There was a Sephardic rabbi named Rabbi Azulai, who originally came from Morocco. When he was a young man, he left his teacher - his teacher was the Ohr HaChaim, who was a master of Kabbalah - and his teacher said: "Okay, you're going to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, and what I'd like you to do - I'm going to give you a little note - I want you to put that note into the Western Wall."
In those days, when they would travel, they would not carry things like valises as much as we would today. Something that's really important, in order not to lose it, they would actually sew it into their clothing. That's exactly what he did - he took this note and sewed it into his jacket.
Surely enough, when he got into Eretz Yisrael, he forgot about the note. It just slipped his mind. He got involved in his life, and for a long period of time, things weren't going so great. He was new here - you know the old expression, "Everyone's uncle here in Jerusalem is a rabbi - we don't need another rabbi." It's not an easy profession here in Jerusalem.
So he was having a hard time. But then when he was down, he realized that he forgot about his teacher's note! He went to that old jacket of his, he opened it up, and he found the note. He took the note, and he brought it down to the Western Wall, and put it into the wall.
The next day, he was sitting in the Beit Midrash, in the synagogue, and someone came over to him and asked him a question in Jewish law. It happened to be the particular part he was reading that day. He knew the answer on the spot. A series of events happened which seemed like luck, but it's too coincidental to think that it's just by chance. His fortune, his situation, changed, and soon he was recognized for who he really was - a great scholar and saint. Until then, he hadn't been the kind to push himself forward, and he never got the recognition he really deserved.
The Rav of the community noticed the change, and he said: "Something's really strange here. Up until now, I happened to admire this Rabbi Azulai, but it just seems strange that all of a sudden his fortune changed." So he came over to him and he asked him, "Come on, tell me - what happened? Was there anything that happened that changed your fortune? Did you do anything spectacular? Anything special?" Rabbi Azulai said, "Nothing really."
He kept hammering on, and pressuring him, so finally Rav Azulai said, "Yes, actually, my teacher gave me this note to put into the Wall, and I recently placed this note into the Wall."
So the Rabbi of the community begged him to go down to the Western wall and see what the note said, because he knew the note was from his teacher. Rav Azulai said, "Okay, fine. We'll go down and take a look." So they looked and found the note, and opened it, and it said: "Dear G-d, please let my student, Azulai, become successful in the Land of Israel."
So that's the story. That's the tradition that we have. The idea is not that we're praying to the wall, and not that there's any sort of superstition, but rather because it's so clear that there's a Divine Presence here, that even writing a prayer on a piece of paper is like praying. It's like a continual prayer for that particular person, for that particular need.
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