from Beyong the Veil: month of Nissan
At first glance, the practice of praying in Kivrei(graves of) Tzadikim might seem strange. The Torah explicitly forbids us from asking the dead and most Ashkenazim who follow the Vilna Gaon refrain completely from even going in the cemetery. However, it is a well-known Kabbalistic custom that was popularized by the Arizal to go to Kivrei Tzadikim. The source of this is none less than the Zohar that makes the clear distinction: only in the case of wandering around or going to graves where wickedpeople are buried did the Torah forbid us from going. Kivrei Tzadikim are perfectly fine.
One of the reasons is that the wicked souls are filled with impure spirits that might attach to a person going there. Assuming a person only goes to pray in the graves of Tzadikim and avoids the wicked around, this danger is mitigated.
What does this have to do with Nissan, you may ask?
As we all know, Nissan is the month of miracles, marked by the illumination of Pesach which we just passed. But what few people know is that Nissan, alone, holds special power to bring rectification for the departed!
Let’s explore that more in-depth!
The prayers of the dead
The Zohar brings in many places that the dead are constantly praying for the well-being of the living. Not only that, but it also testifies that had it not been for that, the world couldn’t be sustained for a single minute! Stories of Tzadikim praying in the graves of other Tzadikim feature in the Midrash, Talmud, Zohar and later Rabbis. And the most iconic example is right before the spies are sent to spy the land of Israel in Parshat Shelach Lecha, when Caleb goes to the cave of the Patriarchs. Specifically, he asks Avraham Avinuhimself for help. Why?
The Sha’ar HaGilgulim (Gate of Reincarnation) written by Rav Chaim Vital explains that Caleb was a reincarnation of Eliezer, the loyal servant of Avraham. Having faithfully served Avraham, Eliezer (now Caleb) asks for a “little compensation” of having his former master intercede on his behalf and pray for his protection. If you think about it, this is mindblowing!
Of course, on one hand, we know that Hashem is the one in charge and all power and blessings come from Him. On the other hand, this episode illustrates how much can be accomplished through the departed Tzadikim. Caleb, together with Yehoshua, was saved from the spies' conspiracy and inherited a blessed portion in Eretz Israel.
Clearly, we also learn from this story that having a previous link to the departed Tzadik can be greatly beneficial when it comes to praying at their Kever. In Sha’ar HaGilgulim we find that studying the works of the Tzadik and keeping their Minhagim (customs) can help strengthen this bond with them.
Besides all that, in order to deepen our connection to Tzadikim it’s a very good practice to do something for them, like praying that Hashem should give them an elevation, to give Tzedaka on their behalf, lighting candles on their graves, or merely helping clean their graves. Whatever the case, there are many permissible things we can do in this world to help them in the other world.
Blessings of the trees and the elevation of the departed
The Shulchan Aruch (226:1) writes that during Nissan, we bless Hashem for the blossoming of the trees when we see at least 2 fruit trees that started to blossom. This special Bracha is said only once a year.
Many Kabbalists write that the weeks of Shovavimand month of Elul are particularly special for the living to make Teshuva. The month of Nissan are particularly special for the dead to receive an elevation! A well-known custom is to recite the portion of the Nasi (prince) of each Tribe on their respective days starting from the 1st of Nissan until the 12th. This is accompanied by many special prayers where we ask Hashem for the elevation of the souls from each of their tribes. In them, we ask Hashem to hear their prayers on our behalf and that we are also lifted together.
As we saw in previous articles, souls (or parts of souls) can be reincarnated in different realms, the lowest being the inanimate (rocks and water), followed by the vegetable (trees, herbs, fruits and flowers) followed by the animals and the highest one being the human. According to Kabbalah, the blessing of the trees help the souls that were reincarnated in the vegetable realm to be rectified.
Nissan’s zodiac sign is Aries (the sheep), which is not only docile and a kosher animal but symbolizes the time when Hashem is gently guiding us and bringing us to our destiny.
But Nissan also marks the beginning of the summer months characterized by the “feminine divine providence”. This period goes on until the end of Elul and it is a time when a lot of good comes down to the world in terms of blessings, as we see from the beginning of the blossoming of the trees.
The very name of Nissan (ניסן) contains the word נס which means “miracle”. Just like our forefathers experienced an abundance of miracles in this month, so too we can experience them.
This is the perfect opportunity to begin our relationship with the Tzadikim and this is what we strive to do with Prayer Treks! Do you have someone in mind you’d like to come closer to? Don’t be shy, the Tzadikim desire to help the living more than anything and are always open to listening to us! It’s never late to start a relationship with a Tzadik we admire!
May we all merit receiving all the miracles we need in our lives!