Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile
10 Tammuz, 5760 / July 13, 2000

NOTE: As the date above indicates, this was written several months before the desecration of the Tomb of Joseph in Sh'chem and before the tomb was turned into a mosque. This desecration occurred during the week of Succot. I was physically sick the entirety of the week with no prior symptoms. This led me to wonder whether the concept of re-interment of the bones of the tzaddikim described below, served some purpose other than a final resting place for the bones of the righteous.  Might not the tzaddikim also petition Hashem from the World to Come, about the current trouble? (ex: Rachel's cries from the World to Come in Jeremiah 31:15-18) Also, does the tikkun (repair) of the breach between the children of Joseph and Judah somehow involve the bones of Joseph?  This article also led to my pilgrimages with the Rebbe Shani Dor in 2000 and 2001 to various tombs of the tzaddikim, with the intent to petition Hashem there to revive the Jerusalem Sanhedrin Court.  Only this court has the authority to "review Halachah" that appears discriminatory against Joes.  MbY

NOTE:  Abbreviations of sources in the article below are from the Soncino Talmud, Encyclopedia Judaica and Ginzburg's Legends of the Jews.


(& the re-interment of the Tzaddikim):

In support of the Return of the House of Joseph and tikkun at the tombs

When the children of Israel left Egypt at the first Passover, Exodus 13:18 tells us they "went up armed." The Torah sages of Israel related that Moshe also was armed, since the very next verse states: "And Moshe took the bones of Joseph with him."

In other words, while the children of Israel were gathering shields and bucklers and swords and bows; Moshe occupied himself with a spiritual weapon, the bones of the only tzaddik among the sons of Jacob, upon whose merit one tradition states the Sea of Reeds was parted as his coffin was carried over the levee! The mystical significance and role of the tzaddik is defined below but for now we will relate that the tzaddik is a mortal (alive or dead) who has overcome his evil inclination and serves as a "bridge" for others to reach Hashem and His mercy.

According to the oral tradition, Joseph was/is the only such tzaddik among the sons of Jacob and indeed the blessings which accrue to his progeny reflect as much as recorded in Scripture:

It could be reasoned that the Sea would not have fled (Psalm 114:3); that the Exodus could not have occurred without the merit of him who earlier fled from Potiphar's wife and overcame his evil inclination. So, Moshe' was especially mindful of the bones of Joseph.  Since it would be 40 years or more before those bones finally were re-interred at their resting place in Sh'chem, it could also be reasoned that the same bones (or the merit of the man behind them) were responsible for other miracles that occurred in the wilderness.  Indeed the oral tradition records that two arks were carried throughout Israel's wilderness wanderings; one the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the 10 Commandments; and the other, the coffin of Joseph. The same Hebrew word, ARON, is used to describe both.

Today, with the rebirth of the State of Israel 52 years ago, and the return of vast numbers of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, the questions must be asked, "Is there merit in returning the bones of the tzaddikim of the current exile?" What role do the tzaddikim of our era have in facilitating our petitions to Hashem? We attempt to answer these two questions below.


Halachah (the interpretation of the Laws of Torah) forbids the transfer of a dead body or of remnant bones from one grave to another, even when it is to a more respected site (Sh. Ar., YD 363:1; based upon Sem. 13:5–7; TJ, MK 2:4, 81b). This traditional prohibition is, however, lifted for the purpose of reburial in Eretz Israel.  For re-interment in Eretz Yisrael was always regarded as a meritorious deed and a great honor for the deceased (Ket. 111l; Sh. Ar., ibid.).

There remain acrimonious disputes, however, in Jerusalem over the issue of the exhumation of the bones of Jews. According to the ultra-Orthodox interpretation, land even suspected of containing Jewish remains, inside or outside of Israel, should remain untouched, so as to facilitate resurrection of the dead.  But the more moderate view is that re-interment from outside of Eretz Yisrael to a final rest inside Eretz Yisrael is governed by the halachah, which considers re-interment in Eretz Yisrael a meritorious deed. Re-interment of bones already in Eretz Yisrael is another matter altogether.

The Atra Kadisha, an organization devoted to preserving Jewish burial sites has literally come to blows with archeologists and civil engineers over this matter. In 1982 and 1983, Atra Kadisha led public protests against the archeological excavations at the City of David, which is believed to be the final resting place for the tombs of the Kings.  According to Atra Kadisha, the site also contained a medieval Jewish cemetery. The archeologists, who denied this, succeeded in completing the excavations. In 1992, a number of tombs from the Second Temple period were uncovered during construction of a major highway interchange in French Hill and a large burial area which archeologists insisted was Christian, because of the presence of Christian symbols, was uncovered during construction of the Mamilla project near the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. Archeologists removed and then, following violent protests, returned for burial, the bones and sarcophagi of one tomb from French Hill. At Mamilla, the builders removed the bones and bulldozed the burial area in the dead of night. The young demonstrators who reacted introduced a new level of violence into religious-secular disputes, violently confronting the police, stoning cars, and burning garbage dumpsters.  But again, all of these burials were exhumed in existing graves inside Eretz Yisrael.

The halachah also considers any re-interment under the guidelines of LIKKUT AZAMOT (gathering of the bones), an ancient practice in Eretz Yisrael in which the interment of the corpse did not take place immediately after death. First the body was left in an outside sepulchral chamber for some time until it was reduced to a mere skeleton, and afterward the bones were gathered together and then solemnly interred in the final resting place (TJ, MK 1:5; 80c–d; Sem. 12). This duty was generally performed one year after death by the children of the deceased and the laws of mourning were practiced on the day of the final interment (MK 8a; Sem. 12). Mourning was not continued the next day even if the gathering of the remains was only then completed. It was forbidden to deliver mournful eulogies on this occasion, and public condolences were not extended. However, the departed was praised and private condolences were conveyed (MK 8a; Sem. 12–13). The remains had to be reverently handled, and they could not, for example, be transported to their final resting place in a saddle bag (Ber. 18a). It was not considered respectful for the son to touch the remains of his parents directly with his bare hands (Sem. 12). Those engaged in the meritorious deed of likkut azamot were exempt from reading the Shema, and from all other positive commandments (Sem. 13). The gathering of the bones could not take place during the intermediate festival days since such an event would infringe upon the joy of the festival (MK 1:5). The laws pertaining to likkut azamot are also applicable in instances when disinterment is permissible. However, when the coffin is still intact and is not opened during the disinterment procedure, the laws of mourning do not apply (TJ, Sanh. 6:11, 23d).

Rather than focus on aspects of halachah, however, the study below is intended to propose four thoughts or ideas with mystical and/or prophetic significance in connection with the re-interment of the tzaddikim based upon the precedent of the re-interment of the bones of Joseph and the purpose for visiting his tomb today.

1)                  The significance of the bones of the tzaddikim and the tombs of the tzaddikim in the Bible, Talmud and other Jewish writings, especially as it relates to the growing practice of tikkun (repair or restoration of something).

