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?)

  • 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
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 12:59
  • How is this different from any other shul where everyone faces the wrong direction?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 13:22
  • @DoubleAA Because here i have a genuine question which way is proper.
    – Scimonster
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 13:32
  • You think there might be a reason to face a pile of stones?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 13:59
  • @DoubleAA In the popular mind, it's not just "a pile of stones". If the proper thing to do is face Har Habayit, why don't you just answer so?
    – Scimonster
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


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).

  • Right, because his pleasure wouldn't come from following Halacha...
    – Double AA
    Commented May 30, 2014 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).
    – Adám
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 15:34
  • @NBZ judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/37590/…
    – Scimonster
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 15:43
  • 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
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 18:36

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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 6:37

My Rebbe the Cheif Rabbi of the old city Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl Shlit"a told me 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.

  • 3
    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
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:51
  • 2
    Do you mean a Safek Issur Chamur?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:52
  • 5
    "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
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 2:23
  • 1
    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.) Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 6:21
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 6:33

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