MaimonidesThe prominent medieval Jewish commentator and leader Maimonides (1135-1204) wrote in a letter in 1165 that he “entered the Great and Holy House [and] prayed there.”

On the night of the first day [Sunday] of the week, the fourteenth day of the month of Iyar, I set off to sea [from North Africa]. On Shabbat, on the tenth of the month of Iyar, in the year 4925 since the time of creation, we were confronted with great waves which nearly drowned us all, as a violent storm arose at sea. I took upon myself a vow that each year I would fast a complete public fast to commemorate these two perilous days of the storm, as would all the members of my household. I am instructing my children to likewise do so, until the end of time, and to give charity, according to their ability.

On this day of my vow, the tenth day of Iyar, I will sit alone, and greet no one, engaging only in prayer and deep thought. Just as I spent that day at sea alone with the Holy Blessed One, so shall I be alone on this day, unless compelled to speak to others.

On the first day [Sunday] of the month, the third day of the month of Sivan, I left the ship in peace at the port of Acco, having been delivered from destruction and arrived in the land of Israel. I made a vow that this would henceforth be a day of joy and happiness, in which I would enjoy a festive meal and give charitable gifts to the poor, as would my household, until the end of time.

On the third day [Tuesday] of the week, the fourth day of the month of Marcheshvan, in the year 4926 from the time of creation. I left Acco and set out for Jerusalem, encountering many dangers along the way. I entered the “Great and Holy House” and prayed there, in the fifth day [Thursday] of the week, the sixth of the month of Marchesvan.
On the first day [Sunday] of the following week, the ninth of the month, I left Jerusalem and set out for Hevron, to visit the graves of our forefathers in the cave of the Machpelah. On that day I stood and prayed at the cave – may G-d be praised for everything! These two days, the sixth and the ninth of the month of Marcheshvan, I vowed will be for me like festival days, filled with prayer and happiness, food and drink! May G-d help me in all my endeavors and make true for me the verse, “My vows I will pay unto the L-rd” – amen!

Just as I merited being able to pray in its [the Holy Temple] ruins, may I soon see, myself and all Israel, its comfort [rebuilding], speedily – amen!

Moshe ben Maimon

Source: F.M. Loewenberg. Middle East Quarterly. Summer 2013, pp. 37-48.

See also: The Heart of Maimonides, Meir Soloveichik (podcast)