Sunday, Jan 16, 2022

Taanis 16: “My Fathers, Plead for Mercy…”

On this daf, we find that when they needed rain, people would go to the cemetery so that the deceased would pray for mercy.

It is an ancient Jewish tradition to visit the graves of tzaddikim or of one’s ancestors. The Chidah records that as a very young man, he accompanied his rebbi, the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, to the graves of tzaddikim in Yerushalayim.

When Rav Yonasan Eibschitz was appointed av bais din of Metz, he arrived much later than the community in Metz had anticipated. Since he expected that his knew community would be waiting for him, he sent a message to Metz to explain his tardiness. “I have a chovas gavrah, a personal duty, to go to Eibschitz in distant Silesia to prostrate myself at the graves of my forefathers. They will surely petition Hashem for mercy on my behalf.”

The Chasam Sofer recounted that before Rav 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 cemetery, the Chasam Sofer remarked, “It is likened to a shul, since the living often pray there.”

The Maharil writes that although the custom is to pray at the holy graves of tzaddikim, one must be very careful not to place his trust in the dead. One should petition Hashem in the merit of the departed righteous. Although this is brought in the Chayei Adam and the Mishnah Berurah, when someone once asked Rav Shmuel Hominer regarding this issue, he said, “I never understood this psak. In Sotah 34 it says clearly that Kalev went to the graves of the avos and said to them, ‘My fathers! Plead for mercy from on High that I be saved from the wicked advice of the meraglim!’” Rav Hominer concluded, “We see from here that one may even ask the tzaddik to daven on his behalf, as Kalev did. Surely if there was anything improper about this, the Gemara would have mentioned it” (Eved Hamelech)

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