HaBucher HaChushev Ploni ben Nistar here for shtick, news and fun. You know, a Chassidic life isn't as boring and heavy as most people might think! ;-)
מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד
Don't hesitate to send me an 'ask' if you have any questions. I don't bite at the first time.
DISCLAIMER: Questions on Jewish Law (Halacha), I will try to answer to the best of my ability. Note that my understanding may not be accurate nor be the final word on asked topic. One should consult an Orthodox Rabbi before drawing any conclusions.
I’m sure bennistar is better informed on the topic than I am.
Standing right before Rosh Chodesh Elul this is a very actual question to ask. It is a question many people annually ask around this time of the year. Often, just like here on Tumblr, after seeing/hearing of all the Breslover chassidim traveling to Uman.
The accusations are very clear and very serious: “It is Avodoh Zorah (idolatry).”
But he [the tzadik] is dead. Nothing much a dead man can do for you.
“Much of the activities at these cemeteries are contrary to Torah Law. There is no doubt that the Torah strongly prohibits speaking to the dead. Consultation with the dead is repeatedly and strictly forbidden and its practitioners, it says, are to be executed by stoning. For example:
- Leviticus/Vayikra 19:31. Turn you not unto the ghosts nor unto familiar spirits; seek them not out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your G-d.
- Leviticus/Vayikra 20:6: And the soul that turneth unto the ghosts and unto the familiar spirits, to go astray after them; I will even set My face against that soul, and I will cut him off from among his people.
- Deut/Devorim 18:10/11: There should not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to consult a ghost or a familiar spirit or a necromancer.”
But speaking to the dead, asking for the dead’s intervention is, as I have shown, in violation of Torah commands. Many consider such practice idolatrous.”
It may be “tradition”, but lets remember avodah zarah means strange worship. This is indeed strange. If they want a blessing, they should ask Hashem directly. There is no need for an intercession.
Of course the readers of this blog will know I don’t hold by these accusations. Davening at Kivrei Tzadikim is a great and important thing to do. But let us first take a look at the Halacha before I get to the deeper meaning of this practice.
First of all. We are not beseeching any spirits/ghosts/etc. The intention is never to pray to the deceased. Since we’re talking about Halacha I’ll start off with the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch.
It says in דיני חודש אלול, קכח סימן יג:
נוהגין לילך בערב ראש השנה אחר תפלת שחרית לבית הקברות להשתטח על קברי הצדיקים ונותנים שם צדקה לעניים ומרבים תחנונים
It is the custom on Erev Rosh Hashana, after shacharis, to go to the Beis Hakvures and daven at the graves of tzadikim. We give tzedakah there for the poor and [say] many requests.
לעורר את הצדיקים הקדושים אשר בארץ המה שימליצו טוב בעדנו ביום הדין וגם מחמת שהוא מקום קבורת הצדיקים המקום הוא קדוש וטהור והתפלה מקובלת שם ביותר בהיותה על אדמת קודש ויעשה הקדוש ברוך בוא חסד בזכות הצדיקים
to arouse the holy tzadikim who are buried there to be a melitz yosher for us on the Yom HaDin. Also, since this is the burial place of tzadikim, the place is holy and pure, and tefilos [that are said there] are received more favorably because [they were said] on holy ground. HaKodosh Boruch Hu will deal graciously [with us] in the zchus of the tzadikim.
אבל אל ישים מגמתו נגד המתים השוכנים שם כי קרוב הדבר שיהיה בכלל ודורש אל המתים אך יבקש מהשם יתברך שירחם עליו בזכות הצדיקים שוכני עפר
But one should not direct his tefilos to the dead who are buried there, since [doing] so is close to that [forbidding] ”beeseching the dead”. Instead, one should ask Hashem Yisborach to have mercy on him in the zchus of the tzaddikim who lie in the dust.
Now let us take a look at the gemorah. We see in Taanis 16a two explanations why to go to batei kevuros.
