A tzaddik is surrounded by the air of Gan Eden, so when you stand within daled amos (about six feet) of his tziyun, your tefillos go into the air of Gan Eden
Everyone in the city of Nizhyn, Ukraine, knew that if you needed a yeshuah, you went to the tziyun (gravesite) of the holy Rav Dov Ber of Lubavitch, son of the Baal HaTanya, to pray.
Everyone, that is, except for one of the wealthiest men in town. This man did not believe the miraculous tales of salvation that people related. Instead, he openly mocked them.
One day, this man’s young daughter became very sick. The greatest specialists could not find a cure. The gvir’s wife beseeched her husband to go and daven at the holy gravesite. “People come from far and wide to this tziyun, and we live so near. Why shouldn’t we try? Our daughter’s on her deathbed!”
But the stubborn man refused. “What? Me? The one who’s always laughing at these stupid believers? Definitely not!”
The child’s condition continued to deteriorate. She was hovering between life and death.
During that time, the wealthy man was called away on urgent business matters. Seizing the opportunity, his wife hastily hired a non-Jewish wagon driver and paid him to travel to a talmid chacham with instructions to buy candles, light them at the tziyun, and pray for her daughter’s recovery. After davening fervently, the talmid chacham went to check if there was any improvement in the girl’s condition. To his great joy, the child was already sitting up, talking, eating, and feeling much better.
A few days later, the gvir returned home. How happy he was to find his daughter running around! “You see!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “She recovered! Good thing I didn’t listen to you, otherwise you’d attribute her recovery to davening at the tziyun!”
His wife couldn’t contain herself and related all that had happened. Only after hearing the story confirmed by the talmid chacham and the driver, did the disbelieving father grudgingly acknowledged the tzaddik’s power.
Roots in the Torah
Why have so many Yidden throughout the generations gone to daven at the gravesites of tzaddikim? When did it all start?
The Torah records that Yaakov Avinu buried his wife Rachel on the way to Beis Lechem, and not in Chevron, so that years later when the Yidden would be exiled from Eretz Yisrael, they could daven at her gravesite.
Additionally, the Gemara (Sotah) relates that Kaleiv ben Yefuneh, one of the Meraglim sent to spy out the Land, went to Mearas Hamachpeilah in Chevron to daven to be protected from the Meraglim’s influence.
So we see that going to kivrei tzaddikim is a custom mentioned in the holy Torah.
Even after Their Deaths
But how can a tzaddik who is not alive anymore help us?
We all know that a tzaddik’s brachah or tefillah has tremendous power, but did you know that his power is even greater after his death? Freed from his physical limitations, a tzaddik can help us even more than when he was alive!
The Zohar explains that when there’s pain in the world, and people daven at kivrei tzaddikim, the tzaddikim turn to our Avos and Imahos in Chevron, and then all of them daven to Hashem to annul bad decrees and Hashem listens and has mercy on Klal Yisrael.
In fact, one of the reasons Hashem concealed Moshe Rabbeinu’s burial place from us is because He didn’t want us davening there after the Churban Beis Hamikdash, as his tefillos would have the power to annul the galus!
After a tzaddik’s passing, his nefesh (part of his neshamah) remains over his kever, which is why his tziyun is a holy site. In fact, when the Ari Hakadosh came to Tzfas, he was able to identify many of the previously unknown burial sites of famous tzaddikim by sensing the presence of each nefesh hovering over each place.
Interestingly, we do not visit kivrei tzaddikim (or any kever) on Shabbos, Yom Tov, or Rosh Chodesh, because then the nefesh of the tzaddik is not there; it ascends into higher worlds.
A tzaddik is surrounded by the air of Gan Eden, so when you stand within daled amos (about six feet) of his tziyun, your tefillos go into the air of Gan Eden. When the tzaddik has an aliyah, such as on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, all the tefillos rise with him.
