The Sabbath is the holiest time of the week for observant Jews who stop weekday activities and spend 25 hours in prayer and reflection as they celebrate and focus on family time. The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and carries through until Saturday night at nightfall.
The Western Wall – the kotel – is the epicenter of the Sabbath for Jerusalem’s Jews. Thousands stream to the Western Wall every Friday evening to welcome in the Sabbath with singing, dancing and prayer.
The POST invites guests to join our Friday night tour of the Western Wall as we participate in the Jerusalem Shabbat Experience.
The Kotel, Judaism’s holiest site, is the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple. The Temple was built 3000 years ago by King Solomon and was destroyed by the Babylonians in the 4th century B.C.E. After the Persians conquered the Babylonians they allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century C.E.
For two thousand years Jews have turned towards Jerusalem, towards the site of the destroyed Temple, when praying. According to Jewish tradition, God’s divine presence dwelled in the Temple while it stood.
Three times a day, Jews pray for the Temple to be rebuilt so that God can again dwell in our midst. In the Talmud it is written that anyone who prays at the Temple in Jerusalem “it is as if he has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer.
Kabbalat Shabbat is a special service that was introduced in the 1500s by kabbalists of Tzfat. These rabbis wanted to welcome in the Sabbath with an additional service so they created the kabbalat Shabbat – “receiving the Sabbath” – a short service that is comprised of psalms, kabbalistic prayers and beautiful piyyuts that welcome the Sabbath Queen into the celebrants’ midst. Kabbalat Shabbat precedes the regular Friday night Sabbath prayer service.
The sound of thousands of voices singing these mystical Sabbath prayers is a sight to behold. Our tour is invited right into the midst of the Kabbalat service where we join in with those celebrating the beginning of the Sabbath with song and reflection.
Some of the people that we will see at Friday night services at the kotel include
Hassidim – Hassidic Judaism evolved in Europe in the 18th Hassidism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that teaches that Jews can worship God not only through study but through wholehearted prayer and devotion. There are many mystical and spiritual aspects to Hassidic Judaism which is infused with elements of kabbalah. Each Hassidic group has its own style of dress. Some Hassidic men wear long, dark jackets and high white socks. Many wear fur hats.
Sephardim – Sephardic Jews are those Jews whose ancestors were exiled from Spain and immigrated to North African, Mediterranean and Arab countries. They have a strong tradition of Sephardic tunes and chants which were carried over from their countries of origin.
Ashkanazi non-Hassidic Jews are descendants of those European Jews who did not join the Hassidic movement of the 19th They generally wear black jackets and black hats.
Carlebachers – Carlebachers are followers of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a 20th century Jewish teacher, Rabbi, musician and composer. Carlebach’s goal was to encourage alienated and unaffiliated Jews to become more involved with their heritage which he did through his inspirational tunes. Many of the tunes sung at the Western Wall on Friday nights are Carlebach tunes.