Let’s do a Ziyara.
During the days between Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement), it has become a custom to go “visit” the cemeteries. It is also customary to visit the graves of the saintly on their day of passing. Today, the 16th of Shvat is the day of Passing of Rabbi Hayim Palacci of Izmir.
Join me on this thread for a Ziyara to the Izmir Gürçecme Cemetery.
The cemetery has some very old gravestones, some are 500 years old, some are even older – but most people were not originally buried here in Gürçecme but rather on the hill of Bahirbaba.
In 1885, the Izmir municipality ordered the Izmir Jewish community to stop using the Bahirbaba cemetery, which was in continuous use for hundreds of years, and has started building on top of the cemetery.
Many of the graves of the great rabbis were transported in the 1920’s.
In our tradition we pay a lot of respect to cemeteries – we believe that the soul will reenter the body at the day of resurrection, the resting place of the body is a very holy but temporary abode –
We call a cemetery a Bet Hayim, house of Living or Bet Olam: Eternal House.
Unfortunately graves are still dug up from Bahirbaba today… Just last year 951 graves were dug up and when the Izmir municipality paved a road over the old Jewish cemetery and 951 new/old graves were reentered here in Gürçecme…
Some of the headstones were transported as well, some are 450 years old!
“When they moved the grave of Rabbi Hayim Palacci, in the 1920’s, a few people died, he was such a holy person” says Mose, and his eyes fill up with tears…
The cemetery has since become a choice place for Ziyara – hundreds of people come from Israel, from America and Europe to pray at the grave of the great rabbis who are buried here.
Before they attend these holy places, they purify themselves and immerse in the Mikvah.
Rabbi Hayim Palacci, is very well known, and his teachings are used by virtually every rabbi around the world, click here to listen to a short thought I repeated while visiting his synagogue:
It is important to note, though, that we don’t pray ‘to’ the graves, but we pray ‘at’ the graves… We ask that the souls of those buried here intervene on our behalf in front of the Eternal…
“People get very emotional here” they cry, they pray “they don’t want to leave!”… He says and his voice chokes with emotion.