Is it a sign of high-tech spiritual devotion, or just another step in the melding of Israelis and their cell phones?
Reuters reports this week that an enterprising Jerusalem company is offering a text-message service for those who can’t make it to the Western Wall, where Jews traditionally deposit handwritten prayer notes in the ancient crevices. They are called p’takim in Hebrew, but more commonly referred to in Yiddish as kvitlach.
By dialing 1818 (a number drenched in Jewish symbolism), the faithful from all over Israel (no foreign calls, yet) can send their prayers to a fax machine near the Wall, known as the Kotel, where a rabbi delivers them. Entrepreneur Gal Wagner told Reuters he promises the messages will be delivered within 24 hours.
But do prayers count when you literally phone them in?
"There is no replacement for sincere, humble determined prayer, with an open heart and mouth, that is not long distance," says Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox umbrella group. But he added, "the Kotel is a wonderful place to pray, or for someone to pray for you."