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Av 5763 – Tearing Kriah at the Kosel

1 Menachem Av, 5763

L’chvod HaRav,

What is the halacha l’maaseh for tearing kriah in Yerushalayim when you haven’t been there in a long time? I’ve heard it’s best to go to somewhere overlooking both the Har HaBayis, and the Kotel, but if you’re not going to, what should be done? Are you supposed to do it when you enter the Old City, or when you see the walls of the Old City, or when you approach the Kotel? What exactly are you supposed to recite? How should kriah be done? Thank you very much.

Name & Seminary Withheld

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Dear JemSem Reader,

Thank you for an interesting and important question. The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 561:2) states, “When someone seen Yerushalayim in its destruction, they should say ‘Tzion has become a desolate desert’, and when they see the Bais HaMikdash, they should say ‘Our house of holiness and glory, in which our forefathers sang praise to you, has been burnt, and all that we hold dear and precious has been destroyed’, and they should tear (their clothing).” The Be’er Heitev and the Mishna Berura both quote the Bais Yosef as saying that the criteria for Yerushalayim being considered in a state of destruction is that non-Jews have control over it, in which case it is considered in a state of destruction even if Jews live there. Rav Moshe Feinstein Zazta”l, in Iggros Moshe (Orach Chaim Vol. 4, Siman 70:11) states that therefore today a person is not obligated to tear their clothing when seeing Yerushalayim, since through the kindness of Hashem Yisborach it has been under Jewish control since 1967, and has “been rebuilt in glory”. However, when seeing the Kosel or the actual Har Habayis, a person is still obligated to tear Kriah on their clothing. The Har HaBayis is considered to be in a state of destruction until the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt.

One way of doing this would be to go to a place from which you can see into the Har HaBayis, and recite the above statement (“Our house etc.”- it can be said in in either Hebrew or any language you understand. I will quote the Hebrew text below for your convenience), and tear your top garment. A special shirt or blouse may be worn on top of your clothing for this purpose. If this is not practical, you can do this when you first see the Kosel. In my experience, it has not been the best idea to do this when you are approaching the Kosel in public, for a number of reasons. The best way is to go to a secluded area overlooking the Kosel Plaza, and tear Kriah there. If you are coming through the Jewish Quarter (Rova HaYehudi), there is a very good spot just off of Rechov Misgav Ladach. Right before you start going down the Kosel steps (next to Yeshivat HaKotel), make a left and go down Rechov Misgav Ladach almost until the end. You will see the overlook on your right side.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Hebrew text to be recited when tearing Kriah upon seeing the Kosel or Har HaBayis:

“Beis Kodsheinu V’Tifarteinu Asher Hillelucha Bo Avoseinu Haya L’Sreifas Aish, V’Chol Machmadeinu Haya L’Charava”.