2)                  The prophetic insight associated with the act of re-interment of the bones of the tzaddikim, especially in order to accommodate this tikkun.  Also, we will examine the mystical concept that the tombs of the tzaddikim establish and/or reinforce the right of inheritance and specifically whether this is relevant in our day, as a spiritual force countermanding a Palestinian state.

3)                  The idea of tzedekah (charity) associated with such re-interment.  In other words, if the burying of the deceased is considered the supreme act of tzedekah, (since the dead do not repay the favor of burying them), does this same merit in the world to come apply in the case of the re-interment of tzaddikim who die and are buried outside of Israel?

4)                  Combining all of these ideas, do they somehow point to the long-awaited reconciliation between the families of Israel; the Jewish House of Judah with the long Assimilated and non-Jewish House of Israel.  This aspect of our study will examine especially the Return of the House of Joseph in the context of this re-interment and tikkun, since the idea of re-interment began with Joseph's bones in the first place and the tikkun may bring the prophesied reconciliation full-circle.

OVERVIEW: Historical, Biblical & Mystical Concepts

Biblically and historically, there is no question that the carrying of Joseph's bones out of Egypt related directly to the timing of the Exodus.  Joseph himself related this when he said in his dying words, "God will YIFKOD PAKOD (surely remember you); and you shall carry up my bones from here with you."

According to the Torah sages, these are the very code words Moshe was instructed by Hashem to speak to the leaders of the tribes of Israel when he returned to them in Egypt.  And by these words, they knew he (Moshe) was the deliverer.

It can be reasoned that their remembrance came -- again -- because of the bones of Joseph.  In other words, so long as Israel remembered their brother, Joseph, Hashem would remember them!

The Torah itself does not dwell much on the bones, except we know that they are right there with Israel throughout the wilderness wanderings.  In Portion Beha'alotecha in Numbers 9:6 we read about certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the Passover on that day.

Since we don't have any record of any other deaths this first month of the second year of the Exodus, (and this is before the evil report of the spies which sentenced all of the men over the age of 20 to death but Caleb and Joshua), the Torah sages propose that these men were defiled from carrying the coffin of Joseph. (Succah 25a)

It is also somewhat ironic that when Joseph was sent to check on his brothers who were shepherding in the north, his father Jacob sent him out "from the valley of Hebron." But any visitor to Israel knows that Hebron is situated on a mountain! The Torah sages therefore understood the term "valley" figuratively. Jacob's decision to send Joseph to his brothers who sold him into slavery -- and what appeared to be his doom or valley -- was in fulfillment of  the profound, deep design that had been confided to Abraham, who was the only Patriarch whose bones were then entombed in Hebron. The sense of this design was that Joseph's trip would begin the fulfillment of God's prophecy to Abraham (Genesis 15:13): Your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own (Midrash; Rashi; Targum Yonasan). This proclamation of alien status was itself a valley from which Abraham's seed must ascend. In fact, the Zohar comments directly, that Jacob took Joseph to the tomb of Abraham and dispatched him from there.  It can be reasoned that Joseph was sent on his mission -- related to the promise Hashem made to Abraham -- after making his tikkun to elicit Abraham's help at the tomb of Abraham.

After journeying to Sh'chem, Joseph confronts a man who tells him that his brothers have journeyed on from there and have gone to Dothan. The Midrash gives a deeper interpretation to these words, which, had Joseph understood it, would have frightened him off. The man was saying, "You asked about your brothers, but they have gone away from any feelings of brotherhood. Instead, they have gone to Dothan -- from the word for Law -- (one who follows the religious laws is called Dati today) -- meaning they are seeking legal grounds to put you to death."  When the brothers, mainly Judah's descendants, return to Sh'chem (modern Nablus) and remember Joseph through his descendants, the millenniums of enmity and vexation between the two families may dissolve … and just in time to face a Palestinian adversary as a united front. It seems significant that the story of Joseph's exile began at one "valley" the tomb of Abraham and will be concluded in another, his own tomb in Sh'chem.

The Midrash teaches that the other brothers shrank away as Joseph and Judah confronted one another at the time of their earlier reconciliation in Egypt. They sensed that this was a confrontation not merely between two strong men, but between two opposing philosophies. Ultimately, both antagonists triumphed, for Joseph and Judah, and the ideas they represented, remained integral parts of the people of Israel. [see Overview to Vayigash, ArtScroll Bereishit].  However, the centuries intervening between the establishment of grandchildren of Jacob through Joseph as tribes in their own right -- without extending this same honor to the grandchildren through Judah, the strife in the wilderness, the divided monarchies and finally the ultimate split of the Kingdom into two rival houses and Civil War, have served to widen this confrontation. Since the Northern Kingdom, led by the House of Joseph, was exiled in the 8th Century B.C.E., these divisions were never reconciled historically.

The sign of the redemption related to Joseph was that Hashem would surely remember the children of Israel, "YIFKOD PAKOD" and when that time occurred they should surely remember him (Joseph) and re-inter his bones. Some day -- Jacob was prevented from saying when -- a redeemer would come to the enslaved children of Israel in Egypt. He would tell them that God had declared their freedom with the words, "I have indeed remembered you" (Exodus 3:16), just as Joseph promised his brothers. Centuries later, at the birth of the man from Nazareth, these same code words appear again, but here in the context of Hashem's remembrance of the House of Joseph. (It is the writer's position that despite the theological additions to the so-called Brit Chadashah (reNEWed Testament or Covenant) its underlying significance reflects this remembrance and consequently the writing may be relevant only to the Assimilated of Israel's Northern Kingdom, and, (through the precedent of Ruth), whosoever will among the Gentiles only as a first step in preparing the Assimilated to Return to Hashem and the Torah and ultimately Eretz Yisrael.)

The implication of the term used in both places, is that after a long period of time during which it seemed as if God had "forgotten" His people, He would manifest His Presence, as if He had "remembered" them once more. This "password" was transmitted to the leaders of the people, and when Moshe came and proclaimed those words, they knew that he was truly speaking in God's Name. On the surface, one might wonder why some charlatan could not have come and used the same pre-ordained words, but it is the very nature of prophecy that it is above logic. The fact is that no one but Moshe ever used this term before the Exodus from Egypt, and when he came and uttered the words, the nation knew and believed.

Joseph did not confine the re-interment to only his bones and indeed the oral tradition states that ALL of the sons of Jacob were re-interred in the land (at the time of a war between Egypt and the Canaanites, which preceded the Exodus). Indeed, the tombs of Dan, Judah, Benjamin and Asher are known and visited today. Joseph said quite literally to his brothers, not only to the generations of the future, that they as well would be brought from Egypt to the Land (Sechel Tov). But only Joseph's bones were specifically to remain in Egypt awaiting the Exodus.

Rashi's commentary goes so far as to say that because Joseph saw to the burial of his father, Jacob, in Eretz Yisrael, that the children of Israel would take the trouble to re-inter Joseph, and Jacob's gift of a second portion in Sh'chem was specifically for this burial of his son.

