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Davening At Gravesites

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 16/6/2019

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Davening At Gravesites

The Gemara[1] relates that Reish Lakish would mark the boundaries of where the Rabbis were buried. The simple meaning Rashi explains is that so Kohanim would not inadvertently walk over them thereby contracting Tumah.[2] R’ Yaakov Emden[3] (1697-1776) explains that Reish Lakish identified those graves so that people could daven by the graves of Tzadikim.


We find this idea in our Parsha by Kalev. To be saved from being persuaded by the עצת מרגלים; designs of the Megalim, Kalev davened over the קברי אבות; graves of the patriarchs.[4] Indeed, the Baal Haturim points out the end letters of חמת ויעלו בנגב ויבא;[5] they ascended in the south and he arrived at Chevron, spell אבות


Davening by their graves awakens the Tzadikim buried there so that they can be a good advocate for us. The place where Tzadikim are buried is holy and pure and the Tefila is accepted there more.[6] The חכמי התורה are themselves a dwelling for the Shechina even after their death as their burial place is fitting to find שפע; bounty, there. It is befitting for one to prostrate himself over the graves of Tzadikim and daven there because the Tefila is more acceptable there.[7] One should be careful, though, not to daven to the Tzadikim rather request from Hashem that he should have mercy in the merit of the Tzadikim buried there.[8]


The Tzadikim buried there actually are alive. They see and hear everything.[9] For many years, the Chida wondered about the Minhag of davening by קברי צדיקים until he found the Sefer Chasidim that writes- Rebbe appeared in בגדי חמודות; finery that he would wear on Shabbos and not his shrouds after he was dead and would recite Kidush for his family. This is because even after Tzadikim die they are called alive.[10]

R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Baba Metzia 85b

[2] In this way, Rashi explains the righteous wouldn’t be a cause of harm to others (s.v. מציין). This seems difficult to grasp since for Kohanim any grave would be a problem, not just that of Tzadikim. R’ Yaakov Emden therefore offers his explanation.

[3] He is also known as the יעבץ; Yaavetz- an acronym for יעקב בן צבי. He authored the Mor Uktzia on Shulchan Aruch as well as his acclaimed commentary on the Siddur among other Sefarim. His father was the famous Chochom Tzvi.

[4] Bamidbar 13:22, Rashi, Sota 34b. See Zohar, Acharei Mos 70b-71b.

[5] Bamidbar 13:21,22 

[6] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:13, Mishna Brura 581:27, Be’er Hataiv 581:17  

[7] Drashos Haran, Drush 7. See Zohar 3:70.

[8] See the Bach in Yoreh Deah, end of 217, s.v. מי. The אלף המגן writes (on the Mateh Efraim, ס"ק 110) as well as the Kaf Hachaim (581:92) that one should say before he davens there יהי רצון...פלוני הקבור פה בכבוד וזכותו יעמוד לי.

[9] Hilula Drashbi, pg 7

[10] Brachos 18a. Chida in Shem Hagdolim, Maareches Gedolim, א, רבינו אליעזר בר נתן, s.v. ומ"מ. Gilyon Hashas to Kesubos 103a quotes the Sefer Chasidim תתשכט. Also see קנ as well as שו"ת מנחת אלעזר 1:68. 

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