built the Western Wall through their own sweat and toil, and for this reason, it was the only one to not be destroyed.

According to this article, the story of the poor people who built the western wall was told to Zev Vilnay, an Israeli historian and folklorist, by a young man at the Kosel in 1922, and Vilnay included the story in his anthology, /Aggadot Eretz Yisrael/. The aspects of this story that should raise major red flags are that that the Kosel is not the wall of the Beis HaMikdash, but rather one of the retaining walls that surrounded the structures on HaBayis, and that it was built by Herod, not by Shlomo, so that nothing of Shlomo's building survived, regardless of who built it (The pesukim don't specifically say, but I would assume that Shlomo hired professional builders to built it, as befitting the building, in the same way that Betzal'el utilized the chochmei leiv to build the Mishkan. A more populist building project was the rebuilding of the wall of Yerushalayim led by Nechemiah).

Of course, the fact that a story has no extant source doesn’t mean that it’s not true. And even if a story isn’t true, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be inspired by it (perhaps this is more of a chassidic idea?). But in this era in which we have witnessed vociferous debates over what constitutes the truth vis-a-vis the crossroads between our understandings of the Torah, science, and history, as well as in which segulos ride on horses as halachos travel by foot, it seems that one can be excused for wanting to be machmir when it comes to besorah she-nis’aleim min ha-ayin.

In an article that appeared a few months ago, R’ Mendel Weinbach of Ohr Somayach cited an amazing statement made by R’ Eliezer Menachem Man Shach:

“I fully believe only in those things that I am required by the Torah to believe. Why? Because when I reach Heaven and ask to be rewarded for my faith in G-d, I don’t want to be told that I can’t get credit for that because I believed everything else.”

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At 2/21/2008 3:04 AM, Blogger DK said...

Do you refer to the Kotel as the "kosel?

What a Baal teshuvah!

At 2/21/2008 11:47 AM, Blogger Josh M. said...

Thank you! I've worked on standardizing my tavim re'fuyim (especially when leining), although in everyday speech, I tend to switch back and forth between the form that feels more natural and the form that seems more accurate according to the Ashkenazi pronunciation. Interesting how they're disparate in this case.

At 2/21/2008 7:13 PM, Blogger Ariella said...

I appreciate your looking this up, Josh. You are right. Any remains we have today around the Mikdash would have to be from Herod's. When Shlomo built he hired people from Tzur, though that may have been more for the craft and design than regular labor. The concept of the poor fits in well with other similar ideas like that of the home-woven baskets for the fruit offerings being kept in Mikdash. I also have another thought on the group effort effect to become categorized as a klal rather than separate individuals that I may blog about.

At 2/26/2008 8:15 PM, Blogger Barzilai said...

What was that comment about Kosel/Kotel? What is wrong with using the pronunciation that was standard in Europe for thousands of years? Why do you think the sfard pronunciation is any more valid? They didn't speak Hebrew at home either, they davened in Hebrew, and so did we. The last people to speak Hebrew like Moses was Moses. Languages drift. Deal with it.


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