Also the Tanch states that once one has made a beginning with a meritorious deed, it should be carried out to the end, because it (the good deed) bears the name only of who does the last part of it, as it is said, (Josh:24:32) "And the bones of Joseph which the children of Israel brought up from Egypt they buried in Sh'chem".  Even though Moshe saw that the bones of Joseph were brought out of Egypt, the children of Israel are credited with the performance of the good deed.  This is especially relevant to our discussion because they and not Moshe, were allowed entry into the Promised Land.  We may also have here another link to the concept of tikkun, cementing the tie between the children of Israel and Eretz Yisrael.  The children of Israel surely prayed at Joseph's tomb at the time of his re-interment and their subsequent dwelling in Eretz Yisrael.  It may be significant that they did so, with the assurance of peace from their enemies.


Joshua 24:32: "And the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought out of Egypt, buried they in Sh'chem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Sh'chem for a hundred pieces of silver; and it became the inheritance of the sons of Joseph."

The inheritance proclaimed at the tomb of Joseph, specifically to the descendants of Joseph, directly relates to a "burial possession." During our Torah studies over the past seven years of our personal exile, Hashem has repeatedly impressed us with two important spiritual aspects of the Return of the House of Joseph, which we were slow to connect. First, that the bones of the tzaddikim who died in the Diaspora should be re-interred in Eretz Yisrael as part of the redemption of the Land. Second, that there should be a tikkun to the tombs of Joseph, Rachel and the Patriarchs and perhaps other tzaddikim, by the children of Joseph  at the invitation of and participation with the children of Judah.

These impressions came after studying about the SADEH ACHAZUTO (fields of inheritance) in the context of the GUELAH (redemption) of the Land and the YOVEL (the Jubilee proclamation).

For instance, Leviticus 25:13 states "In the year of this Jubilee ye shall return every man unto his ACHUZAT (inheritance)."

What struck us about the GUELAH was its promise of the restoration of the inheritance; but the word in Hebrew for this inheritance was ACHUZAT.  The root of this word means to "grasp or hold" and it is specifically used to describe the TOMB OF THE PATRIARCHS when it is first purchased by Abraham to bury his wife, Sarah.

Gen 23:2-4:  "And Sarah died in Kiryath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me an ACHUZAT KEVER (possession of a burying place) with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight."

Literally, the tomb for Sarah, which became the tomb of all the :Patriarchs, was a "burial hold" and established that plot of land as an inheritance..

The mystic sages taught that the tombs were in fact burial "holds" or possessions that established the links between generations and actually had the power to draw descendants to their ancestral homes. The story was told to me by one of my  teachers in Jerusalem, of an impatient son who is traveling with his father on a journey to another town.  The two are barely out of sight of their home when the sleeve-tugging begins by the son to inquire when they will arrive at their destination.  Finally, the father turns to his son and says, "OK, I will give you a sign.  You will know you have reached your destination when we arrive at the tombs." There is more here than the simple allusion to the cemetery that lies on the outskirts of the approaching town.  The ACHUZAT KEVREI (burial "holds") in mystic thought actually bind and hold generations together.

For all of the tribes to return to their inheritances, the land cannot properly be called an ACHUZAT without burial possessions. TZADDIKIM (who are a bridge to the world to come) give the children of Israel a further foothold in establishing their right of inheritance.  The fact that the Torah documents the purchase of the land for both the tombs of the Patriarchs and the tomb of Joseph, establishes this idea on its face.  The only other parcel whose purchase is documented in perpetuity by Scripture itself is the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which, according to tradition, lies itself in proximity of the re-interred bones of Adam.

According to one tradition, Adam's burial also is in the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron, but a much earlier tradition relates the tomb of Adam is to be found beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  This agrees with an Apocrypha work entitled The Cave of Treasures, written in ancient Aramaic. A central feature of this work is a "cave of treasures," in which Adam lived before the flood and was later entombed.  Noah rescued his sepulchre and the treasures from this cave, before the flood, according to the legend. After the flood, Noah re-interred his sepulchre and the treasures at Golgotha. The book also exists in Arabic (D. M. Gibson Apocrypha Arabica (1901), English. and Arab.)  The Encyclopedia Judaica makes mention of the early Christian tradition (believed to be rooted in an earlier oral tradition) reflected in this Apocryphal writing: "According to one Christian tradition, Adam is buried not in the Machpelah cave at Hebron but under the Calvary in the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, so that the redemptive blood of Jesus shed at the crucifixion, flowed on his grave. In the Greek Orthodox Church, which oversees the Holy Sepulchre, a feast in honor of the parents of humanity, Adam and Eve, is kept on the Sunday preceding Christmas in honor of this tradition."

Whether these traditions underlie the truth, may be suspect and is not our purpose to ascertain.  But it is curious that they point to the precedent of the tombs establishing the inheritances.

We do concern ourselves, however, with associating the mystical concepts of the ACHUZAT KIVREI (burial holds) and the re-interment of the tzaddikim with two relevant and we believe practical applications in our day and time:


First, it may be no coincidence that the ACHUZAT KIVREI (burial holds) of the tombs of the Patriarchs, Joseph and Rachel ALL lie in the unannexed territories.  This would appear to point to the need for a joint tikkun of Joes and Jews together which surely would stir Hashem's remembrance and mercy on behalf of those there buried … and their children who are reconciling their differences for the sake of Eretz Yisrael.  Literally such a tikkun would fulfill the prophesy of Malachi in the last days to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the sons to the fathers" in order to avoid a curse coming upon the land in the form of Palestinian statehood.  At the very least, such a display of unity should serve to check the spiritual momentum behind Palestinian ultra-nationalism given place perhaps by the heretofore unresolved enmity and vexation between descendants of Joseph and descendants of Judah.

Secondly, assisting or at least somehow promoting the holy endeavor of the re-interment of the tzaddikim of Judah would be a supreme act of tzedekah and rank among the most sensitive and caring mitzvot that the non-Jewish descendants of Joseph could involve themselves with at present to display genuine care and concern for their Jewish brothers.


Encyclopedia Judaica states that it is when the tzaddik rises above the level of Ayin ("Nothingness") that he is close to mankind and supervises men, as does Divine Providence." The tzaddik lives as it were as a bridge, eternally, regardless of where he dwells, on earth or in the grave. A man must travel to the tzaddik because "the main thing is what he hears from the mouth of the tzaddik." Rebbe Nachman of Breslev strongly emphasizes the obligation of confessing before the tomb of the tzaddik and even advocates praising him under certain situations, but NOT praying to him.  As the tzaddik embodies all that is happening in the earthly and divine worlds, communication to Hashem at his tomb, if not through the tzaddik directly, advances the processes of tikkun that Lurianic Kabbalah demands of Jews.

Exactly how the tzaddikim derive these spiritual forces and how they are transmitted no man living may be able to relate.  However, the mystical writings of the Torah sages have much to state on the subject. To the extent that these writings relate to the general view of re-interment and the concept of the resurrection of the dead as a means to facilitate tikkun, they are detailed below.  Otherwise, see our much more detailed study entitled, "TIKKUN: Waging a spiritual war for the conquest of Eretz Yisrael." 

