On a recent trip to Tzfat, we took the opportunity to stop by a tziyon, a holy resting place, that we'd always bypassed previously.
The kever, the holy resting place, of Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai, one of the 5 disciplines of Rabbi Akiva, lies on the side of the road near the entrance to the holy city of Tzfat. It's unusual in being a small ancient building built over a tiny burial cave, with a larger newer (but still very old) building and picnic area built around it. The tziyon also carries an unusual sign for a special segulah associated with it.
The tiny cave carries a special warning, "no candles", as there is neither air nor space. Unfortunately, this warning is generally ignored, as the cave is heavily smoke covered and practically hard to breath within.
Heichal HaNegina carries this story of him, from the Gemora...
Rabbi Yehuda never dressed in the noble manner befitting a person of his stature. In fact, he didn't even own any warm clothing at all. One day his wife managed to purchase some inexpensive wool yarn. She spun it and wove it into cloth. From this material she fashioned a loose robe worn as a cloak. She even decorated it with beautiful embroidery to give it a finer appearance, as was fitting for her distinguished husband. Now, this type of garment was worn at that time by men and women alike, so Rabbi Yehuda and his wife shared it. When she needed to do errands in the marketplace she wore it; when Rabbi Yehuda went to the study hall he would wear the new cloak. He was, in fact, so pleased to own this warm coat that he composed a special blessing to be recited before putting it on: "Blessed is G-d who has enwrapped me in a cloak." Never mind that his coat was made of coarse homespun wool or that others had cloaks of far superior quality--Rabbi Yehuda was completely satisfied with his and never even noticed the others.
Once Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel declared a day of public fast and prayer because of a problem which beset the Jewish community. On such a day it was customary for all the Sages to gather together at the residence of the Nasi to pray as a group. This time, as well, they all came, with the exception of Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai.
It so happened that when the fast day was proclaimed, Rabbi Yehuda's wife was wearing the shared cape. Rabbi Yehuda, lacking a coat, was unable to join his colleagues. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel noted his absence with surprise, and questioned the other Sages to discover the reason he had failed to come. They explained to the Nasi that Rabbi Yehuda was unable to come because he had no coat to wear.
When the Nasi heard this he was quick to dispatch a messenger to Rabbi Yehuda bearing a beautiful new cloak. When the messenger arrived, Rabbi Yehuda was seated on a mat on the floor engaged in the study of Torah. "The Nasi has sent this coat to the Rabbi as a gift," said the messenger. "He asks that Rabbi Yehuda wear it and come to pray with the other Sages."
Rabbi Yehuda answered: "I have no need for a gift, as I already have a coat, thank G-d. My wife will return soon and bring it, and then I will come to the Nasi's house. I lack nothing; as you can see I am very wealthy."
And with those words he lifted a corner of the mat on which he sat. There, sparkling like fire, were hundreds of gold dinars. The messenger was left speechless by the sight of such an enormous fortune.
Rabbi Yehuda explained: "You see, I have enormous wealth if I want it, but I do not desire to benefit from this world any more than necessary." As he spoke, the golden coins disappeared, fulfilling his spoken desire.
Rabbi Yehuda lived as always, in poverty. But he was satisfied with what he had, and he exemplified the words of the Sages [Pirkei Avos, 4:1]: "Who is a rich man. He who is happy with his lot."
Heichal HaNegina notes his yaretzheit is the 14th of Iyar, and "anyone who makes an "early Shabbos," owes it to Rabbi Yehuda. In the Mishna in Brachos [4:1], it is brought that Mincha, the afternoon prayer, may be said until "evening" [sunset]; Rabbi Yehuda, however, holds that it may only be said until "plag HaMincha" which is 1-1/4 Halachic hours before sunset. Although that is not the Halacha, we do rely on Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion to permit a person to daven Ma'ariv, the evening prayer, after "plag" – which is the basis for the "early Shabbos" minyanim."
The last photo is from the Muqata blog, who noticed this little plaque that says, "In this place soap was buried that was made from Jews, May G-d Avenge their deaths, murdered by the Germans, May their names be eradicated." who followed up and found an article from the past that says, "In 1949, many Jews -- residents from Tzfat came to the cave of Rabbi Yehuda ben Ila'i, and buried soap from the fat of Jews that were made by the German Nazis; it was brought by one of the immigrants to Israel."
The 2nd to last picture has a huge recently placed stone saying "It is the custom to circle the burial site 7 times, each time saying Psalm 29 and the passage Ana b'Koach." It doesn't say why.
May the merit of this holy tanna stand for Klal Yisroel!
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Friday, September 12, 2008
// 9/12/2008 //