Undoubtedly, the Kotel is focal point of all spirituality of the world, and dignitaries, politicians and celebrities all embark on pilgrimages to this historic sanctum. President Obama made a trip during his 2008 presidential run. He planned to visit at five in the morning, before the visit would disrupt the Jerusalem hustle bustle. However, this tactic avoided one traffic issue and created another logistical complication in its stead. Dozens of precious Jews – “Vatikin” – come and offer their morning prayers just as the sun pokes its first rays over the wall. This custom has been continued without interruption for generations. Technically speaking, the swath of personnel and these saintly petitioners wouldn’t be able to coexist.
The question was brought before the eminent Halachic decisor of the generation, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l. He ruled that the United states is a kingdom of grace and kindness and for a one-time exception, preference must be given to Obama.
He arrived at dawn and, as is customary, inserted a note of prayer between the ancient cracks. Hours later, a curious local dug deep and found the note. This is what it said, “Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”