Imagine what an impression it leaves on your neshamah to be enveloped with air from Gan Eden! Rav Dovid Shputz a”h, a Belzer chassid, related an interesting story about this. As a bochur, he longed to go to the tziyun of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk. In Belz, bochurim weren’t encouraged to make special trips to kevarim, so he planned a stop in Lizhensk on his way from his home in Vienna to the shtetl of Belz for Rosh Hashanah. He reached Lizhensk on a Friday morning, and from there he traveled straight to Belz, arriving close to the start of Shabbos. He raced off to the beis medrash without saying a word to anyone. Later, the gabbai, Rav Nachman Hersh, cornered him.
“Shalom aleichem, bochur, did you just come from Lizhensk?”
A surprised Dovid asked how he knew. It turned out that earlier when he’d greeted the Rebbe, Rav Aharon ztz”l, the Rebbe had commented, “This bochur smells of Lizhensk….”
Famous Tziyunim around the World
There are many holy kivrei tzaddikim all over the world. These are a few of the oft-visited ones:
In Europe and the Ukraine, there are dozens of holy gravesites and in recent years, it’s become more and more popular to visit these old kevarim. Nowadays there are organized trips, offering various routes and stops in Europe, Russia, and the Ukraine.
The Baal Shem Tov
The Baal Shem Tov’s tziyun in Mezhibuzh attracts many, especially on Shavuos, the day of his yahrtzeit. What a special feeling it must be to stand near the holy tziyun of the founder of chassidus!
Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk
Lizhensk has been an oft-visited kever for many generations. Of course, it is busiest on 21 Adar, the yahrtzeit of Rav Elimelech, when thousands of mispallelim from all over the world come to pour their hearts out at the tziyun.
Many tales of salvation are related by people who davened at this site. In Eretz Yisrael, there is a frum man named Noam Elimelech, which is also the name of the sefer that Rav Elimelech wrote. How did he get his name?
Many years ago, his non-religious parents were on a tour of Auschwitz, where they met a group of frum Jews. His father began to chat with some of the men, and during their conversation, he revealed that he was childless. “Why don’t you visit the kever of Rebbe Elimelech?” someone suggested. “Go, light a candle, pray, and promise to give a name after him, and hopefully your prayers will be answered.”
The couple followed this advice and miraculously, a year later they had a baby boy. The father wanted to give the name Elimelech, but the mother refused, claiming it sounded “too chareidi.” She was annoyed at her husband for promising to give the name without her permission.
They asked a rav what to do. The rav explained that it wasn’t so simple not to keep a promise. “What name were you thinking of giving?” he asked the wife. “Noam,” she said. “In that case, call him Noam Elimelech,” the rav exclaimed. “It’s not usually advisable to add another name to a tzaddik’s name, but as Noam Elimelech was the name of his sefer, it’s okay.”
When Noam Elimelech became a teenager, he became increasingly interested in Yiddishkeit, until he became a complete baal teshuvah. He often tells his story and attributes the awakening of his neshamah to the holy Rebbe for whom he is named.
Rebbe Shaya’le of Kerestir
Another popular tziyun is that of Rav Shaya’le of Kerestir, Hungary. He helped hundreds of Yidden in his lifetime, through his miracles and kemeyos (amulets), as well as materially, establishing huge institutions of tzedakah and chesed to help the poor. Ever since his passing almost a hundred years ago, his tziyun attracts many, especially in recent years, and the hachnassas orchim that has been set up, offering free meals to all visitors, perpetuates the chesed that Rav Shaya’le was so well known for.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
And then there’s Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s tziyun in Uman. It attracts many visitors, especially on Rosh Hashanah, when tens of thousands from around the world come together to daven at his grave, relying on his promise that he would intercede on the behalf of anyone who davened at his kever on Rosh Hashanah.
Of course, there are also many special kevarim in the USA.
