We’re already feeling the winter chill, so I’d like to share a story from warmer days, when we were in Israel for the chagim.
Yom Kippur in Jerusalem is always hot. This year the temperature hovered somewhere close to 90°F, and even in the evenings it was hot.
Because of the weather, my husband, who usually walks to his old childhood shul, Chessed v’Rachamim, in Mazkeret Moshe (now a part of Nachlaot near Machane Yehuda) decided to go with me on erev Yom Kippur to the Great Synagogue, which was just around the corner from where we were staying.
After he arrived there and took out his tallis, a paper fell to the ground. When he picked it up and opened it to see what it was, he realized it was a “kvittel.” He suddenly remembered that back home, a man who sometimes attends his shul had approached him in shul before we left for Israel and asked him if he would put a “kvittel” for him in the Kotel. However, the man had not prepared it yet, so my husband told him that when it was ready he should put it in my husband’s tallis bag in his shul locker so he would automatically bring it with him to Israel.
My husband had not seen the kvittel until it fell out of his tallis bag, and now he was faced with a dilemma, since we were scheduled to leave Jerusalem the morning after Yom Kippur. He quickly decided that in the morning he would walk to the Kotel to deposit this kvittel and daven there.
Off he went early the next morning, down Agron, through the Mamilla Mall, through Jaffa Gate, and down the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter toward the Kotel.
On the way, he decided to stop by the Hurva Synagogue, which is located where his parents grew up (prior to 1947). He went in to hear the beautiful davening in the beautifully redone shul, which had been rebuilt since its ruin in 1947. He stayed to listen for a while before going to a nearby Spanish-Portuguese Sephardic shul. Although they only had about 15 people present, the davening there was also nice. However, he realized that he could not get distracted from his goal of placing that kvittel in the Kotel before he could settle in and daven wherever he chose, so he left. He finally made his way to the Kotel where he found a spot among all the packed holes in the wall to place this kvittel.
By this time he was hot and sweaty. He looked around to see where he could get some relief from the sun and headed toward the overpass next to the Kotel where the tunnels begin, thinking it would be cooler without the sun beating down. He discovered a separate Ashkenazic minyan under way at the entrance of the tunnels.
Inside he went, thinking to join this minyan, as the natural coolness from the tunnel brought the temperatures down, but after entering he found that about 10 feet further was another Ashkenazic minyan—and then he spotted a Sephardic minyan a little beyond that minyan. This was very different than any Yom Kippur davening he had ever experienced, so he decided to stay. The atmosphere and the three simultaneous minyanim were irresistible!
He moved to the side, looking for a place to sit, and he noticed some open rooms next to the main tunnel area where the davening was going on that he had not seen before. Inside these areas, people had set up makeshift sleeping areas and had slept there all night so as not to leave the Kotel area for even a minute. My husband is a born Yerushalmi, but this was a new sight for him to behold! People were getting up from makeshift beds and going back and forth to these minyanim in the tunnels!
After Mussaf, he decided to make his way back to the Great Synagogue for Ne’ilah. Back he went through Jaffa Gate and the Mamilla Mall, and then he started up Agron. As anyone who has ever gone up Agron knows, walking up that street even with a bottle of water, at the best of times, is difficult—forget about on Yom Kippur when you cannot drink anything and the sun is brutally hot! He had to stop on the way to rest, and where better than the Waldorf Astoria?
Into the air conditioning of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel he went, where he found they had a minyan of their own going and had not finished Mussaf yet. They had a wonderful chazzan, so it was a great place to sit and rest a little while listening to some amazing davening!
He finally made his way up Agron and back to the Great Synagogue for Ne’ilah. Of course, I did not hear of his adventure until after Ma’ariv when we headed home to break our fast, but one thing is for sure—his Yom Kippur adventure will be a hard one to beat!
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com. Read more of Anessa Cohen’s articles at 5TJT.com.