Shimon HaTzadik was, according to Pirkei Avot one of the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, andserved as Kohen HaGadol during the Second Temple era for about 40 years. The sages in Massechet Yoma tell us that during his tenure many miracles happened in the Holy Temple, including the goat on Yom Kippur to come to his right hand always, the light of the Menorah burnt for 24 hours straight and the altar fire was enough without addition of wood. Clearly all of these were signs of divine favor, in the merit of Shimon HaTzadik, one of the few to receive this remarkable appellation in history, as we noted in previous articles.
In another fascinating episode in the Talmud(Yoma 69), we learn about the Cutheans which were a heathen people allowed to live in Israel, slandered the Jews to Alexander the Great. They claimed that the Jews were planning a war against the great emperor and he came personally with his army to put out the rebellion. As he received news of the situation, Shimon HaTzadik donned his priestly garments for Yom Kippur (though it wasn’t the day) and went to meet Alexander. As the emperor saw the Kohen HaGadol, he dismounted his chariot and, to everyone’s shock prostrated to him. The soldiers were incredulous and asked what was the meaning of that and, Alexander explained that a “man in the likeness of an angel such as this [would] win against me in any war”. The misunderstanding was clarified and the perpetrators were killed.
This shows us a little about the greatness of Shimon HaTzadik, but what can we glean from his stories?
The Power of Angels and Tzadikim
As we wrote in the article about Eliyahu HaNavi, some individuals were called angels throughout literature. The Arizal explains in Sha’ar HaGilgulim that these individuals received what is called the Zihara Ila’ah (Supreme Illumination) from the world of Atzilut and their bodies literally turned to be higher than those of angels. A few other examples include Chizkiyah and Rav Yehuda from the Talmud and, as we saw just now, Shimon HaTzadik.
The Tzadik Yesod Olam (foundation of the world), which is in every generation, is an incredibly holy individual. It’s not for nothing that in episodes like that of Purim, the Tzadik (in that case, Mordechai), was the target of intense persecution, both from Haman, as well as the general Jewish populace. It’s in his merit that the generation stands, and, according to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, that each person gets his Torah from. The figure of the Tzadik as an individual of flesh and blood is also present in the mystical intentions of the writings of the Arizal, specifically in Sha’ar HaKavanot (“Gate of Mystical Intentions”). There, in the Drush (speech) of Shavuot, the Arizal explains the type and level of light we are drawing on this particular festival and says that the 2 tablets represents the 2 sephirot of Netzach (victory) and Hod (splendor). The fact that Yesod has no mention throughout Pesach, Sefirat HaOmer and Shavuot strongly indicates that it is indeed Moshe Rabbenu, the Tzadik of his generation, who brings it(hence called “Tzadik Yesod Olam”).
Conduits of Salvation
Stories of Tzadikim abound throughout the generations. They not only give great advice but serve as guardians in the Heavenly court by overturning decrees and decreeing blessings. The Tzadikim are also endowed with special powers to see the future, read through a person’s soul, and know what is happening in Heaven. Breslov literature is full of advice on how merely being close to the Tzadik of the generation is beneficial for us, as their soul irradiates light and blessing. Shimon HaTzadik was such an individual, and was able to wield considerable power in his generation. At times, he had to act with kindness, while at others, he had to act sternly.
Without a Tzadik Yesod Olam, the world could not endure, as we find many mentions in the Zohar. This should not be surprising since the 6 sephirot of Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod are collectively called Ze’ir Anpin and also given the appellation “Tzadik”. This is an essential part of the spiritual system inherent in every one of the spiritual worlds. This is the “Tzadik” that has its counterpart in the lower worlds, like Shimon HaTzadik.
Shimon HaTzadik shows us a little bit of the power of Tzadikim, and what we can expect from them. May we merit to connect to our Tzadikim of the root of our souls as well as the Tzadik of the generation and merit to have all the blessings we can hold!
In fact, one way we can do this is by going to the Kivrei (graves of) Tzadikim, just as we do in Prayer Treks! To sponsor a Prayer Trek, and merit their blessings, click here.