A decade ago, I visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem with Nosson Tzvi Finkel, a widely respected rabbi in Israel. As we approached one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the rabbi halted about 10 yards away as a crowd of admirers gathered nearby. I beckoned him further.
"I’ve never been closer than this," the rabbi told me. Astounded, I asked why.
"You go," he said. "I’m not worthy."
— Web edition of "America Deserves a Servant Leader", a The New York Times op-ed by Howard Schultz, August 6, 2015.
Of course anyone can feel unworthy to approach the Wall, and of course anyone can be too much in of awe of it to approach it — which is much the same thing when it comes down to it. But I wonder what precedent there is for such a thing. Do we know of people who would not approach within some distance of the Temple Mount (which the Wall is the wall of) when the Temple was standing? Do we know of people in earlier generations who would not approach within some distance of the Wall? How prevalent has this been? What is its earliest known instance? (I mean to ask about the practice of avoiding approaching within some distance, whether for the reason quoted above or for any other Judaism-based reason.)