The Torah is very clear on forbidden us to pray to, or consult with, the dead. And the above mentioned citation from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch was also very clear. Furthermore, the Maharam Shik also writes it is absolutely forbidden for a Jew to have an ‘intermediary’ between himself and Hashem. After all, that is one of the major issues Judaism has with Xianity. So how can we claim ‘intermediaries’ ourselves?
However, the Maharim Shik in the Sheilos U’Tshuvos on Orach Chayim in סימן רצב writes b’shem his rebbi, the holy Chasam Sofer, that when a Jew asks another Jew to daven for him and tells him what troubles him the second Jew feels his pain as well. This is allowed. Klal Yisroel is one. We are likened to being part of one body. A body that is Am Yisroel. If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. If one Yid is in pain, we are all in pain.
Explains the Maharim Shik further (he brings proof from the gemorah and Zohar HaKodosh) that the neshomas of tzadikim are still very connected to their talmidim and loved ones. They still care for them, perhaps even more than before now that they’re in the Olam HaEmmes. Therefore, we can ask them to daven for us by the Kisei Hakovod. This doesn’t mean we are praying to them.
Again, someone who is placing his trust in the deceised tzadik and davens to him, with the actual kavana of praying to him, is obviously violating the Torah prohibition of “You shall not recognize the gods of others in my presence” and It may even be a violation of an issur d’oraisa of “one who consults the dead”.
So, what do we do? We hold that it means that it is permitted to speak directly to the tzadikim to ask them to daven to Hashem on our behalf like it says in the Gemorah and Shulchan Oruch. This is similar to for instance “Machnisei Rachamim” or other tefilos that we find throughout all of the Selichos which are addressed to the malachim. Even though the malachim - who are merely G-d’s messengers - do not posses the ability to do anything of their own accord, still we may ask them to ‘deliver’ our tefilos to Hashem. So, too, it is permitted to address the dead directly and ask them to intercede on our behalf at the Kisei Hakovod.
Many poskim rule that it is permitted to talk to the dead (or to angels) to intercede on our behalf. The Minchas Elazar (8:53) even brings in a huge responsa loads of sources throughout the Talmud and Zohar that not only is this permitted but it is a mitzvah to do so!
But again. And I cannot stress this enough: all poskim agree that it is strictly forbidden to daven directly to a dead person [or to angels] so that they should help us. We can only ask them to act as our emissaries to Hashem, so that Hashem will look favorably and mercifully upon us.
We also see that Jew have gone to kivrei tzadikim ever since we can remember. The first mention is when Yaakov tells Yosef why he did not bury Rochel Imeinu in the Maaras HaMachpela. Rashi says:
אבל דע לך שעל פי הדבור קברתיה שם שתהא לעזרה לבניה כשיגלה אותם נבוזראדן, והיו עוברים דרך שם, יצאת רחל על קברה ובוכה ומבקשת עליהם רחמים, שנאמר (ירמיה לא יד) קול ברמה נשמע רחל מבכה על בניה וגו’, והקב”ה משיבה (ירמיה לא טו) יש שכר לפעולתך נאם ה’ ושבו בנים לגבולם.
"Know it was not my choice to bury Rochel there, It was the choice of Hakodosh Boruch Hu Himself. There will come a time when my children will be sent into golus. At that time, they will stop by your mother’s grave, their mother’s grave, and be mispalel for her to intercede on their behalf. When Nebuzaradan exiles them (the Israelites), and they pass by there, Then, Rochel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy for them and and they will be comforted. Therefore, it was necessary that I bury her there.”
We also see later, as the gemorah says in Sotah 13 that Kalev went to visit the Maaras HaMachpela to ask the Avos to be a melitz yosher for him; that he be saved from the other meraglim. “אבותי בקשו עלי רחמים” he said, “My fathers, plead for mercy for me”.
Also we see a daf later (sotah 14) we don’t know where Moshe Rabbeinu is buried because if we knew, Yidden would come to his tziyun and ask him to plead with the Ribon Shel Olam to annul all the gezeiros; and he would’ve succeeded…
From all of this we see that we’re allowed to go to Kivrei Tzadikim. Not just that we’re allowed to; but that it’s even a very good thing to do.
