Candles were lit. The unifying energy from the Yom Tov Glaser concert was still gluing us all together. We walked in large groups to the Kotel. It wasn't far. The Aish building's lower level allowed us to enter. Ground level. We were there.
There were people everywhere. Songs swirled in the air. The energy was amazing! When I walked to the women's side and saw the dancing, heard the singing, basked in the pure joy - I knew that my words would never be able to convey this experience. For a brief moment, I missed Alia (my 9-year old) in a terrible, achy way. I wished that she was there with me, experiencing Jewish connection in a way that is bliss. Experiencing Shabbat in a way I can never reproduce for her at home.
This went on and on, this group of women and I, singing and dancing. Soon another circle formed. Young girls singing songs, rivaling our ability to be heard. We soon joined them, and sang Am Yisrael Chai, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu, Osay Shalom Bim Romav. We broke off again, our prayers, our joy, our bliss competing to be heard. I was consumed in the moment. I saw faces of those on the trip from other cities. I saw Lori Palatnik, smiling and dancing. I saw Rachael and I was glad she found me and this swirling group of women. We were squished and happy and singing and jumping and swaying.
There came a time when we walked away. Rachael and I. We walked away from the bliss and moved to the upper plaza area. There, soldiers danced, laughed and held firm a large pole with the Israeli flag. These men, arm-in-arm, affectionate, bonded, proud and humble before G-d was a sight that caused my hairs to stand on end and a swelling of my heart. So full I felt. So full.
We moved passed them so that we could look over the fencing and into the men's area. There were multiple circles of men, singing. As I looked at each group, I was able to tune in and hear their joyous songs, see their dancing. I found each group, watched them, listened to them, internalized their joy. Against the Wall itself were multiple rows of davening men with shtreimels (fur hats) on their heads.
Rachael and I stood there for what seemed like an hour, or a minute. She tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Close your eyes and just listen." There, against the fencing, I pressed my forehead against it, closed my eyes and let my auditory senses take over. One word: amazing!
All the voices of the men rose and fell and swirled and in the very, deepest layer of sound, the women's voices danced and colored my private symphony. It was a magical moment that seemed suspended in time and space. If ever I understood the concept of the sanctification of time, it was right then. Abraham Joshua Heschel -- I get it. Time was not a measure of something but a realm in which I was abiding, a place with the most beautiful and inspiring songs, and a joy/energy/aliveness to which I have only known at that place, the Kotel, on Shabbat.
Really, I could have stayed there all night. I could have skipped Shabbat dinner and just spent my time soaking it all in. I wondered if people slept there, by the Wall or maybe in the plaza area. It is simply hard for me to leave but it was time for Shabbat dinner. It lasted all night. It was after midnight before a small group of us were able to make our way back to the Wall. This time, it was mostly empty, quiet. I found my spot, my stone in the far right corner and gave thanks to whomever or whatever is out there, my G-d, Hashem, Shechinah, Divine Light, Creator of the Universe, El Shaddai.
Then I surveyed the Wall with awe as I made my way to a small, white plastic chair sitting in the middle of the plaza. A cool breeze, the whipping of the Israeli flags, and the quiet stillness moved me in similar ways as the pulsing energy earlier in the night. The others made their way up.
And then we walked away.