By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
A stone from the Kosel fell Sunday morning. Thank G-d, no one was hurt. It fell in the section that was designated for egalitarian prayer. Some have said that the falling stone is a sign of Divine anger about the fact that this area was designated for a prayer group that does not follow Halacha. What concerns us, however, is the halachic status of this stone.
Stones Are Endowed With Kedusha
The stones of the Kosel, of course, are endowed with kedusha, holiness. The Meiri writes in Kiryas Sefer, Hilchos Beis HaBechira, chapter five that the entire Har haBayis is mekudash lashem. The Rambam (Hilchos Korban Pesach 9:1) explains that the thickness of the wall has the status of inside the area. (See responsa of Rav Yitzchok Herzog zt”l: Heichal Yitzchok OC #18).
The great British financier and philanthropist, Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), added stones to parts of the Kosel. Rav Herzog writes that the stones that he added, although important, are not endowed with kedushah. This is because the stones were added after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, when Har haBayis had fallen into disuse.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (YD IV #63) writes that there is a serious biblical prohibition chipping at any stone of the Kosel aside from the general prohibition of meilah. This serious prohibition is called “Lo saasun kain lashem elokecha” from Dvarim (12:3-4).
But what if the stone came off by itself as it did on Sunday? Now the stone is no longer attached to the ground or the wall. Does it still have kedushah?
It seems that this very question is a debate among the Achronim. These halachic views are cited in the joint work of Rav Yisroel Yoseph Bronstein and Rav Shmuel Rabbinowitz on the Kosel HaMaarivi.
Mogain Avrohom’s View
The Mogain Avrohom (OC 152:6) cites the Maharam Padua (siman 65) that the prohibition of taking off stone [of a shul and, it would seem, of anything holy] is only when it is mechubar, connected to ground. Rav Shmuel Kelin haLevi, (1724-1806) the author of the Machtzis HaShekel (named for the abbreviation of the author’s name) explains that it is based on the pasuk in Dvarim that contrasts Hashem’s mizbeach with that of avodah zarah. Just as the obligation of destruction is only when the avodah zarah is connected to the ground, lehavdil, so too is the prohibition only when the stones are still connected.
Chasam Sofer’s View
On the other hand, Rav Moshe Sofer, the author of the Chasam Sofer, (1762-1839) a student of the Machatzis HaShekel, writes in his responsa (OC 32) to Rav Wolf Chajes, the Av Beis Din of Palata, that the Mogain Avrohom’s words are wonderous, because they seem to contradict an explicit Gemorah in Makkos 22a! There, the Gemorah states that those who utilized wood from the Mikdash in order to cook with it were in violation of “Lo saasun Kain.” No one uses wood that is still attached to the ground in order to cook with, so we see that the prohibition exists even when it is no longer attached. He explains that the Maharam Padua was in all probability referring to the keilim in the shul rather than the part of the shul itself.
What should be done with the rock that fell? Of course, the Gedolei haPoskim should be consulted on this, as with any issue pertaining to the Kosel and Har HaBayis. It would seem that we should consider the view of the Chasam Sofer stringently because the underlying issues are quite serious.
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