First, Hashem, who is so solicitous about the dead bodies of the tzaddikim, is even more  solicitous about their souls, which stand before Him like angels, and do their service ministering unto Him. (MHG I, 772.) The difference in the tzaddikim when they are alive and dead is that in the latter state they lack the faculty of speech, but they nevertheless do not cease to praise their Creator; (PR 2, 5b, and 12, 47a; Tehillim 30, 234; DR 11. 7). These passages as well as many others (for example Ketubot 104a) speak of the three divisions of merciful angels who meet the tzaddikim upon their entering into the other world, and of the three divisions of the angels of destruction who seize the wicked as soon as they die. A similar view is also found in 12 Testaments, Asher 6, whereas according to PR 44, 184a, man's guardian angels meet him at the time of his death.

In this continuum of worlds lies the importance of the role of the tzaddikim and the mystical basis for the tikkun at the tombs, which is becoming so popular these days especially in Eretz Yisrael. (See our related study on the modern application of tikkun).

In Zohar Vol 2, page 220a, alluding to the Moon being diminished (remember that the Moon symbolized Rachel in Joseph's prophetic dreams and consequently like Eve, the children of Rachel should come forth in pain), that the travail of the tzaddik is related to bringing forth children -- contextually specifically those of Rachel.

The same portion in the Zohar continues: “Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise” Said R. Simeon: ‘At the time when the (righteous) dead (e.g. the tzaddikim) will be awakened and be in readiness for the resurrection in the Holy Land, legions upon legions will arise on the soil of Galilee, (the district of the "nations") as it is there that the messiah is destined to reveal himself. For that is the portion of Joseph, (did you get the connection here and note that it does not include Judah?) and it was the first part of the Holy Land to be destroyed, and it was thence that the exile of Israel and their dispersion among the nations began.  The same portion relates Amos 6:6, “but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” as the spiritual hardness of heart that lies at the root of the judgment against those among Jacob who live in comfort.  Just as Hashem became the GOMEL (provider redeemer) for the Children of Israel in Egypt because there was no other GOMEL, He does the same for the House of Joseph in exile.

Zohar 2:220 continues: "Thus there they (the tzaddikim) will rise up first, for the reason that it is the portion of him who was put in an ark, as it says, “and he was put in an ark in Egypt" Genesis 50:26), and subsequently was buried in the Holy Land, as it says “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Sh'chem(Joshua 24:32); and he it was who kept the purity of the holy covenant symbol in a special degree. As soon as they will rise from the dead, all those hosts will march, each man to the portion of his ancestors, as Scripture says, “and ye shall return every man unto his ACHUZAT (inheritance)” (Leviticus 25:10). 

Here we could interject that one way the tzaddikim arise from the dead, is the re-interment of their bones; and this precipitates the resulting "march" of each man to the portion (the burial hold) of his ancestors.

The Zohar continues: "They shall recognize each other, and God will clothe every one in embroidered garments; and they will all come and offer up thanksgiving to their Master in Jerusalem, where there will assemble multitudes upon multitudes. Jerusalem itself will spread out in all directions, to a further extent even than when the exiles returned there. When they assemble and offer up praises to their Master the Holy One, blessed be He, will rejoice in them. So Scripture says: “And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow unto the goodness of the Lord”, etc. (Jeremiah 31:12), namely, every one to his portion and the portion of his ancestors. And the possession of Israel will extend till it will reach Damietta of the Romans, and even there they will study the Torah. All this has already been stated, and it is in harmony with the Scriptural passage, saying: “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, etc. (Isaiah 16:19). Blessed be the Lord for evermore! Amen and Amen!’"

The Zohar describes the mechanics of the tzaddik's response to tikkun thusly:

‘Three names has the soul of man: nephesh, ruah, neshamah. They are all comprised one within the other, yet they have three distinct abodes. Nephesh remains in the grave until the body is decomposed and turned into dust, during which time it flits about in this world, seeking to mingle with the living and to learn of their troubles; and in the hour of need it intercedes for them. Ruah enters the earthly Garden (of Eden) and there dons a likeness which is in the semblance of the body it tenanted in this world: that likeness being, as it were, a garment with which the spirit robes itself, so that it may enjoy the delights of the radiant Garden. On Sabbaths, New Moons and festivals it ascends unto higher regions, imbibes the joys thereof, and then returns to its place. Concerning this it is written: “And the spirit (ruah) returns to God who hath given it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) -namely, at the special seasons and on the special occasions which we have enumerated. Neshamah ascends at once to her place, the region from whence she emanated, and for her sake the light is kindled to shine above. She never again descends to earth. In her is consummated the One who combines all sides, the upper and the lower. And as long as she has not ascended to be united with the Throne, the ruah cannot crown itself in the lower Garden, nor can the nephesh be at ease in its place; but when she ascends all the others find rest.

Now when the children of men are in sorrow or trouble, and repair to the graves of the departed (tzaddikim), then the nephesh is awakened and it wanders forth and rouses the ruah, which in turn rouses the Patriarchs, and then the neshamah. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, takes pity on the world.

Zohar 2:142 says that only the nephesh of the tzaddikim finds rest in the grave and as long as the bones of their human habitation remain intact in the grave, the nephesh remains there also.

‘There is here a mystery which is entrusted only to such as perceive and know the way of truth and are afraid of sin. In the hour when the neshamah crowns herself above with the holy crown, and the ruah stands within the radiance of the supernal light to which it is admitted on Sabbaths, New Moons, and festivals, and when that same Ruah descends well satisfied from those feasts to enter into the Garden of Eden resplendent and radiant: in that hour the nephesh also rises up within the grave and assumes shape in the likeness of the form which it previously possessed when in the living body, and in virtue of this image all the bones arise and sing praises to the Holy One, blessed be He; as it is written: “All my bones shall say (tomarnah), O Lord, who is like unto thee?” (Psalms 35:10). And had the eye but the power and permission to perceive such matters, it would behold on the nights of Sabbaths, New Moons, and festivals, a kind of figures singing and praising the Holy One above their graves. But the folly of the children of men prevents them from having any cognizance of these matters, since they neither know nor perceive what the foundation of their lives in the world is, and have no mind to be aware of the glory of the Supernal King in this world which they can see, not to speak of the world to come, which they see not; thus they have no perception of the basis of either, or of the inner meaning of these things.

