Kosel Keriah

Question: I have not visited the Kosel in the last 30 days. I know there is a halochoh or minhag (I'm not sure which) to tear one's clothing in mourning in such a case. I also know that there is an opinion that says it's better to sell your clothing (or visit on Shabbos/Yom Tov), so that you don't have to rip your clothing. Does the Rav have any guidance about how my wife and I should conduct ourselves in light of these opinions? If selling is best, please explain how the sale should be carried out and how I can buy back my clothing afterwards.


Tearing clothes at the Kosel is a requirement that should not be avoided.[1] One should tear one's clothes upon seeing one of the two mosques on Har Habayis or the Kosel Hama'arovi.[2] However, once you have torn your clothes upon seeing the churbon, if you have strong evidence that the Beis Hamikdosh has not yet been rebuilt, and this has been confirmed within the past 30 days, you do not tear your clothes again.[3] This confirmation does not have to come through visiting the Kosel yourself. Many people who live in Yerusholayim do not tear their clothes even if they have not been to the Kosel in the past 30 days. The custom is that if you are within a half-hour's walk of the Kosel every 30 days, it is as if you were at the Kosel. The issue of tearing clothing is halachic in nature, however, and customs should not really play a large role in deciding what to do.[4] On occasion, a custom regarding a halachic matter that does not seem to conform to standard halachic analysis, may be an indication of a nuance of the halachoh that is not readily apparent from the textual source material. This customs surrounding tearing garments in mourning over the tragedy of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh might just be such an example. That is why the customs are taken relatively seriously.[5]

My rebbi, Rav Shlomo Fisher, has told me that he suffices with a bus ride around the Old City walls. He mentioned that seeing the Old City walls may be akin to seeing the churbon. Perhaps he maintains that seeing the Old City as it is today is effectively seeing the churbon.[6] Even if one does not live in Yerusholayim, it seems to me that viewing a refreshed webcam of the Kosel is sufficient evidence that no major change has taken place on Har Habayis. Such a reminder is acceptable for someone born in Yerusholayim or someone who has torn once. If you have never torn, then you have to tear the next time you go to the Kosel. At that time, you should tear all layers of clothing down to (but not including) your tzitzis. If you are wearing a jacket, tear the jacket and your shirt. If you are just wearing a shirt, tear just the shirt. If you are wearing a winter coat, you do not have to tear the coat. Some people only tear their outermost garment (e.g., a jacket) and leave their shirt untorn.

I don't recommend selling your clothes to someone else or giving them away. It is an awkward and strange thing to do in order to get out of the mitzvoh, and besides, it will not help much. As soon as you acquire them back that day you will have to tear them.[7] Any clothes of yours that you put on that day will have to be torn even if you are not in front of the Kosel. If a person did tear his clothes at the Kosel it is best to wear the torn clothes for the rest of the day. If necessary, one can change one's clothes and the fresh clothes do not have to be torn, since the mitzvoh has already been fulfilled.

Rav Shlomo Fisher also told me that the women of Yerusholayim have not torn their clothes for the Beis Hamikdosh for generations, and that women who come here can conduct themselves like the local women. Therefore, your wife does not have to tear her clothes. However, even Rav Fisher admitted that halachically there is no real reason to distinguish between males and females. Therefore, if a woman wishes to tear, she is permitted to do so and is fulfilling the mitzvoh properly. Nevertheless, the custom of not doing so probably had a valid reason, which may still be relevant. Therefore, a woman who does not want to tear can rely on the prevalent custom.

There are a number of comparable practices. The Mishna Berura (106:4) rules that women should daven Shacharis and Mincha. However, many women, including the Chofetz Chaim's own wife and daughter, are accustomed to not davening. Many explanations have been offered and surely it is fitting for a Jewish woman to fulfill her tefilloh responsibilities. However, a married woman who wishes to conduct herself according to the prevalent custom (and not daven twice a day regularly) will likely have some leniency applicable to her allowing her to skip the tefillos, whether she is aware of the reason or not.

BookID: 1 Chapter: 561

[1] כתב בקרית ספר להמבי''ט בפ''ט מהלכות אבל דקריעות על החורבן הם מדרבנן ולא מדברי קבלה, ולכן נראה דכל ספיקא הוא להקל.

