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Kotel Rabbi Condemns eBay Sale of “Western Wall Stones”

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Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Kotel HaMaaravi, has filed a complaint with the Jerusalem police about the sale on eBay of stones removed from the Western Wall. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz also issued a warning that anyone who purchased the stones from the Internet auction site would receive a curse, as opposed to a blessing.

The sacred stones are being offered for $4.99 each, or for $9.95 if shipped outside the United States. The seller claims that the stones were not taken directly from the Western Wall itself, but were simply gathered from the Western Wall Plaza. The stones are described as being one square inch in size, and the seller promises to provide an “elegant” box in which to store them. While the seller does not claim that the stones can impart any special powers, he does label them “blessed.”

In a statement issued on Monday, Rabbi Rabinowitz said he became aware of the apparently sacrilegious offer after being contacted by Jews living overseas, who saw the page on the website and deemed it a desecration of a sacred object. The rabbi then contacted eBay and asked its management to remove the offending page.

The act of selling stones from the Western Wall is forbidden by the Torah, as it violates the religious prohibition against me’ilah, or misusing sacred items, Rabbi Rabinowitz explained. “Even if they are merely stones from the area around the Wall that were taken without permission, this constitutes fraud, [to imply] that they have some kind of merit and blessing, which isn’t the case!” Rabinowitz stated. “There’s a curse in this.”

The Western Wall rabbi quoted a story told by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, whose father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, is the leading rabbi of Israel’s Lithuanian Orthodox community. Zilberstein related how a certain woman became ill, and her husband was convinced that placing a small stone from the Kotel under her head would generate her recovery. However, the minute he placed the stone under her head, she died.

In addition to being religiously prohibited and potentially causing a curse on the perpetrator, Rabinowitz wrote, the sale of the Kotel stones violates Israel’s Antiquities Law, thus spurring his complaint to the police.

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