‘On Rosh Hashanah, when the world is judged, and the Throne of Judgment stands by the Supernal King, every soul (nephesh) hovers about and intercedes for the living. On the night following the giving of judgment they roam about, endeavoring to discover what decisions have been made concerning the fate of men in the coming year; and sometimes they communicate their knowledge to the living in the form of a vision or dream, as it is written: “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men... then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instructions” (Job 33:16): i.e. the soul puts its seal to words which it communicates to the sons of man that they may receive instruction or reproof. The lower nephesh (of the tzaddik) is illumined from all sides-from the light of the neshamah and the ruah which also illumines all the chariots and camps, namely the limbs and bones of its body, and forms them into one complete body which emits light. This is the significance of the words: “And he will satisfy with splendor (zahzahot) thy soul (Isaiah 58:11); and then He will make vigorous thy bones” (Ibid.): that is, they will be fashioned into one complete body which will emit light, and arise to give praises to the Holy One, as has been pointed out in connection with the words, “All my bones shall say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee?” This praising does indeed constitute the rest and delight of the nephesh, and is verily the completion of its joy. Blessed are the tzaddikim who fear their Lord in this world, for they merit the threefold rest of tzaddikim in the world to come.’


One of the hardest questions to reconcile in this life is how (which is really to ask, Why?) does a seemingly righteous person suffer temporary insanity and commit a grievous sin?  The mystic sages again provide the answer saying the fall or descent of the Tzaddik is SOMETIMES for the purposes of tikkun!  This subject is also discussed in greater detail in our earlier study "Tikkun: Waging a spiritual war for the conquest of Eretz Yisrael," but we must emphasize here that the merit of living and dying in Eretz Yisrael is so far-reaching from a mystical view, that the burial of an individual outside of the Land -- and especially the burial of a tzaddik -- may be one important practical application of the fall or descent of the Tzaddik.  This is especially striking when one realizes that the Hebrew word for leaving Eretz Yisrael is YORED or "descent" and represents the opposite concept of aliyah or "ascent."  So, in considering the descent of the Tzaddik, we must consider whether his re-interment is a means of overcoming evil, not just for himself, but for the community that embraces his intercession for them. (On the other hand, the tzaddik, the Rebbe Nachman of Breslev specifically ordered that he NOT be re-interred in Eretz Yisarel but that he would intercede for those who travel to his grave in the Ukraine!)

Elimelech recognizes two types of falls (Hebrew., nefillot) in the status of the tzaddik: descent for the purposes of tikkun and descent because of Satan. Descent for the purpose of tikkun is conceived of as a voluntary process. The tzaddik knows that he is obligated to improve his community and, therefore, descends to its level in order to uplift it.

Elimelech regarded the sublimation in this doctrine of descent as the inner identification and conscious comparison of the tzaddik with the ordinary individual. As a result there takes place the process of the elevation or sublimation of evil thoughts (ha'ala'at mahashavot zarot), the abolition of sin, and the transformation of the profane into the holy. Tikkun by the elevation of nizozot (“sparks”) in the Lurianic Kabbalah is transferred to the sphere of the soul in Elimelech's teachings and is interpreted as the elevation of evil thoughts, leading to personal redemption. The “fall” of the tzaddik is essential, and his capacity to sin is a condition of his charismatic mission.

Needless to say, the practical application of this doctrine, which apparently stemmed from the Shabbatean idea of sin as a source for performance of a mitzvah, contains a potentially serious spiritual danger. However the inability of the tzaddik to “fall,” interferes with the spiritual elevation of the community and the ascent of the tzaddik which follows the “fall” is higher than the level he attained in his previous ascents. From this point of view, evil strengthens holiness.

Elimelech's solution to the problem of evil is the sanctification of material things and the overcoming of temptation. The tzaddik must abolish the dualism of coexistent good and evil by transforming evil into good, a process which will bring the advent of the messiah when all will return to their original unity. The innovations of this doctrine are the spiritual renewal of man and the revelation of the inner aspects of the Torah not revealed on Mount Sinai. To which we might add that the aliyot (ascent) of the tzaddikim through re-interment carries with it a spiritual force that tugs at many many others to make their aliyah.


Let us begin back in Egypt with Joseph's bones. The oral tradition states that the Egyptians guarded these bones in their royal treasure chambers hidden beneath the Nile River. Their magicians had warned them that whenever Joseph's bones should be removed from  Egypt, a great darkness would envelop the whole land, and it would be a dire misfortune for the Egyptians, for none would be able to recognize his neighbor even with the light of a lamp. (12 Testaments, Simeon 1-5 and 8; camp. Excursus II, Simeon). It can be reasoned from this statement that the re-interment of the tzaddikim today, could actually precipitate Hashem's judgment against the nations as the righteous element is removed from the premises, so to speak.

We also must wonder why Joseph was buried in Sh'chem, instead of  at the tomb of the Patriarchs with his father, Jacob, grandfather Yitzhak and great-grandfather Abraham together with their wives.  Perhaps it is because Jacob was not buried with Joseph's mother who was interred on the road to Bethlechem, possibly located at the border between the portion of Benjamin and Judah.

It then becomes significant that Joseph is also buried in a border city -- the city of Sh'chem which forms the boundary between Ephraim and Manasseh.  Border cities leave us with the idea of connecting something.  Rachel's tomb connects Judah and Benjamin; and Joseph's tomb connects Ephraim and Manasseh. Even so, ALL of Israel is made to pass between the Mount of cursing and blessing in the valley below at Sh'chem, immediately before the bones of Joseph are buried there! It is as though Hashem also connected  these two events for some reason. In short, it seems that it is impossible to meditate on the covenant Hashem renewed at Sh'chem without the children of Israel remembering their promise to Joseph. Today, (as reflected every month in the renewal of the Moon, which symbolizes Rachel in Joseph's dreams), no Torah-observant Jew can observe all of the Torah without remembering Joseph's children.  Even King David was to call to mind his obligations to the House of Joseph when he came into his kingdom, permitted to him only after the Benjaminite Yonathan relinquished his claim to his father, Shaul's throne.

The sages wrote that the re-interment of Joseph at Sh'chem was not just an honor paid to Joseph.  It also atoned for the sins of the ancestors who had sold him into slavery. " From Sh'chem did ye steal  him, and unto Sh'chem shall ye return him. (Sotah 13b; BR 85. 3).  The re-interment of tzaddikim in Eretz Yisrael today carries with it, this precedent of atonement.

In addition to the broadly popular concept of the tzaddik as a "bridge" between worlds, the Zohar Hadash, Lek Leka, heading Vayishma maintains  that Michael and Gabriel, at the head of the angels who guard the gates of  Paradise, meet the tzaddikim and lead them into paradise. As soon as a tzaddik dies, God says to the three patriarchs: " Go and offer the tzaddik a  heavenly welcome." They, however, refuse, saying: "It is not for parents to pay  respect to their children; but it is the duty of children to pay respect to parents." God thereupon addresses Jacob, saying: "Thou who didst suffer so much in bringing up thy children, go thou and meet thy tzaddik child, and I shall accompany thee". (Zohar 1:97a; comp. also 123b and 125b; note 49 on 1:70) 


From these ideas we see that the work of the tzaddik and especially a father for his children continues from the World To Come especially in the role of intercession. Since so much of Hashem's plan rests on the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham's descendants and that specifically to the land of Israel, a major premise of tikkun may relate to the rejoining of the children with the land and their return to Torah so that this union may even begin to occur.

Again, consulting the oral tradition, Joseph related as much.

