I picked up a copy of "The Garden of Emuna" by Rabbi Shalom Arush while observing the men pray at the Western (wailing) wall in Jerusalem. Many of the thoughts in the book could just as easily been written by an evangelical Christian writer. Have faith, believe God, repent, study scripture; are all themes in the book.
What is communicated is the need to be in Israel to really live a life of faith. The more orthodox your lifestyle the more easily you can accomplish tikkun (soul correction). According to the author this soul correction can take place over several lives on this earth. He uses the illustration of a baby dying at 3 months to explain why we should not be upset but understand that the soul needed 3 months exactly to accomplish its correction. I am not sure if his deeper beliefs are orthodox or not. The idea of soul correction seems to be a common thread through Kabalistic teachings.
Reading the book and viewing the similar writings of faith without salvation by grace was interesting. Apparently the book has sold over 600,000 copies. The natural questions of how these lives of faith touch God run through my mind. It is still attempting to accomplishing something through our efforts. Watching the men pray, same rocking, same swaying, no individual styles. One man texting. But, in general there was some enthusiasm. Location seems to be very important to the Jews. We visited David’s supposed tomb which was a special location for prayer. When Joan and I walked through the Orthodox section of Jerusalem it seemed that there was some excitement in the air as men rushed to and from as if between university classes. I can see from the book that the highest status for an Orthodox Jew is to be able to devote oneself to the study of the Torah.
While in Jerusalem we took the tunnel under the Arab houses to see the original stones of the Western wall. Always, according to Nola, there are women praying at one particular spot that is believed to be perpendicular to the location of the holy of holies. I read of the young Israeli soldier running through the alleys and houses of East Jerusalem to finally come face to face with the Western Wall. All of the houses have been cleared away to give access to the wall for prayer.
We were able to walk up a walkway overlooking the Western wall right up on the temple mount. We saw the El Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. There is writing on the Dome that I was told says “Allah has no friends”. I did a google search of the phrase and came up with two obscure hits.
Being there and trying to think Jewish after reading this book will be a long time coming.