Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 16 - PRAYING BY A CEMETERY

The Gemora states that it was the custom to visit a cemetery on a fast day. One reason given is that the Jewish people were saying that they consider themselves like corpses and this will stimulate them to repent. Another reason is that this will enable the deceased who are buried in the cemetery to pray for them. According to the second reason, they would not visit a cemetery that contained the graves of gentiles.

The Ritva writes that they didn’t go to the cemetery in order to daven there because that is forbidden on the account of “loeg lerosh” – it is considered mocking to the dead who cannot perform the mitzvos; rather they davened in the streets and went to the cemetery afterwards.

The Ran adds that they did not take the sefer Torah with them when they went to the cemetery.

The Noda B’yehuda (O”C 2:109) was asked on a year that there was no rain and there was tremendous suffering; if they would be permitted to go to a cemetery with a sefer Torah and daven there for rain.

He cites a Zohar (Acharei Mos) which states that davening by a cemetery inspires the souls of those buried there to inform those that are buried in Chevron (Patriarchs and the Matriarchs) who subsequently will arouse Hashem’s compassion.

However, there is a Gemora in Brochos (18a) which rules that a person should not enter a cemetery with tefillin on his head or read from a sefer Torah in his arm. We can infer from this Gemora that reading from the sefer Torah is forbidden but holding it would be permitted. The Kesef Mishna in Hilchos Sefer Torah (10:6) learns that both are forbidden; reading from the sefer Torah or holding it.

The Noda B’yehuda concludes that although he is not an expert in the hidden portions of Torah, the Zohar cited does warn against bringing a sefer Torah that might be missing letters into a cemetery since this can cause terrible consequences.

The sefer Igra D’taanisa wonders why the Noda B’yehuda makes no mention of our Gemora which would indicate that one can go daven by a cemetery.

The Minchas Elozar discusses the permissibility of people davening by Kever Rochel. Some say that we are not mocking Rochel since she was living before the Torah was given; she was never obligated in mitzvos.

The Netziv rules that in his days, it would be permitted because the custom was to bury them deeper than ten tefachim from the ground and it is considered like a different domain.

The Rama (O”C 581:4) writes that there are places that have the custom to go to cemeteries on Erev Rosh Hashanah and to recite lengthy Tefillos there. The Chidah asks on this Rama from the Ritva here that states explicitly that one should not daven in the cemetery.

There are those that create a distinction between a compulsory tefillah and a tefillah which is only voluntary.

The Elya Rabbah (581) quotes from the Maharil that one should be careful when going to the graves of Tzadikim that your tefillos should not be directed towards those that are buried there, rather one should daven to Hashem and ask for compassion in the merit of these Tzadikim.

Some say that you can ask the dead to be an advocate on your behalf.

The Bach (Y”D 217) rules that it is forbidden to daven to the dead because of the prohibition of being “doresh el hameisim.” He points out that even though we find that Calev did daven in Chevron by the Meoras Hamachpeila, he wasn't davening to the Avos. Rather, since a cemetery is a place of holiness and purity, the tefillos davened there will be more readily accepted.

Nefesh Hachaim
has some good information on this topic as well.

Parshas Nitzavim-VaYeilech:Davening At A Cemetery

This weeks shiur was on the sugyah of davening at a cemetary. The Shulchan Aruch brings down the inyan of davening at a cemetary in 3 places. In Hilchos Ta'anis it is quoted as one of the halachos that a tzibbur should do when there is a ta'anis for rain. It is also mentioned in Hil' Tisha B'Av and finally in Hilchos Rosh Hashana. Although everyone agrees one should or could go to a cemetary there is a machlokes about why we are going.

The gemara in Ta'anis 16a brings two reasons why we go to a cemetary on a fast day. One opinion holds it is to arouse in ourselves a feeling of teshuva by saying that if we don't do teshuva we are like meisim. The 2nd opinion is that we are davening to the meisim that they should intercede on our behalf. The gemara says the nafka mina is whether one should go to a non-Jewish cemetary if no other cemetary is available. Acc. to the first reason one could go but not according to the 2nd reason. Tosafos writes from here we have a minhag to go to the cemetary on Tisha B'Av.

Also the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch seem to pasken like the first reason (to arouse in ourselves a feeling of teshuva).

Davening To Meisim


Shittas HaMachmirim
The question is, is there anything wrong with davening to the meisim. The Bach (end of Y.D. 217) brings a shittah that it is assur to daven to a meis and to do so is a violation of "doresh el hameisim". The Be'er Heitev in Hil Rosh Hashanah (581:17) also quotes a Maharil who holds it is assur and the only reason to go to a cemetary is because it is a mokom kodosh v'tahor. Teh Maharil writes that a person is only allowed to daven to Hashem and not to any other intemediary. The Bach also points out that even though we find that Kaleiv davened in Chevron by the Ma'aras HaMachpeila (Sotah 34b) he wasn't davening to the avos. Rather, since a cemetary is a mokom kodosh v'tahor it is a place where ones tefillos will be readily accepted.

Shittas HaMeikilim

There are poskim who hold that it is muttar to daven to meisim. It should be pointed out that there is a similar machlokes regarding davening to ma'lachim (eg. machnisiei rachamim in selichos). However, as we will see one can be m'chaleik between davening to a meis and davening to a malach. The Maharam Shik (O.C. 293) writes that it is muttar. He asks how is it possible to ask a living tzaddik to daven for us? He answers that when the tzaddik hears our problems the tzaddik himself is in paon. Therefore the tzaddik is really davening that HKBH should help him (i.e. the tzaddik). It just happens to be that the way to ease the tzaddik's pain is by helping the other person. This sevara would apply to a meis as well. The meisim know what is going on in this world and when they hear we are in pain they will also be in pain. Therefore, they can ask HKBH to heal their pain (i.e. the pain of the meis) and m'meilah the pain of the other person will also be healed. Although the Maharam Shik doesn't mention it, I saw brought down in the Minchas Yitzchak (Chelek 8 Siman 53) that this idea is found in the Chasam Sofer (O.C. 166) who was actually the rebbi of the Maharam Shik. The Chasam Sofer used this sevara to distinguish between davening to malachim (which he held was asasur) and davening to a live person (which is muttar) . It seems the Maharam Shik took itone step further and applied it to meisim as well.

The Minchas Elazer (Chelek 1 Siman 68) has a lengthy teshuva why it is muttar. He quotes many gemaras and medrashim as proofs. Rav Moshe (Igros Moshe O.C. chelek 5 Siman 43:6)also discusses this issue. However, Rav Moshe doesn't seem to come out with a final psak. He just says that the machlokes is based on whether meisim are better than malachim.

I would like to say that maybe we have a rayah that Rabbi Akiva Eiger held it was muttar. In Hil Rosh Hashana the Magan Avraham writes that the minhag to go to a cemetary is found in the gemara. But he doesn't say which gemara. The GR"A points you to the gemara in Ta'anis. However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger says that the MG"A is referring to the gemara in Sotah about Kaleiv. Why did Rabbi Akiva Eiger choose this gemara? It could be that Rabbi Akiva Eiger held it was muttar to daven to meisim and therefore he chose the gemara in Sotah which clearly states it is muttar (unless you learn like the Bach that it was a din in the mokom).

One more mareh mokom to look at (which I didn't get a chance to see) is an article in Techumim vol 21 by Rav Moshe Tzuriel. (also see here at the end of the article)