"Joseph continued and told them the visions he had had, in which the future of Israel was revealed to him, and then he closed with the words: " I know that the Egyptians will oppress you after my death, but God will execute vengeance for your sakes, and He will lead you to the land of promise of your fathers.  But ye shall surely carry my bones with you from  hence, for IF (a big IF) my remains are taken to Canaan, Hashem will be with you in the  light, and Beliar will be with the Egyptians in the darkness.  Also take with  you the bones of your mother Zilpah, and bury them near the sepulchre of  Bilhah and Rachel."

Zilpah was apparently the only one of the handmaidens who died in Egypt and with her re-interment all of the children of Israel, even the children of the handmaidens, would have an ACHUZAT KIVREI (burial grasp or hold) from both their ancestral father and mother.

The oral tradition also relates that not only Moshe knew the Exodus would be impossible except with Joseph's bones; but the Egyptian magicians who knew just about all there was to know about "death" also were so informed:

For three days and three nights preceding the Exodus Moshe hunted up and down through the land of Egypt for Joseph's coffin, because he knew that Israel could not leave Egypt without heeding the oath given to Joseph. But his trouble was in vain; the coffin was nowhere to be found. Serah, the daughter of Asher, met Moshe, tired and exhausted, and in answer to her question about the cause of his weariness, he told her of his fruitless search.  Serah took him to the Nile river, and told him that the leaden coffin made for Joseph by the Egyptians had been sunk there after having been sealed up on all sides.  The Egyptians had done this at the instigation and with the help of the magicians, who, knowing that Israel could  not leave the country without the coffin, had used their arts to put it in a place  whence it could not be removed. (Mekilta Beshallah (Petihta), 24a-24b; Mekilta RS, 24)  where it is stated that the Egyptians had sunk the coffin in the Nile, so that its waters  should be abundant; (Tan. Beshallah 2; ShR 20. 19; PK 10, 85b-86a; DR 11. 7;  Sotah, Tosefta 4. 7, and Babli 13a; Targum Yerushalmi Exod. 13. 19; Petirat  Mosheh 115; Zohar II, 46a), where it is stated that Joseph's brothers themselves sank his  coffin in the Nile in order to prevent the Egyptians from worshipping his body. We could conclude from the "spiritual element in Egypt" trying to "hide" Joseph's remains or make them inaccessible that they also realized the spiritual power associated with Joseph's righteous deeds ... and a Tikkun at his final resting place.

Tradition also relates that Moshe took Joseph's cup by which he divined, and threw it into the Nile saying, " Joseph, Joseph, the hour for the redemption of Israel hath arrived, the Sh'kinah lingers here only for thy sake, the clouds of glory await thy coming.  If thou wilt show thyself, well and good; if not, then we are clear from our oath (to remember your bones)" The coffin rose to the surface of the water. Moshe seized it, and in joy he  bore it off. (MHG I, 772).

During the forty years of wandering through the desert, the coffin was in the midst of Israel, as a reward for Joseph's promise to his brethren, " I will nourish you and take care of you."  God had said, "As thou livest, for forty years they will take care of thy bones." (ShR 20. 19).    

All this time in the desert Israel carried two shrines with them, the one the coffin containing the bones of the dead  tzaddik, Joseph, the other the Ark containing the covenant of the Living God. The wayfarers who saw the two receptacles wondered, and they would ask, "How doth the ark of the  dead come next to the ark of the Ever-living?"  The answer was, " The dead man enshrined in the one fulfilled the commandments enshrined in the other.  The story goes on to describe in detail how Joseph fulfilled all 10 Commandments and rose to the level of tzaddik. (Mekilta Beshallah (Petihta), 24b; Mekilta RS, 39). We also see in this parable the early belief  that the tzaddik, though he is dead, yet he still lives.

We also have this curious account in Hadar on Exodus 13:19: Moshe took Joseph's bones and wrapped them up in a sheep's skin, upon  which "the Name of God" was written; the dead bones and the skin then came to life again and assuming the form of a sheep, it followed the camp of Israel during their wanderings through the wilderness.

It is interesting that the name of the yeshiva at the tomb of Joseph is OD YOSEF CHAI, the very words Joseph's brothers told their father Jacob in Genesis 45:26, which revived the Spirit of Jacob: "Joseph is yet alive!"


According to Ginsburg's Legends, Vol. 6, page 317, the piety of Baruch and the great favor he enjoyed with God were made known to generations many years after his death, through the miracles received by those who visited his tomb.  Once a Babylonian prince commanded Rabbi Solomon to show him the grave of Ezekiel, concerning which he had heard many remarkable tales.  The Rabbi knowing the prince's intentions advised the prince first to enter the tomb of Baruch, which adjoined that of Ezekiel, the teacher of Baruch. The prince tried to publicly open the grave of Baruch, but his efforts were fruitless.  Whosoever touched it, was at once stricken dead.  An old Arab advised the prince to call upon the Jews themselves to gain entrance for him, seeing that Baruch had been a Jew, and his books were still being studied by Jews.  The Jews prepared themselves by fasts, prayers, penitence, and almsgiving, and they succeeded in opening the grave without a mishap.  Baruch was found lying on a marble bier, and the appearance of the corpse was as though he had only then passed away.

The prince ordered the bier of Baruch to be brought to the city, and the body to be entombed there.  He thought it was not seemly that Ezekiel and Baruch should rest in the same grave.  But the bearers found it impossible to remove the bier more than a certain distance from the original grave. Following the advice of Rabbi Solomon, the prince resolved to inter the bier on the spot they had reached, and also to erect a yeshiva there.  These miraculous happenings induced the prince to go to Mecca.  There he became convinced of the falseness of Mohammedanism, of which he had hitherto been an adherent, and he converted to Judaism, he and his whole court. (Gelilot Erez Israel 101a).

It may be unrealistic to expect the Moslem element to visit the tombs of the tzaddikim, much less to recant of the Islamic fervor opposing Israel, but the precedent exists nonetheless.

The tomb of Ezekiel nearby was overarched by a beautiful mausoleum erected by King Yeconiah after Evil-merodach had released him from captivity.  The mausoleum  existed down to the middle ages, and it bore on its walls the names of the thirty-five thousand Jews who assisted Yeconiah in erecting the monument.  It was the scene of many miracles.  Once a prince vowed to give a colt to the grave of the prophet, if but his mare which had been sterile would bear one.  When his wish was fulfilled, however, he did not keep his promise.  But the filly ran a distance equal to a four days' journey to the tomb, and his owner could not recover it until he deposited his value in silver upon the grave.  When people went on long journeys, they were in the habit of carrying their treasures to the grave of the prophet, and beseeching him to let none but the rightful heirs remove them thence.  The prophet always granted their petition.  Once when an attempt was made to take some books from the grave of Ezekiel, the ravager suddenly became sick and blind.  For a time a pillar of fire, visible at a great distance, was said to rise above the grave of the prophet.

