Yesterday, my husband, daughter, and I went on a spontaneous trip up north to visit kivrei tzadikim (graves of the righteous). We had talked about this possibility last week, but it wasn’t until we saw the sun shining and felt the cool breeze of early spring that we decided to grab a picnic lunch and hit the road. For the first time, we skipped Meron and headed straight to Teveria. It was such a pleasure taking this trip off-season. Wherever we went, there was room to breathe, walk, sit, and even park the car. We felt we were experiencing miracles even before we had started to daven. As we drove from one destination to the next, we were able to take in the picturesque scenery and breathe the fresh air.
First stop was the kevarim of Rabbi Akiva and the Ramchal, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, author of the Mesilat Yesharim and other important works. The kevarim overlook a stunning view of the Kinneret. Inside the structure, the Shema - the final words of Rabbi Akiva as he died al kidush Hashem - is prominently displayed on the wall. After davening, I was approached by a young boy asking for money to pay for new shoes. Due to the spontaneity of our trip, I didn’t come totally prepared. Unfortunately, one of the things I was missing was money - not the best thing to be without in these situations. I apologized and told him that I was low on cash but was happy to give him whatever change I could find in my wallet. I felt beyond pathetic when I handed him a few ten agurot coins. I told him that I also had a few American pennies but they would not get him far. He asked for them as well as it would give him a good feeling. Nice to know that you can give someone a good feeling even with the tiniest investment.
Next stop was the kever of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, one of the greatest Tannaim. Other members of my family have been there more recently but I haven’t been there in years. I was so pleasantly surprised at how built up and beautiful it was after having been renovated. On the wall inside, it’s written, “Eloka D’Meir Aneini, G-d of Rabbi Meir, answer me.” It is a known segulah to say this tefilah in times of trouble or when something is lost. The story behind this segulah is based on the Gemara Avoda Zara. When Rabbi Meir’s father-in-law, Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon, was caught teaching Torah publicly, he was killed, and Rabbi Meir’s sister-in-law was taken captive by the Romans. Rabbi Meir planned to do whatever was necessary to get her released and tried to bribe the warden with gold coins. The warden refused because he knew he would be punished if he was found to be involved in her escape. Rabbi Meir told him that if his supervisors would try to harm him, he should say, “G-d of Meir, answer me.” The warden wasn’t convinced this would work, so Rabbi Meir set out to prove it to him. He threw rocks at the vicious guard dogs, who then charged towards him. Rabbi Meir screamed, “G-d of Meir, answer me,” and the dogs retreated. The warden felt confident that he would be safe and released the girl. When the girl’s disappearance was discovered, the warden was taken out to be hanged. At the last moment, he cried out, “G-d of Meir, answer me!” The executioner took him down from the gallows and the warden told him the whole story. The Romans went looking for Rabbi Meir, who narrowly escaped their wrath by leaving Babyonia.
It seemed to me that the efficacy of this segulah was demonstrated right inside the women’s section, in front of my eyes. A mother reached her hand as far away from herself as she could, balanced her teetering baby on her hand, and tried to take a picture of the baby with the words “Eloka D’Meir Aneini” in the background. Luckily, Rabbi Meir stepped in and the mother realized in time that perhaps it wasn’t the safest position for her baby. She brought the baby close to her and took a selfie with the baby with the words in the background. A much better idea!
Next stop was the kevarim of the Rambam and the Sheloh, Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz, author of the great work Shnei Luchos Habris (SheLoH). I had never been to these kevarim either, which is surprising since I am actually a proud descendant of the Sheloh. Every Friday night when I light Shabbos candles, I say the special tefilah that he composed, expressing the tefilot of parents on behalf of their children. I was happy to say the tefilah at his kever and possibly cash in on protectziot (nepotism) as a member of his family. I’m hoping for the best.
Next stop was Amuka, the kever of Rav Yonatan ben Uziel, the greatest talmid of Hillel. According to many, Rav Yonatan ben Uziel never married, and as such he has a special z’chus to intercede on behalf of single men and women who come to daven at his kever. My husband and I actually began to date shortly after he made a trip to Amuka. In the women’s section, there is a kisei shel Eliyahu that is covered with scarves, and displays a sign that mentions a segulah to walk seven times around the kever while standing on the roof. I’m sure there are those that will do whatever it takes to find their bashert, even if it means walking on a roof, but I’m glad that the sign also offers the option to walk around the chair seven times instead.
Last stop was the old cemetery in Tzfat. We davened at the kevarim of Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Ari, who brought the study of Kabballah to Tzfat, and Rav Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz, composer of the tefilah of “Lecha Dodi.” As we walked on the path, we also noticed the kevarim of children of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and the Alshich, a student of Rav Yosef Karo.
After a delicious dinner in Tzfat, we headed home hopeful, that our tefilos will bear fruit. I’m so grateful that I live in Israel and am able to visit our holy sites in our holy land on the spur of the moment.