Visiting gravesite of Tzaddikim on Erev RH

This article is an excerpt from our Sefer

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Visiting the gravesite of Tzaddikim on Erev Rosh Hashanah:[1]

It is customary of some communities to visit the gravesite [of a Tzaddik[2]] on Erev Rosh Hashanah [after Shacharis[3]] and increase in supplication while there.[4] [The Chabad custom is to visit the gravesite of the Rabbeim on Erev Rosh Hashanah.[5] Those that live nearby go to the Ohel of the [Rebbe] and Rebbe Rayatz in Queens.[6] One is not required to visit a gravesite if it is an area of danger.[7]]

 

Laws and customs associated with visiting a gravesite:

 *Below is provided a short checklist of the laws and customs applicable when visiting a gravesite. For the full digest of details and sources on these laws-please refer to the “Supplement on Visiting a Cemetery” provided in the back of the Sefer!

  •  One is not to eat any food prior to visiting a grave site. Nevertheless one is to be particular to drink before visiting.
  • One who is impure due to nocturnal emission [Keri], or any release of seed, may not visit a cemetery until he immerses in a Mikveh.
  • One who has not visited a cemetery [in thirty days] is to recite the following blessing upon seeing it:

ברוך אתה יי אלקינו מלך העולם אשר יצר אתכם בדין וזן אתכם בדין וכלכל אתכם בדין והמית אתכם בדין ויודע מספר כלכם והוא עתיד להחיותכם ולקיים אתכם בדין: ברוך אתה יי מחייה המתים: [8]

  • One is to distribute charity at the gravesite [prior to Davening there].
  • At the grave of a Tzaddik one is to pray to Hashem to answer his prayers in the merit of the Tzaddikim. Likewise one may ask the Tzaddik to intervene on one’s behalf and pray to G-d for the matters which he needs. It is customary to recite a compilation of Psalm’s and prayers assembled in the booklet entitled “Maanah Lashon” upon visiting a gravesite of a Tzaddik.[9] It is likewise customary to write a Pa”n and read it by the Ohel, tearing it upon concluding its reading and placing it near the burial site. It is best to read the Pan towards the area of the Tzaddiks holy feet. If there are two Tzaddikim buried adjacent to each other then it is to be read in between the graves by the feet.
  • One may not enter a cemetery with Tzitzis that are revealed. Thus one is to stick his Tzitzis into his pants prior to entering into the cemetery.
  • Many have the custom of encircling the grave. The Rebbe would circle the grave one time prior to leaving.
  • As a sign of respect it is accustomed to remove the shoes prior to entering into the Rebbe’s Ohel.
  • Many are accustomed to place a hand on the grave upon praying [see next regarding Hishtatchus]. One is to specifically place his left hand on the grave.
  • One is to wash one’s hands three times inconsecutively after leaving the cemetery. One is to wash his hands prior to entering into a house.
  • Some are accustomed to throw grass or earth behind their back after leaving a cemetery.

 

Sparks of Kabala

The benefits of visiting the resting place of Tzaddikim:

One who prays by the gravesite of a person arouses the soul of that person in heaven to ask for mercy on one’s behalf.[10] The dead are made aware of what occurs below by being visited and are saddened to hear of the suffering of those alive.[11] If not for the prayers of the dead on behalf of the alive the world would be unable to exist.[12] The visiting of a gravesite of a Tzaddik assists one to merit to true repentance and saves him from both physical and spiritual suffering. Likewise the main Tikkun for the sin of Pegam Habris is accomplished through visiting the gravesite of a Tzaddik.[13]

 

The Rebbe’s customs upon visiting the Ohel:[14] :

Non-leather shoes: The Rebbe would wear non-Leather shoes to the Ohel, similar to the shoes worn on Tishe Beav and Yom Kippur.

Knocking on the door: The Rebbe would knock on the door of the Ohel twice prior to entering, symbolizing the asking of permission prior to entering.