Not far from the grave of Ezekiel was the grave of Barozak, who once appeared to a rich Jew in a dream.  He spoke: "I am Barozak, one of the princes who were led into captivity with Jeremiah.  I am one of the tzaddikim.  If  thou wilt erect a handsome mausoleum for me, thou wilt be blessed with progeny."  The Jew did as he had been bidden, and he who had been childless, shortly after became a father (R. Pethahiah of Ratisbon 5a-5b).

A geonic responsum in Schechter's Saadyana, 123, mentions the "synagogue of Ezekiel", Daniel, Ezra, Baruch, and the masters of the Talmud.  This very likely means the synagogue erected by Ezekiel (in the place where later his mausoleum was built?), and was frequented by Daniel, Ezra, Baruch, and other great men.

The failure of the body of a tzaddik to see corruption, as in the case of Baruch above, is also recorded in Mishna Shabbat 152b; Baba Mezi'a 84b which records Hadrian opening the tomb of David. He was "amazed at the high color of David's face; he pressed the flesh with his finger, and the blood began to circulate.  Admiringly the wicked king called out: "This man deserved to be the ruler of the entire world, since even after his death he is like the living." ('Aktan 23).

Joshua 24:33 immediately after relating the re-interment of Joseph's bones, tells of another tzaddik being buried in the inheritance of Ephraim. "And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that belonged to Pinchas his son, which was given to him in Mount Ephraim."

We can see from all of these examples from the Scripture and Oral Tradition that the tombs and their location are often mentioned in Scripture and the practice of visiting the tombs of the tzaddikim is very ancient in origin and always has been associated with wonders and miracles. In modern times, the annals of religious Jewish literature are filled with the biographies of tzaddikim, whose graves even in the Diaspora are regular sites of pilgrimages. Again, the most notable is that of Rebbe Nachman, who wrote that visiting his tomb would be the same as visiting the tomb of Joseph!

The Exodus Rabbah 5:10 refers to the "kiss of Aaron and Moshe" with the phrase ’Mercy and truth are met together.’ R. Judah, son of R. Simon, said: ’mercy’ refers to Aaron and ’truth’ to Moshe. R. ‘Azariah said that ’ mercy ‘ refers to Moshe, who acted kindly towards Joseph, (Sotah 9a) and ’truth’ to Aaron, for it is written: And the law of truth was in his mouth (Malachi 2:6). Hence when it says: ’ Mercy and truth are met together ‘ it refers to Moshe and Aaron. The imitation of Hashem's Mercy (in this context as exemplified by Moshe), therefore relates mystically to sowing Mercy to Joseph's descendants.

Concerning Moshe the Zohar relates "The wise in heart will take good deeds (Proverbs 10:8), for at the time when the whole of Israel were busily occupied in collecting gold and silver, Moshe was occupied with collecting the bones of Joseph. Again, the re-interment of Joseph's bones is a good deed that was discerned by the wise in heart. Can any less be said of the re-interment of the bones of the tzaddikim today?

In Zohar 2:46a the question is asked, why did Moshe rather than anyone else take the bones of Joseph?  And the answer is offered:  Because Joseph was the leader of the descent into exile. Moreover, this was a sign of redemption to him, for Joseph “had strictly sworn the children of Israel” concerning it.  Again, we have a precedent in mystical thought that the re-interment of the bones of today's tzaddikim may also signal the end of the exile and the sign of the redemption.  As the Rambam stated this:  The redemption does not come until the children of Israel are returned to their place and the exalted status of their forefathers. If these "children" include the tzaddikim, (who attained to the status of their forefathers), then the redemption awaits the re-interment of their bones in Eretz Yisrael.


Encyclopedia Judaica sheds more light on the sages' understanding of the anticipated redemption and how it may relate to tikkun at the tombs:

"An important problem in the doctrine of redemption arose regarding the role of the Jew in bringing it about. There were two contradictory opinions on this point.

(1)   Essentially, redemption will come miraculously, and flesh and blood creatures shall have no part in bringing it about: this is the opinion of the majority of the Spanish kabbalists.

(2)   Redemption is no more than the external manifestation of the inner state of tikkun ("restitution") which depends on the deeds of Israel and a realization of the way of life which the Kabbalah preaches. The fact of tikkun is not something which depends on a miracle, but rather on human action.

According to the first view, the messiah's coming will not bear any essential relationship to men's deeds; according to the second view, his coming is conditional upon the accomplishment of the task of Israel in the "tikkun of the world." According to this latter view, there is a human and historical preparation for redemption and the messiah will come automatically if this preparation is completed.


Sotah 9b relates that Joseph earned merit by going up (ascending or making aliyah) in order to bury his father and there was none among his brothers greater than he.  Is there then a greater purpose or precedent for the descendants of Joseph also to ascend to Eretz Yisrael than to do likewise and participate in the burial and/or tikkun of the tzaddikim?

Sotah 9b continues: Moshe "earned merit through the bones of Joseph and there was none in Israel greater than he … whom have we greater than Moshe since none other than the Omnipresent occupied himself [with this burial], as it is said, and He buried him in the valley?  Not only concerning Moshe did they say this, but concerning all the tzaddikim, as it is said, and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of Hashem shall by thy rearward. Here, the righteousness that "goes before thee" is literally the tzaddikim, the righteous dead.

Joseph's merit is also related in the story of  the threshing floor of Atad, (brambles) where the descendants of Esau, Ishmael and Keturah also came to surround Jacob's coffin. R. Johanan said: "For it is written: And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad; but is there a threshing-floor for brambles? — R. Abbahu said: It teaches that they surrounded Jacob's coffin with crowns like a threshing-floor which is surrounded with a hedge of brambles, because the sons of Esau, of Ishmael and of Keturah also came. A Tanna taught: They all came to wage war [against the Israelites]; but when they saw Joseph's crown hanging upon Jacob's coffin, they all took their crowns and hung them upon his coffin. A Tanna taught: Sixty-three crowns were hung upon Jacob's coffin.  If there is a spiritual means to avoid a conflict with the modern descendants of Esau, Ishmael and Keturah by having them "lay down their crowns so to speak" or relinquish any claim to part of Eretz Yisrael, the parallel may apply somehow with the reappearance of the sons of Joseph.

Talmud - Mas. Sotah 13b, states "And the bones of Joseph which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt buried they in Sh'chem! Furthermore, if the Israelites had not occupied themselves with him, would not his own sons have done so? And, behold, it is written: And they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph! — They said [to one another], ‘Leave him; his honor will be greater [when the burial is performed] by many rather than by few’; and they also said: ‘Leave him; his honor will be greater [when the burial is performed] by the great rather than by the small’.


Here we might suggest that a united tikkun of Jews and Joes standing together reflects this greater honor.

Buried they in Sh'chem. Why just in Sh'chem? — R. Hama son of R. Hanina said: From Sh'chem they stole him, and to Sh'chem we will restore what is lost. Again the tomb of Joseph emerges as a point of restoration of Israel's lost heritage.


In Midrash Rabbah - Genesis 82:10, we find a profound link connecting the tomb of Rachel with the Return of her children (the descendants of Joseph and Benjamin).

