Tonight, it’s the hiloula of Yosef HaTzaddik
Yesterday, I spent a good hour trying to track down tickets for the armored buses that will take thousands of people to the grave, deep in heart of Shechem (modern-day Nablus).
I was too late.
Everything was sold out.
So, I said to my husband: Yalla! If we can’t get to Yosef HaTzaddik, let’s go visit some other tzaddikim today! With Uman still off-limits for who knows how long, I am in URGENT need of some Tzaddik Power at the moment.
Nice man that he is (and assiduous shalom bayit student of the Rav, and of the Rav’s student, Rabbi Shalom Arush) – he agreed. So, we fired up the Jimney, and we headed up north, to where I wanted to go and visit the grave of Devorah the prophetess.
I’ve only ever been at that grave once, and that was 14 years ago.
I don’t have Waze, so before we left I printed off a few Google maps of ‘Tel Qadesh’ and we headed off.
Tel Qadesh is a pretty ancient site, and includes what’s left of a pagan Roman temple (which still looks pretty impressive, even today), plus a few sarcophagii that have been identified – wrongly, as it turned out – as the graves of Devorah HaNavi and Barak ben Avinoam.
We get there, park, and then spend half an hour trying to find those sarcophagii. The trail was beautiful, but was full of towering thorns, and at one point, the thorns got so thick and so densely packed across the path, I started to feel we’d have to give up.
This is turning into a Baal Shem Tov story, I told my husband, as we tried to avoid getting shredded to pieces by bronzed bits of gnarly thorn bush.
What does that mean? he wanted to know.
Um, I guess it means that the thorn bushes don’t really exist. They are just an illusion, sent to deter us from finding the graves of the Tzaddikim.
As we were pondering this, our eyes wondered past the path, and 2 metres up to the side. Where we saw another path that had no weeds or thorns on it.
A minute later, we’d made the detour and were back on our way.
Suddenly, under same ancient pistachio trees, we find the massive stone sarcophagii that Google Maps told us was the burial place of Devorah Hanavia.
Honestly? It was kind of depressing. There were 3-4 ancient stone sarcophagii, in various forms of disintegration, with the heavy stone coverings heaved off and left kind of half-buried in the earth.
One had been propped up on some stones, and I assumed maybe this was Devorah HaNavia. But the decoration on one of the other sarcophagus nearby had me scratching my head. Someone, probably hundreds of years ago already, had chiselled off parts of the carving, but you could still clearly make out the naked figure of a man, holding up part of the stone garland surrounding the sarchophagus.
Really? Devorah HaNevia would be buried next to some obvious pagan / idolworshipping dude?!
The mind kind of boggled.
But, we’d come that far already, so we made an agreement to start doing our daily hour of hitbodedut there, then head off to the car after 20 minutes. I sat next to the massive slab of stone that I thought was Devorah’s, and asked God to just keep me attached to things kosher and tahor (pure), and away from traif and tamei (impure).
These days, it’s really not easy to know which is which.
At minute 18, we got disturbed by a group of chareidi men, in three cars, who disembarked, practically ran around Tel Qadesh in 5 minutes, then all disappeared over the other side of the road, to where someone had splashed blue paint all over a crumbled pile of stones.
As I watched them, I had a flash of insight that that was the real burial place of Devorah HaNevia.
For all it’s terrible and shocking dilapidation (what, we have money for Eurovision Song Contests but no money to restore the ancient grave of a judge of Israel?!?!?), you could still just about make out the corners of a simple sarcophagus, now piled high with rubble and painted holy blue.
So I motioned to my husband, and we followed them over the road.
Bring us closer to the true Tzaddikim, God, not all the fakers and pretend holy people out there.
After a few minutes, we walked back to the car – still both doing hitbodedut – and headed back down the road. For some strange reason, we took a different way back than the way we’d come, and all of a sudden we were in the middle of rolling green hills and fields reminiscent of the English countryside.
Then, we spotted a brown sign for more keverim, off the side of the road, and I motioned for my husband to stop.
We were so glad we did.
There were five graves there altogether, including Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai’s leading pupil; and Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, the fabulously wealthy tanna who learned through the Haggada in Bnei Brak with Rabbi Akiva, and whose beard turned white at 18, so he could assume the mantle of leadership in a dignified manner.
There were also the same chassidim from Devorah HaNevia, which meant that my husband could get minchah in the kever of Rav Elazar ben Arach, while I read the teachings hung up on the tomb of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya.
(I didn’t have a pen, so please forgive me for not bringing the sources here).
One of his statements warned that while Yom Kippur atoned for the sins that occur between man and Makom (i.e. Hashem), it didn’t atone for the sins that occur between man and his fellow man.
The next statement expounded on how whenever we listen to, or believe in, or engage in lashon hara about our fellow Jew – and believe that they are ‘bad’, that they are ‘nasty’, that they are just out to get us, etc – then we deserve to be thrown to the dogs.
I stopped in my tracks.
Just last week, as I wrote about HERE on my own blog, I got surrounded by 3 vicious dogs when I was on my way to visit the tomb of Shimshon HaGibbor, one of which actually bit holes in my dress. Thank God, because otherwise it would have been my leg….
Lashon hara, evil speech, isn’t just spreading gossip and slander about the Tzaddik HaDor, or reading the bhol-chareidi website.
It’s also just believing bad things about our fellow Jew, even in our hearts.
And that is definitely something I’ve still got a lot of work to do, to uproot.
A bit further on, we saw a sign for more Kivrei Tzaddikim, this time behind the moshav of Dalton, and we decided to go for it. The more tzaddikim the merrier! the more ‘Tzaddik Power’ we can tap into right now, the better.
So, by some miracle, we found ourselves at the very top of a mountain where the tanna Rabbi Yehuda ben Teima is buried – who the Rav likes to quote so very often, in his prayers, when he writes:
“Be as brazen as a leopard, light as an eagle, fast as a deer and mighty as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven.”
We trekked up to the top, and recited that saying, so the lips of the tanna would move in the grave.
It was totally awesome. And honestly, I’m not even so sure why.
As we were driving out of Dalton, we stopped to buy a watermelon from one of the farmers. He asked us if we were there for the hiloula.
What hiloula? My husband asked him.
Rabbi Yose HaGalili, came the reply. It starts in about half an hour.
So we got directions, and we managed to fit in one more tanna before we headed off home.
There were tens of men already there, but only one other woman, so I prayed a little outside the small building that houses Rabbi Yose HaGalili’s grave, while my husband went in.
Afterwards, he told me:
There was a feeling of Uman inside. The Tzaddikim’s power gets much stronger on their hiloula, and I could really feel something very special inside there.
Today, it’s the hiloula of Yosef HaTzaddik, one of the holy places that the government wants to give away – again – as part of the ridiculous ‘peace plan’.
The Rav spent so many years opening up these holy graves, including Rabbenu’s in Uman, and encouraging his students to visit them regularly.
They put him in prison now, to try to prevent him – and us – from making a fuss when they try to split this holy sites away from the Jewish people again.
But they aren’t going to win.
The koach of the tzaddikim is being awoken by all our prayers, and all of the Rav’s self-sacrifice, and all of our ongoing heartache and suffering from the current, miserable, situation.
They have their plans, but we have our tzaddikim, both living and dead.
And nothing is stronger than ‘Tzaddik Power’.
You can read more of Rivka’s musings on her blog, here: https://rivkalevy.com/