The Western Wall (sometimes called the Wailing Wall or the Kotel), is actually the only surviving remnant of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Tradition teaches that all of creation began in Jerusalem. The epicenter is Mount Moriah, known as "the watering stone.".
It is here, on Mount Moriah, that Isaac was bound for sacrifice (“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” ~ Genesis 22:9).
And it is here that his son Jacob dreamed of the ladder ascending to heaven (“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”~ Genesis 28:10-12).
Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt nine times and through it all, one symbol remained intact: the Western Wall. The Western Wall is especially dear, as it is the spot closest to the Holy of Holies, the central focus of the Temple.
Much of the structure we see today was rebuilt during the 2,000 years since the Temple was destroyed. There are almost no ancient remains of the northern wall. There is a bit of the eastern wall, as well as almost the entire southern wall. However, none of those walls actually bordered the holy ground of the Temple. The actual southern wall was further north than the existing southern wall, which was built by Herod and enclosed an annexed area next to the sacred ground of the Temple. So the Western Wall is the only hallowed wall that remains.
How did the Western Wall survive?
When Vespasian conquered Jerusalem, he assigned the destruction of the four ramparts of the Temple to four generals. The western wall was allotted to Pangar of Arabia. Now, it had been decreed by Heaven that this should never be destroyed, because the Shechinah (Divine Presence) resides in the west.
The others demolished their sections, but Pangar did not demolish his. Vespasian sent for him and asked, “Why did you not destroy your section?” He replied, “I acted so for the honor of the kingdom. For if I had demolished it, nobody would know what it was you destroyed. But when people look, they will exclaim, ‘From the great building he destroyed, you can tell the might of Vespasian!’”
Vespasian said to him, “Enough! You have spoken well. But since you disobeyed my command, you shall ascend to the roof and throw yourself down. If you live, you will live, and if you die, you will die.”’ Pangar threw himself down and died.
Western Wall of What?
Some people have suggested that the current Western Wall is a part of the Temple itself. However, most maintain that the Western Wall is actually a part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Temple Mount. Interestingly, if the Western Wall is actually a supporting wall for the Temple Mount, it would explain a teaching found in Psalms that states that “although [the Temple Mount] is [now] a bare mountain, it remains in its sanctity” and then goes on to say that “the Divine Presence never left the Western Wall.” Why is the Temple Mount referred to as a “bare mountain” if the Western Wall was never destroyed? Because the Wall is not on the mountain, but a retaining wall of the mountain.
Although the intention of the enemies of Israel in leaving the wall intact was to show the glory of Rome and the subjection of the Jewish nation, the opposite transpired. Rome is long buried in the dustbin of history, but the Western Wall has remained as a beacon of hope. The Divine Presence still resonates in that spot.
The Wailing Wall remains a current place of contact, a fresh reservoir of Holiness. This principle applies to each of us, because we are each a Holy Temple, each of us a Sanctuary for the Divine.
When we look at ourselves honestly, we can sometimes see that our spiritual, moral or emotional construct is in disrepair. We can see that we have been impacted by the world's negativity, selfishness and cynicism. Our personal Temple is in ruins. But we need to keep a mental picture of our internal Western Wall. We need to remember that our soul is whole; our basic goodness, our intrinsic Holiness, the soul, remains beyond any external contamination. That wholeness is there. We just may need to connect more often and work toward a better day.