Maaneh Lashon: Immediately upon entering the Rebbe would begin saying the Maaneh Lashon.

Lights candle: As soon as the Rebbe reached the part in the Maaneh Lashon of “Hareini Madlik Halamp” the Rebbe would light a candle.

Reading the Pa”n: The Rebbe would read the Pa”n, tearing off any blank area of paper from the Pa”n, and place the Pa”n in the Ohel.

Encircling the Ohel: Upon completing the reading of the Pa”n the Rebbe would encircle the Ohel one time.

Exiting: Upon exiting the Rebbe would stop by the door and recite the Yehi Ratzon which concludes the Maaneh Lashon.

Throwing grass: Prior to entering the car the Rebbe would tear grass from the ground three times and throw it behind him.

 


[1] Rama 581/4

Source in Gemara for visiting graves of Tzaddikim: The Gemara in Taanis 16a states that on certain fast days one is to visit a gravesite. One of the reasons mentioned is in order so they pray on our behalf. Likewise in the Gemara in Sota 34b it states that Kalev Davened by the gravesite of the forefathers in Chevron.

[2] M”A 581/16 “That one is to be Mishtateiach on Kivrei Tzaddikim”; Kitzur SHU”A 128/13

[3] Kitzur SHU”A 128/13

The Chabad custom: In Lubavitch the custom was to visit the gravesite immediately after Selichos, prior to Davening Shacharis. [Reshimos Devarim 326; Otzer Minhagei Chabad 43] However the Rabbeim, would visit the gravesite only after midday. [ibid]

[4] The reason: The burial grounds of a Tzaddik is holy and pure and due to this one’s prayers are accepted above. [Drashos Mahril; Elya Raba 581/39; M”B 581/27; Kaf Hachaim 581/94] The Sefer Chassidim 450 elaborates on the greatness of visiting the grave of one’s forefathers.

Visiting the gravesite of Reshaim: One is not to visit the grave of a Rasha as doing so causes Mazikim [damaging spirits] to attach to him. [Kaf Hachaim 581/90]

[5] This was the vintage custom practiced in Lubavitch, to visit the gravesite of the Rabbeim on Erev Rosh Hashanah. [Koveitz Lubavitch 5/70]  The Rebbe Rashab would travel to the Ohel of his father, the Rebbe Maharash, and the Tzemach Tzedek. The Rebbe Rayatz would visit the Ohel of his father, the Rebbe Rashab, in Rostov. [Otzer Minhagei Chabad 44]

[6] Sefer Haminhagim p. 117 [English] The Rebbe would visit the Ohel of his father in-law the Rebbe Rayatz on Erev Rosh Hashanah after midday. The Rebbe would stay there for many hours until the time of Mincha. While there the Rebbe would read thousands of names that he received from people all over the world to arouse mercy for them on their behalf. [Otzer Minhagei Chabad 47-48]

[7] Drashos Mahril; Elya Raba 581/39; Kaf Hachaim 581/94

[8] The following additional Nussach is added in Maaneh Lashon:

אתה גיבור לעולם אדני, מחיה מתים אתה, רב להושיע מכלכל חיים בחסד מחיה מתים ברחמים רבים, סומך נופלים, ורופא חולים, ומתיר אסורים, ומקים אמונתו לישני עפר. מי כמוך בעל גבורות ומי דומה לך, מלך ממית ומחייה ומצמיח ישועה: ונאמן אתה להחיות מתים.

 [9] One can download a PDF of the Chabad Maaneh Lashon [Kehos 2000] at: [10] Shlah brought in Alef Lamagen 581/113

 [11] Maharahm Shick 293; Alef Lamagen ibid

 [12] Midrash Raba Vayikra 36/3; See Minchas Elazar 1/68

 [13] Alef Lamagen 581/110

 [14] Compiled based on the accounts of the Rebbe’s secretaries; Published in Hiskashrus 884

 

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