Nissan 17, 5771, 21 April 11, 2011
by Hillel Fendel
(Israelnationalnews.com) Many thousands of Jews are gathered at the Western Wall plaza this morning, the 2nd of the Intermediate Days of Passover (the first such day for Jews abroad), for the special holiday prayers - especially the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:23-27).
The ceremony has become a tradition ever since the liberation of the Temple Mount and the rest of the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. It is in commemoration of the Biblical obligation to visit the Holy Temple on the three annual festivals, namely, Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).
It is also a special opportunity for many Cohanim (Jews who trace their lineage to Aaron, the first High Priest) to fulfill the Biblical obligation of blessing the nation, and for non-Cohanim to be blessed (also a Biblical obligation, according to some).
The Priestly Blessing was scheduled to be delivered four times, with the first one during the first Shacharit prayer, at 8:45, and the last one during the second Mussaf prayer, at 10:15.
Following the prayers, Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar will greet worshipers and visitors, in fulfillment of the tradition for students to visit their rabbis on the holiday.
The Old City is almost totally closed to private vehicles during the week-long holiday, and public transportation has been fortified for the benefit of visitors. The Western Wall Legacy Foundation is providing motorized carts near some bus stops for the benefit of the infirm who have trouble walking to the Wall.
It is to be noted that the Western Wall is merely a supportive wall of the Temple Mount in which the Holy Temple itself stood. The holiday prayers emphasize our goal of returning to the Mount, and not to the courtyards around it: "Bring us to Zion Your city with joy, and to Jerusalem, the House of Your Temple, with everlasting happiness... Build Your house as at the beginning, and establish Your Temple on its foundation; show us its construction and gladden us with its rectification... and to there we will ascend and be seen and bow down before You on our three festivals..."