Sunday, March 17, 2013

Veneration of saints in Jewish Tradition

Note:This blog entry is a modification of MY OWN webpage at

Here are some places in Jewish tradition--mostly the Talmud (Talmidim) where the veneration of saints was done, where the "tzaddik" was physically dead, but a Jew believed they can still hear their plea for intercession, Jews refuse to use the word "pray," however, the concept of "asking" is the same. Notice some of these references even have the person prostrating at the tomb of their "saint." Most of these are Tractates from Seder Mo'ed. One is from the Zohar. The translations are from the link provided, which are mostly Socino:

“And they went up by the South and he came unto Hebron — it should have read 'and they came'! — Raba said: It teaches that Caleb held aloof from the plan of the spies and went and prostrated himself upon the graves of the patriarchs, saying to them, 'My fathers, pray on my behalf that I may be delivered from the plan of the spies'. (As for Joshua, Moses had already prayed on his behalf; as it is said: And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua, [meaning], May Jah save thee [yoshi'aka] from the plan of the spies.) That is the intention of what is written: But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him. “—Sotah 34b

ויעלו בנגב ויבא עד חברון ויבאו מבעי ליה אמר רבא מלמד שפירש כלב מעצת מרגלים והלך ונשתטח על קברי אבות אמר להן אבותי בקשו עלי רחמים שאנצל מעצת מרגלים יהושע כבר בקש משה עליו רחמים שנאמר (במדבר יג) ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע יה יושיעך מעצת מרגלים והיינו דכתיב (במדבר יד) ועבדי כלב עקב היתה רוח אחרת עמו--Original Text of Sotah 34b

 “Why do they go to the cemetery? — With regard to this there is a difference of opinion between R. Levi b. Hama nad R. Hanina. One says: [To signify thereby], We are as the dead before Thee; and the other says: In order that the dead should intercede for mercy on our behalf.”— SEDER MO‘ED, Tracate Ta'anit 16a [Taanis]

למה יוצאין לבית הקברות פליגי בה ר' לוי בר חמא ור' חנינא חד אמר הרי אנו חשובין לפניך כמתים וחד אמר כדי שיבקשו עלינו מתים רחמים (Ta'anit 16, original text)

“R. Mani, was annoyed by the members of the household of the Patriarch, he went and prostrated himself on the grave of his father and exclaimed: “Father, father, these people persecute me.” Once as they were passing [the grave] the knees of their horses became stiff [and remained so] until they undertook not to persecute him any longer.”-- SEDER MO‘ED, Tracate Ta'anit 23b [Taanis]
ותו רבי מני בריה הוו קא מצערי ליה דבי נשיאה אישתטח על קברא דאבוה אמר ליה אבא אבא הני מצערו לי יומא חד הוו קא חלפי התם אינקוט כרעא דסוסוותייהו עד דקבילו עלייהו דלא קא מצערו ליה --Ta'anit 23b original Aramaic text 

"Forthwith, R. Joshua went and prostrated himself upon the graves of Beth Shammai. He said, "I crave your pardon, bones of Beth Shammai. If your unexplained teachings are so [excellent] how much more so the explained teachings." Hagigah 22b (chagigah)

מיד הלך ר' יהושע ונשתטח על קברי ב"ש אמר נעניתי לכם עצמות ב"ש ומה סתומות שלכם כך מפורשות על אחת כמה וכמה - Hagigah 22b (original Aramaic text)
Rabbi Haviva said, “Rabbi Haviva son of Surmaki told me: “I saw one of the rabbis whom Elijah used to frequent. In the morning his eyes were lovely, but in the evening they looked as if they had been burnt by fire. I asked him, ‘What is it?’ He told me that he has asked Elijah, ‘Show me the [departed] rabbis as they ascend to the Heavenly Academy.’ He [Elijah] replied: ‘You can gaze at all of them except for the carriage of Rabbi Hiyya, at which you cannot gaze.’ ‘What is their sign? [How can I distinguish between them?[‘ ‘All are accompanied by angels as they ascend and descend, except for the Rabbi Hiyya’s carriage, which ascends and descends on its own.’ ‘Unable to restrain myself, I gazed at it. Two sparks of fire shot forth and struck that man [i.e. me], blinding him. The next day I went and prostrated myself upon his [Rabbi Hiyya’s] grave, crying, “Your mishnah is my mishnah,” and I was healed.”” (taken from Zohar, Hadqamat Sefer ha-Zohar p21)
For more on the Jewish perspective on asking the righteous (Tzadik) to pray for Jews on earth, though they reject the use of the words “pray to” and use “ask” or “chat,” and avoid using intermediary, but nonetheless uphold the practice and point to its ancient origins., and how it does not conflict with the prohibition of “beseeching the dead” etc…see

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