The Satmar Rebbe
The tziyun of the Satmar rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, draws many visitors, with tens of thousands visiting each year on his yahrtzeit on 26 Av. He is buried in Kiryas Yoel in Monroe, the town that he founded in the early 1970s.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe
The burial site of the last two Lubavitcher Rebbes, located in Queens, NY, could probably be named, “The tziyun that never sleeps.” With over 1,000 written petitions being faxed or emailed daily, and some 400,000 visitors a year, the Ohel, as it is known in Chabad, is open 24 hours a day. The nearby visitors’ center is well-equipped, providing seating areas and writing materials, refreshments, mikvaos for men who wish to immerse before approaching the tziyun, as well as guest rooms where one can stay, free of charge, for several days at a time. The center is stocked with seforim, siddurim, and Tehillims, and a huge selection of slippers and Crocs in all sizes. It is customary not to wear leather footwear when entering the Ohel, so you can either bring your own slippers with you or pick up a pair at the visitors’ center.
Nothing beats Eretz Yisrael for the sheer number of holy kevarim (actually, nothing beats Eretz Yisrael in any way!). Mearas Hamachpeilah, Kever Rachel, the kevarim of the Shevatim, Neviim, Tannaim, Amoraim, Rishonim, Acharonim, chassidish, Sephardic, and litvishe gedolim; you name it, Eretz Yisrael’s got it.
The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh in Har Hazeisim, the Ari Hakadosh in Tzfas, and the Belzer Rav in Har Hamenuchos are some of the tzaddikim whose kevarim are often visited.
Most Popular Tziyun in the World
The tziyun that attracts the most visitors in the world in one single day is that of the Tanna Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the monumental Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, in Meron. On any given day, Meron is swarming with people, but on Lag Ba’omer it is transformed. Half a million Yidden from all walks of life make their way to Meron, with thousands flying in from abroad. The excitement and fervor is palpable, with huge crowds dancing joyously to the lively music outside the tziyun, and others crying and davening emotionally inside. Free hot meals and snacks are offered to all, and wine, grape juice, and cold drinks flow freely, donated by many who promised “chai rotel” (54 liters of liquid refreshment) as a segulah for a yeshuah. Several bonfires are lit at different times of the day by various chassidish rebbes, and there are lots of cute little boys who receive their first “chalakah” (haircut) on this day. Many, many stories of personal salvation have been attributed to davening at Rashbi’s tziyun, and there are countless boys and men named Shimon after him.
Klal Yisrael has been flocking to Rabi Shimon’s tziyun for hundreds and hundreds of years. This year, however, due to the current coronavirus pandemic, Meron will look very different on Lag Ba’omer. Barring a miracle, Meron will be closed, with only a few small groups of people allowed to enter.
Oy, Rabi Shimon! Chazal say, “It is worthwhile to rely on Rabi Shimon in times of difficulty.” Rabi Shimon, we are relying on you in this tremendously difficult time! Surely this year you will miss the hundreds of thousands of heartfelt tefillos usually recited at your tziyun, the candles and bonfires lit in your memory, as well as the joyful dancing. And just as in your lifetime, a rainbow never appeared in the sky, because you were a perfect tzaddik who protected his generation, so too, storm the Heavens now for our generation as well! Together with the Avos and Imahos, make your way to the Kisei Hakavod and beg Hashem to send us the Geulah Sheleimah already, when all tzaddikim, as well as the rest of Klal Yisrael, will rise from their graves and greet Mashiach with joy.
* * *
- • Without the tefillos of tzaddikim, the world would not exist for a single moment (Zohar).
- • Rav Mendel of Rimanov ztz”l said that one who davens at the tziyun of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk will not die without doing teshuvah.
- • According to Breslov tradition, taking a boy to Rebbe Nachman’s tziyun before he turns seven will protect him from sin.
- • Looking for a shidduch? Try davening at the tziyun of Rav Yonason ben Uziel in Amuka, an auspicious place to daven for finding one’s zivug.
- • Sorcerers (people who practice witchcraft, which is forbidden by halachah) have no power over the bodies of tzaddikim.
- • Since the Churban Beis Hamikdash, the Shechinah rests on kivrei tzaddikim (Vilna Gaon in his commentary on Tikunei Zohar).
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 809)
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