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It seems that at the Kotel, the general practice is to daven directly facing the wall. (Speaking from experience.)

However, i thought we were supposed to face the kodesh hakodashim, which has a "handy" dome as a landmark. From the Kotel plaza, that's actually to the left of the Wall.

Should one follow the general custom and face the Wall, or face the site of the kodesh hakodashim?

(Side note: Could people be facing the Wall because of a misconception that it's the top holy site?)

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When I was at the Kotel for a Vesikin minyan, all of them faced the kotel, except one. They looked the Yeshivish/Litvish types. They were turned slightly to the left. –  Yishai May 30 at 12:59
    
How is this different from any other shul where everyone faces the wrong direction? –  Double AA May 30 at 13:22
    
@DoubleAA Because here i have a genuine question which way is proper. –  Scimonster May 30 at 13:32
    
You think there might be a reason to face a pile of stones? –  Double AA May 30 at 13:59
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Facing the wall is facing Har HaBayith. Your question needs to be fixed; it assumes HH"B is separate and apart from the KH"K. –  Seth J May 30 at 16:50

3 Answers 3

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The second rosh yeshiva in my yeshiva, R' Dovid Stefansky, told me he had asked this question to his rosh yeshiva, Rav Shach, while pointing out that the correct direction would seem to be diagonally left.

Rav Shach answered sarcastically: Go ahead and face that way, if it pleases you so much to be different from everyone else!

Recognizing the Western Wall Plaza as a synagogue where people pray in the wrong direction, some hold that you should turn only your face towards Kodesh Hakodoshim (Mishnah Berurah 94:10), because an individual is prohibited from praying in a different direction than the rest of the congregation (Aruch Hashulchan 94,13). However, other hold that you may pray to the east at your discretion (Machatzis Hashekel 94,3).

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Right, because his pleasure wouldn't come from following Halacha... –  Double AA May 30 at 15:20
    
@DoubleAA Now, what to do in a synagogue with aron hakodesh in wrong direction end would be a very relevant question. E.g. South Fallsburg facing south-west (should be East or North-East). –  NBZ May 30 at 15:34
    
    
And, we might say that the Aron at the Kotel is facing the wrong way. They (there are multiple aronot) face the Wall, not the Kodesh Hakadashim. –  Scimonster May 31 at 18:36

My Rebbe the Cheif Rabbi of the old city Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl Shlit"a is qouted to have said that it is a bizayon to the kosel to daven towards the left.

Another reason why one would not need to face left is because it is an inherent safek as to where the actual makom hamikdash is located. Although one could be somech on the Ridvaz who says that the makom hamikdash is "tachas kipas hasela". However Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlit"a in Teshuvos v' Hanhagos; basing himself upon other sources, doubts the assumption of the Ridvaz(which is actually based upon what others said).This is also the reason why going onto Har Habayis is considered an Issur Chamur which has been proclaimed assur by all great rabbonim of the previous generation.

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What's wrong with a bizayon to the kosel? And shouldn't that at least be better than a bizayon to the mikdash? –  Double AA Jun 1 at 1:51
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Do you mean a Safek Issur Chamur? –  Double AA Jun 1 at 1:52
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"proclaimed assur by all great rabbonim of the previous generation" It's hard for me to think of a case where someone said that phrase without exaggerating. –  Double AA Jun 1 at 2:23
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However, my statement in regards to the Kol Koreh is not an exaggeration, look at the Kol Koreh issued years ago. It runs the gamut from the Chief Rabbis of the state of Israel to the heads of the even the most Chareidi institutions. This view was at one point universally shared, although some may have felt that view for differing reasons (ie. Halachic, political etc.) –  Nafkamina Jun 1 at 6:21
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It's not clear you should apply Ein Safek Motzi Midei Vadai; for instance, we would probably violate a minhag to avoid a safek deoraytal. Also, you still haven't explained what's wrong with a bizayon to the kotel. It's just a pile of stones... –  Double AA Jun 1 at 6:33

This may not be completely unfounded:

Talmud Yerushalmi Masechet Brachot daf 35.

There, it says that anyone praying inside Jerusalem should face Har HaBayit. Seeing as how being in front of the Kotel is below Har HaBayit, it could be interpreted to mean that one should face Har HaBayit itself, and not adjust so that you face the Kodesh HaKadashim.

While it is more logical to interpret this in terms of approximations, the basic reading would imply facing directly at the wall.

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Except behind the kotel isn't har habayit. It's a later extension with no holiness. Har Habayit itself also only starts somewhat to the left of the Kotel Plaza. –  Double AA Jun 1 at 6:37
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Except that nobody has ever tried to claim that we should undo the extension. When it says "הר הבית" why would we assume it doesn't mean the entire platform? –  Seth J Jun 1 at 18:45
    
@SethJ ??? Undo what? Elevation is irrelevant. הר הבית is a technical term for a certain area 500x500 amot. What the adjacent elevation is doesn't matter. –  Double AA Jun 2 at 13:42
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So there is zero Kedushah to the rest of the platform? The fact that Herod built the most magnificent temple to G-d on it and created a new physical reality atop the elevation is entirely irrelevant to its holiness? If so, ok. I'm not well versed in these matters. –  Seth J Jun 2 at 17:33
    
@SethJ He built the most magnificent temple in that 500x500 space. There is a way to extend the holiness beyond that, but Herod's building walls is not it. It's a special procedure with certain Korbanot and a Navi/King/Sanhedrin and stuff, and there is reason to suspect it was never done in that zone. –  Double AA Jul 10 at 15:25

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