Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Prayer at Tel Shiloh Is Better Than At A Grave

One of the earliest things I remember learning is that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu's burial spot is hidden is because we're not supposed to worship at graves.  There's too much a temptation to pray to the dead person rather than directly to G-d.

ד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלָיו, זֹאת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר, לְזַרְעֲךָ, אֶתְּנֶנָּה; הֶרְאִיתִיךָ בְעֵינֶיךָ, וְשָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲבֹר. 4 And the LORD said unto him: 'This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.'
ה וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד-יְהוָה, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב--עַל-פִּי יְהוָה. 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
ו וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בַגַּי בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב, מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר; וְלֹא-יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת-קְבֻרָתוֹ, עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we're not supposed to pray at graves and tombs, no matter how righteous the dead person was.

That's what makes Shiloh such a holy place.  It was the religious and administrative Capital of the Jewish Nation for 369 years, from the time of Joshua until Shmuel HaNavi, Samuel The Prophet.  I've lived in Shiloh for the past thirty years, but only in the past few have I established the custom of going to the Ancient Tel and praying every Rosh Chodesh.

During Biblical times, Shiloh was a place of pilgrimage and prayer.  Shoftim, the book of Judges, begins with the story of how Elkana and his family brought other Jews to pray at The Mishkan, the Taberncle at Shiloh.  During one of those pilgrimages, his wife Chana beseeached G-d for a child.  She vowed that the child would be given to G-d to lead the Jewish People.  G-d remembered her and  Shmuel HaNavi, Samuel The Prophet was born.

For thousands of years, Shiloh has been a place for prayers, not only for Jews.  Actually, until quite recently, I think more Christians had been making of point of coming to Shiloh to pray than Jews did.  That bothered me and was one of the reasons I started inviting women to come to Tel Shiloh to pray on Rosh Chodesh, the first of the Jewish Month.  The other reason is that I couldn't understand why thousands of people fight to pray in places like Rachel's Tomb while the holy and spacious Tel Shiloh is so ignored.

Last night as I was walking to the site where the Mishkan, Tabernacle had stood I saw the young woman who administers the Tel's Tourist site.

"Batya, it's your dream come true.  You must go quickly to see all of the women praying at the site of the Mishkan."

Yes, it was thrilling to see women of all ages praying at Tel Shiloh.  As Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi said last night, 

"There's no doubt that the Biblical Chana was with us, watching from Olam Habba, overjoyed at the turnout and prayers."

Tourists come from all over the world to Tel Shiloh. For more information about visiting Tel Shiloh email  or call 02-994-4019.


Moriah said...

"The more I think about it, the more I believe that we're not supposed to pray at graves and tombs, no matter how righteous the dead person was."

I agree with you.There is something disturbing about well known, righteous Israeli rabbis encouraging Jews to leave Israel so they can pray and party at a grave in Uman for Rosh Hashana! The Ukranians had a big protest against it. It feels wrong in my gut. We don't need a go-between to take our prayers to Hashem..

Batya said...

Moriah, thanks
I hope you'll make it to Israel to pray with us at Tel Shiloh. No go-between, just G-d.

Anonymous said...

It's very nice what you are doing, but to intimate that jews who go to daven at Kevarim are doing something wrong is baseless. I guess all the Lubavitchers who go to the Ohel, all the Beslovers who go to Uman and anyone else who goes to Maarat Hamechpelah or Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron are sinning... No offense, but I will rely on the abundance of RABBEIM who hold that it is a Mitzvah to go to Kevarim and daven that in the Zechus of the tzaddik who lies there, Hashem should help us.

Batya said...

a, even though it's popular and accepted to pray at graves, it's still problematic.

Anonymous said...

Batya, I partially agree with you. It's problematic in the way praying at graves is over-stressed and in how people mistakenly think they are supposed to pray to the deceased, which is halachically oh so wrong.

I believe the first example of praying at the tombs of the righteous is Calve Ben Yefuneh, who went out of his way to pray in Hevron.

Batya said...

Thanks, Shy, is it better than talking to "the wall?"

When will we wisen up?

G-d has explained it all so clearly. Why don't we listen?

Anonymous said...

Batya, I'm not a tomb-hopper myself.

However, there is a lot of inspiration to derive when visiting this or that grave of a well known person (not only Jews).

The best for me was when I was in Hevron for a Shabbat and it dawned on me as I started the Shmonah Esrei that when I say "the G-d, of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Yaacov", I can actually point to the Patriarch's graves around me in every direction.

I would not dream of wasting money on a grave hopping trip abroad but I would consider one where you go to the many that are in this country, get a good historical teaching at each site about the person buried there and daven or read some Tehilim at each site. But this is a once in a decade or 2 kind of trip.

IMO, Rav Nachman is rolling over in his grave from the nonsense they've made out of traveling to Uman to visit his grave.

Batya said...

I don't boycott the graves, but I find more inspiration at Tel Shiloh.

AvifromParis said...

Chazak u baruch Batya for your efforts to get more Jews to Shiloh. I'm amazed- actually ashamed- that most Jews don't realize how holy Shiloh is and that our leaders are even considering giving a place where the shechinah was for 369 years to the so-called Palestinians. I'm planning a trip to Israel in December and Shiloh is on the top of my list! It would be an honor to meet you! Avi

Batya said...

Avi, stay in touch. Maybe we can meet here in Holy Shiloh

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful thing!!! I love Tel Shilo and when I give presentations and speeches about it, I always stress how it's incredible - unfortunately - that many people don't even know it still exists, or where it is on the map! I think that Shilo must be included in every trip to Israel.

Batya said...

a, yes, Shiloh is a treasure. G-d willing, more people will realize its importance.

Ezra said...

On the subject of praying at other's grave sites, I've always had that opinion to safeguard my prayers to HaShem only.
Of course, we want the best for our deceased loved ones, but I started the habit of praying to HaShem over their grave vs. trying to have a spiritual chat with the deceased. That said, Avraham holds a special place in my heart and I still bless him in my morning prayers even though his life is over.
Just a reminder: Everything is important. Including this chat subject, because this is REAL (Emet) for us, and connects us to life.
Baruch HaShem.

Batya said...

Some people get confused about to where to direct prayers.