Other than these sources there are many testimonies of tzadikim throughout history who have told their students to come and pray at their graves after their death. Reb Nachman of Breslev was only one of the many who said so.
The Chasam Sofer said that before R’ Mordechai Bennet died he said, “If the community needs anything after I am gone, they should come to pray at my grave”. When commenting about the status of a Beis Hakevuros the Chasam Sofer said, "It is likened to a shul, since the living often pray there."
We also know that when Rav Yonasan Eibeschitz was appointed Av Beis Din of Metz, he arrived much later than the community in Metz had expected. Since he expected that his new community would be waiting for him, he sent a message to Metz to explain himself. "I have a chovas gavrah to go to Eibeschitz in distant Silesia to prostrate myself at the graves of my forefathers. They will surely petition Hashem for mercy on my behalf".
To visit Kivrei Tzadkim with the right intent is a tremendous way for doing teshuva. To explain this I’ll finish this post with an excerpt of Der Mittele Rebbe’s, the second Lubavitcher rebbe zt”l, kuntres Hahishtachus (it’s a direct copy/paste since I’m too lazy to translate myself):
I listened to the Gedolei YIsroel. As much as I wanted to… I didn’t make any tiyulim this bein hazmanim; instead I sat and learned in Beis Medresh most of the day. My schedule was a bit more relaxed than normal but that too was per the instructions of the Moetzas Gedolei Yisroel.
Basically almost right before Tisha B’Av the hazmunes (invitations) for chassenes started piling up again with the first chassene having been two days after Tisha B’Av. Ever since I’ve had at least one chassene I had to go to every week.
And now, even though I couldn’t go to London for bein hazmanim it seems the Londoner Tambler chassidim do want their Rebbe to come for a chassene.
A ticket was booked and paid for the Rebbe to come and honor the Baalei Simche with his presence. Tomorrow night I have a chassene to attend in Bnei Brak and the next morning I will be leaving Yerushalayim again for the airport.
The Tambler Rebbe will IY”H arrive in London Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul and will fly out back to Eretz Yisroel 9 Elul. At the airport in London he will be picked up by his Gabbe and Baal Achsanye. From there they will go straight to the tziyun of the Shotzer Rebbe zt”l to be mispalel for the matzev in Eretz Yisroel, his loved ones and chassidim. Later during his stay the Rebbe will attend the simche of one of his chassidim.
Elul (אלול) is Roshei Teivos אני לדודי ודודי לי (I am my beloved and my beloved is mine). May this be a month of teshuva and coming closer to our Father in Heaven who is saying these words over and over again in this month. May it be a month only of simches for Klal Yisroel!
(dancing at mitzvah tantz)
R’ Yehoshua Rokeach zt”l, the fourth Belzer Rebbe writes the following on this week’s parsha of novi sheker, false prophet, (parshas Re’eh):
לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶל דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא.
You shall not listen to the words of that [false] prophet.
אַחֲרֵי ה’ אֱלֹקיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֹתוֹ תִירָאוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ וְאֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹדוּ וּבוֹ תִדְבָּקוּן:
You shall follow Hashem, your G-d, fear Him, keep His commandments, listen to his His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him.
וְהַנָּבִיא הַהוּא… יוּמָת
And that prophet … shall die
Why does the Torah stick the long exhortation to follow Hashem, observe mitzvos, emulate Hashem’s middos, etc in the middle of the parsha, in between telling us not to listen to the novi sheker and the novi sheker’s punishment? Why not complete the topic of novi sheker and then come back to what we should be doing instead of listening to false prophets?
The novi sheker is bound to cause confusion, to damage people’s committment, to have a negative effect on the community. One might think that there could not be a worse time to start a new Torah endeavor than in the middle of dealing with such a terrible situation. Let the tzarah (suffering) pass and then we can get to other things!
The social obligations are back! The truth is it’s been back since after Tisha B’Av but now with the nearing end of Bein Hazmanim (or whatever was left of it) the simches are increasing more and more.
Oood Yishomo B’orei Yehudaaa!
(my wedding invitations for the upcoming few weeks.. and they keep coming)