The Day God Ignored Me

My search for spiritual transcendence at the Western Wall

Photo by Howard Axelrod

I heard the siren song, and it wouldn't let me sleep. Although I've traveled to 78 countries, I had yet to visit Israel, the land of my people. I'm a person of the Jewish faith by birth, but secular in practice, and like many people my age, I felt that something was missing in my life.

I was searching for answers and hoped I'd find them in the Holy Land. Jerusalem was the end point of our 2 1/2-week tour. Perhaps like the festivals in the Bible where the best wine is saved for last, this was "bashert" (translation: "meant to be"). Most of all, I was looking forward to visiting the 2,000-year-old Western Wall—the most holy site for any Jew, the equivalent of the Grand Mosque in Mecca for Muslims, or the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem for Christians. This was unquestionably the "big stage."

The Jewish tradition for one who wishes to communicate with the almighty is to place a note in the cracks of the old temple wall. There are no rules. You can ask for anything, including forgiveness from God for things done, or from persons no longer living. You can ask for future health, riches, fame and fortune, or to merely have a simple but fulfilling life. Perhaps you need a bit of help to get your son into Harvard? The choices are up to the individual, and are endless.

I had heard from so many people that when you touch the wall and place your requests there, you'll be spiritually transformed. The feeling, as it's been described to me, will be instantaneous and unmistakable. In other words, your world will be rocked!

I looked forward to my transcendent moment, unable to sleep at night, patiently awaiting this life-changing experience. Before leaving the U.S. and after much thought, I wrote two requests for my creator on small individual sheets of paper. I reread them each night in Israel, making sure I had expressed my desires concisely and clearly. I assumed that God, the almighty CEO, is very busy, and as such my requests had to be clear, succinct and to the point.

Finally, my day had arrived. I visited the men's area of the Wall in the early morning. There were already approximately 75 Orthodox Jewish men and young boys there dressed in black-and-white Orthodox attire, and adorned with the associated religious accoutrements. Most were deep in prayer, wailing, moaning and even crying. The air was alive and I was mesmerized. These deeply religious people were in meditative trance-like states and completely unaware of anything around them. I had seen Sadhu's (Holy Men) on the banks of the Ganges in India, and meditating monks in a Tibetan monastery in similar states. I yearned for the spiritual deepness, cleansing and lucidity that they were unmistakably experiencing.

I approached the wall exactly as I had seen the Orthodox men do. I felt totally open and receptive to the spiritual lightning bolt I was about to receive. I placed both hands on the warm ancient stone. And then I waited. And waited.

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But nothing happened.

There was no lightning bolt, no instant karma, no epiphany or revelation, no words from God. I gathered myself, closed my eyes, tuned out all thoughts and sounds and breathed deeply. I was absolutely sure that I would "feel the feeling" or "hear the word."

Being one who isn't easily discouraged, I came to the conclusion that I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I needed to place my notes to God in the wall FIRST. Yes, surely that was it.

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So I pulled my notes from my pocket, folded them and jammed them into the cracks in the wall. There were literally thousands of notes already there, but I was now fully convinced that after inserting mine, I'd be forever transformed.

I again placed both hands on the wall and concentrated deeply. All I could hear was the rhythmic mystical sounds of the religious men deep in chant and prayer around me. This was my moment.


I left with tears in my eyes, feeling empty and discouraged. Why was my call not answered? What did this say about me? Was God ignoring me? I spent the rest of the day in a down mood. I had done all I could in the most reverent manner possible. It was just not meant to be.

We returned home and a few weeks later, things inexplicably began to change. My senses were heightened. I started sleeping better and waking earlier, thinking more clearly and being more patient. Food had more taste. Colors were richer and deeper. The sound of a child playing or a friend's smile filled me with deep joy. I gave some money to charities. It felt great, so I did it a few more times. Reading became a renewed pleasure and music (always my favorite) lifted me to new heights.

I HAD been changed. There was no doubt about it. I didn't get my "jolt" at the wall, but I most definitely did receive what I had sought—just not in the manner I had expected. I wish I could explain it more than that but some things just can't be explained.

There were many people like myself at the Western Wall that day, all making requests or searching for answers. Perhaps all the circuits to the upstairs were jammed, who knows? But after weeks on hold, my call was finally answered.