We find Israel [the nation] called after Rachel, as it says, Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15). And not only after her name, but also her son's name, as it says, It may be that Hashem, the God of hosts, will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph  (Amos 5:15). And not only after her son's name, but even after her grandson's name, as it says, "Is Ephraim a darling son unto Me  (Jeremiah 31:20)? And Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath. (Genesis 35:19). What was Jacob's reason for burying Rachel in the way to Ephrath? Jacob foresaw that the exiles would pass on from thence, therefore he buried her there so that she might pray for mercy for them. Thus it is written, A voice is heard in Ramah... Rachel weeping for her children.... Thus saith Hashem: Refrain thy voice from weeping... and there is hope for thy future, etc. (Jeremiah 31:15ff). Clearly the association of Rachel with Joseph and Ephraim indicates that this Midrash dealt with her crying for the descendants of the children who came out of her womb!

There is an alternate site for the tomb of Rachel which is not as widely known and which lies in a region under control of the Palestinian Authority at present. It is located near the border city of Beth El, which was the city to which King Saul was headed when he passed the Tomb of Rachel on his way from the home of the Prophet Samuel. We also have evidence that the Tomb lay north of Jerusalem since even if the exile referred to above was of Judah, the men of Jerusalem surely did not turn south to the existing tomb of Rachel before heading into Babylonian exile?  It is obvious that the redactors who edited the Christian gospels in their current form did not this or they would not have associated the death of young Jewish boys in Bethlehem with Rachel crying for her children, because there were not!

Since the most widely accepted site for Rachel's tomb today is on the border between Benjamin and Judah, far be it for us to dispute that Rachel's voice may also apply to the cries of the Jewish people. (But it is worth repeating that the reNEWed TESTAMENT relates these cries to the deaths of Jewish children in Bethlehem although contextually there is no bearing on that incident connected with the birth of the man from Nazareth and the promise of "territorial possessions" with which Hashem hushes Rachel's intercession.)  But these cries certainly apply as well, to the descendants of the House of Joseph and pertain specifically to the inheritance of the House of Joseph or as Jeremiah 31:18 describes this "their own borders."

And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave (Genesis 35:20). Rabbi Nathan said the surplus of funds collected for the burial of a particular corpse may be used to purchase a tombstone for the deceased. But R. Simeon b. Gamaliel taught: Tombstones are not erected for the tzaddikim, as their words [teachings] are their memorials. Even though this would suggest that Rachel was not a tzaddik (and her theft of her fathers idols might suggest this -- unless she was overcoming the idolatry of her family through the concept of the fall of the tzaddikim -- see above), nevertheless she attained to the World to Come for Jeremiah hears her voice from the heavenlies centuries after her death and Hashem hearkens to the same.


Zohar 3:267b states "and these words shall be, etc." R. Isaac adduced here the verse: “All my bones shall say, Hashem, who is like unto thee, who delivereth the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him” (Psalm 35:10). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘refers to the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, will revive the dead, at which time He will prepare the bones and bring each one near to its fellow, as it says, “And the bones came together, bone to his bone” (Ezekiel 37).  Significant in Ezekiel's dry bones prophesy is that the bones dwell outside Eretz Yisrael and represent an "exceeding great (spiritual) army." On its face, the prophesy alludes to the righteous dead from the whole House of Israel, who are all physically situated outside of the Land. I also have to wonder whether there is an allusion to a "body" united in making a Tikkun.

The Hasidic practice of praising Hashem at the tombs of the tzaddikim appears to be rooted in the practice of King David who, when in distress and fleeing from his enemies "sang praises to the Holy One, blessed be He." As the Zohar explains this key of David, "True, it was the Holy Spirit that spoke through him, but had not David yearned continually for the Holy Spirit, it would not have rested upon him. It is always thus: the Holy Spirit will not descend upon a man unless he, from below, moves it to come. And David, as we have seen, in the greatest tribulation (even the depths of the tombs), did not cease to sing hymns and to praise Hashem for all things. When David came, the Holy Spirit found a “body” properly prepared, and so was able to sing through him in this world praises to the King, so that this world might be perfected to harmonize with the world above." David's voice was the equivalent in song of the tzaddik's Heavenly petition on behalf of those who visited his tomb. The pilgrimage to a tomb of a tzaddik for the purposes of Tikkun is somehow, I believe mystically linked to this Key of David.

Zohar 2:140b states: The souls of those Israelites who have departed from this world while still outside the confines of the Holy Land, wander hither and thither and roam about until they reach their appointed places. Happy is the lot of that man whose soul leaves this world in the domain of holiness, in the cavity provided by the Holy Land.

Conversely, Zohar 2:141b states that the wicked who are re-interred in the Holy Land before decomposing, actually defile the land because of the unclean spirit. And if such a body is brought into the Holy Land to be buried, before it is decomposed, to it applies the text, “And ye entered and defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination” (Jeremiah 2:7).  However even the bones (once the flesh has decomposed) of the wicked may be re-interred without incurring such a defilement to the land.

The Zohar continues: Joseph's body was never under the power of the unclean spirit, although his soul left him when he was yet outside the Holy Land. Why had the “other side” no dominion over him? Because when he was alive he was never seduced by the unclean spirit. Yet he did not wish that his body should be taken for burial into the Holy Land, but only requested that his bones should be taken and deposited there. Jacob, again, did not die at all: his body remained intact and his spirit had no fear of the impure potencies, for his bed was filled with the perfection of the celestial light, in the brightness of the twelve tribes and of the seventy souls (which came into Egypt with him). Therefore he was not afraid of the “other side”, and it had no power over him. Further, his body was in the likeness of the Supernal Form, for his beauty united all sides, and all the limbs of the first man- Adam-were united in him. Therefore Jacob said, “I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt” (Genesis 47:30)- the whole body. Therefore also “the physicians embalmed Israel” in order that his body might remain intact, as was fitting. As to other men whose souls pass away in the Holy Land, their souls and bodies alike come to no harm.

As the modern Jewish state looks to the other nations, politicians and world leaders -- anyone but Hashem -- for the promise of peace and security, perhaps the answers can be found only in Judah's remembrance of Joseph and his children, who have the biblical claim on two-thirds of the unannexed territories, including all of the Shomron and the Golan Heights. To Joseph's tomb, Jew and Joe together can journey and echo his words to Hashem as he awaited Redemption: PAKOD  YIFKOD  ELOKIM  ETCHEM  V'HA-ALIY'TEM  ET-ATZIMOTAI  MI-ZEH.  "G-d will surely remember you and the aliyah of my bones from here." Surely the souls of the tzaddikim whose bones still lie outside of the land are singing the same song.

 -- ben Yosef

 POSTSCRIPT: In the aftermath of the desecration of the Tomb of Joseph and it being turned into a mosque, we would add that Hashem will surely NOT REMEMBER us nor our aliyah until Joseph's tomb is restored and that is the song I hear the tzadikim singing today from every tomb I have visited.