[2] לכאורה כשרואה מקומות התיפלה שלהם על אזור שעמד בית תפארתנו, הר''ז כרואה חרבן המקדש, אמנם הרואה כותל המערבי מנין לנו שזה כרואה חרבן המקדש והרי אינו רואה שמקום המקדש חרב. אולם מהב''ח סימן תקס''א כתב דיתכן שיפגע אדם בחרבן המקדש לפני שיפגע בחרבן ירושלים אם יגיע לצופים ויראה כותל המערבי ואז פוגע במקדש תחילה עכ''ד. ומבואר דראיית הכותל הוא ראיית המקדש וחרבנה. אלא דלכאורה אי''ז אא''כ כותל המערבי הוא מכותלי העזרה וכדעת הרדב''ז, אבל אי הוי מכותלי הר הבית, אפשר דאי''ז ראיית חרבן המקדש. והרי נהוג עלמא שנדות ובעלי קרי גשים לכותל להתפלל וע''כ ה''ט דקי''ל דהוי מכותלי הר הבית ולא כותלי העזרה. אעפ''כ לא נמנעתי מלהתיר קריעה על ראיית כותל המערבי שכך נהגו גדולי העם, ועוד, שהרואה הכותל גם רואה שמאחוריו לא נבנה המקדש, וגם זה ראייה על החרבן. (וע''ע במו''ז ח''ז סימן רנ''ז דס''ל דנכון לראות קרקע העזרה.)

[3] עיין או''ח תקס''א ס''ב וס''ה.

[4] It is possible that people have become accustomed to doing something inappropriate. Perhaps there was a time when it was necessary not to follow the letter of the law and the inappropriate practice continued even when it was no longer relevant.

[5]בספר מועדים וזמנים ח''ז סימן רנ''ז כתב הרב שטרנבוך ללמד זכות על מנהג העולם להקל בקריעה דרק מי שמצטער ומתרגש על החרבן חייב לקרוע ומסתברא דקבלה היתה ביד אנשי ירושלים דאין ענין לקרוע סתם בלי הרגשה וכאב, ולכן תושבי ירושלים הקילו בזה אף שלא היו שם תוך ל' יום. ואפשר דעפ''ז נהגו להקל בכל ענין הקריעה בזה''ז שאנו אדישים לחרבן השורר ואף יכולים אנשים לרקוד ולשמוח על יד כותל המערבי, ועל מצב כזה אין תקנת קריעה. ומה''ט כתב דאין למחות באלו שאין קורעין אם קרעו לכה''פ פעם ראשונה כשראו המקדש ולא עבר י''ב חדש שלא היו במקום המקדש.

ועיין בדרשות בית ישי סימן י''ג דאבלות על חרבן הבית שונה מאבילות על המת. אבילות של מת פוחתת והולכת ואילו בט''ב האבילות מוסיפה והולכת כיון דעל מת חייב להראות כבוד המת אבל אינו חייב להצטער משא''כ אבילות דט''ב צריכה להיות אבלות וצער אמיתי בפנימיות הלב. והוכיח ד''ז באגדה ובהלכה, ואפשר דעד''ז י''ל דכל קיום מצוה חיוב על חרבן הבית שאין לו צער אמיתי חסר בקיום המצוה.

ומ''מ מסיים דהנוהג לקרוע גם בזה''ז כשלא ראה המקדש ל' יום תע''ב, וכן נהגו המדקדקין.

[6] Often one can see churches and other indications that the Beis Hamikdosh is still in ruins.

[7] The wording of your question sounds like there is an opinion that recommends it is best for a person to avoid this mourning responsibility. I doubt that is really the case. More likely, in response to a question of "How can I get save my clothes from being torn when going to the kosel", the suggestion may have been offered to wear someone elses clothes. Your clothing can become someone elses if you give it to him and he makes a proper kinyan on it. Kinyan hagbo'oh or chalipin would work for a jacket or shirt. Should Reuven (anyone going to the Kosel who does not want to tear his clothes) decide to evade the mitzvoh by doing such a maneuver he could still wear the garment and not be required to tear it since it does not belong to him. After leaving the Kosel if Shimon (the recipient) is willing to return the item back to the original owner, should Reuven accept the garment back the same day he went to the Kosel it would be wisest for Reuven to avoid wearing the garment for the rest of that day. As stated above, he really should tear it once he accepts it from Shimon since one is supposed to tear every garment he wears the day he went to the Kosel. If Shimon is available to the following day to transfer the garment back to Reuven, then the transfer can take place the day after the trip to the Kosel. A proper kinyan (e.g., hagbo'oh or chalipin) should be used to transfer ownership from Shimon back to Reuven.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply