Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

The Sweep and Icing on the Cake

According to Dr. Google, “The term sweep is commonly used in North American sports such as baseball, basketball and ice hockey which have playoff or regular season series, to describe a situation where one team wins all the games in a series.” Needless to say, the fans are euphoric and talk about the event for years. And growing up in a family of sports enthusiasts, I know firsthand the excitement.

My Sweep in a Different Realm

In my case, I experienced this week the euphoria  of a “sweep” in a bit more non-conventional manner – and it was related to having sequential “private audiences”  at the burial sites of some of my favorite rabbis whose final resting places are in Eretz Yisrael in the vicinity of Tzfat and Tiberias. The occasion for these visits was the celebration of my English Birthday.

In my prior blog A Triple Header Birthday Celebration, I described my incredible “private audiences” on the occasion of my Hebrew Birthday Tishri 18 with Rabbi Akiva z”l, his wife Rachel z”l, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk z”l. All of these notables are buried in the holy city of Tiberias.

The Expanded Royal Visits of a Lifetime

In celebrating both Hebrew and English birthdays (on October 11 of this week), I obtained  my “bucket list for private audiences” with the addition of visiting the burial places of two Rabbinical notables Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel whose name is synonymous with the place known as Amuka and Rabbi Yehuda bar (meaning ‘son of’) Ilia.

A word about each reveals why these two were my focus and source of attraction.

Who was Rabbi Yonasan Ben Uziel z”l?

According to Zissel’s Kivrei Tzadikim Encyclopedia, Rabbi Yonasan Ben Uziel z”l was a first generation Tana and the greatest of Hillel the Elder’s eighty students. He lived right before the destruction of the Second Temple, authored the Targum on Navi and was considered to be one of the greatest mystics of his generation.

However, for most of us, we identify Rabbi Yonason ben Uziel as the heavenly matchmaker. It is rumored that he never got married himself and before he passed away promised to help all singles that came to him looking for marriage partners. Numerous couples recite stories how they met due to the merit of Rabbi Yonason ben Uziel, after praying at his grave.

Who was Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai z”l?

Also according to Zissel Kivrei Tzadikim Encyclopedia, Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai z”l, was a fourth generation Tana and is the most frequently mentioned Sage in the Mishnah, where he is referred to simply as Rebbe Yehuda. A student of Rebbe Akiva, and a Torah scholar, he lived most of his life in complete poverty. His burial place is right at the entrance to Tzfat in Ein Zetim.

Rabbi Yehuda’s Connection to Shalom Bayit and Weddings

While many associate his burial place as a segula for parnassa, a less known fact about Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai is his dedication to promoting shalom bayit and honoring brides and grooms at weddings.

In an article Sources and Backgrounds Holy Sages Buried in Israel , Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller-Gottleib includes two marriage related episodes connected to Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai. In describing the Rabbi as a Bringer of Peace”, she cites the following two stories:

“ A man once got angry at his wife for burning his food. He made a vow disassociating her unless she got Rebbe Yehuda and Rebbe Shimon to eat the dish. Rebbe Yehuda agreed to taste the dish despite the humiliation, saying he was no better than the Hashem who was willing to have his name erased in the waters of the Sotah to bring peace between husband and wife.“

Rabbi Yehuda was also known for “Dancing Before Kallahs: At weddings, Rabbi Yehuda bar Illai would hold a myrtle branch in his hand and dance in front of the bride. This custom attested to his high level of Shmiras Habris, showing that he was completely unafraid of it affecting him.”

The Tie That Binds Amuka and Ein Zetim

Given the fact that thousands visit the resting places of Rabbi Yonason ben Uziel and Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilia, the likelihood of my having a “private audience” with these two sages  of such renown was slim to none, so imagine my excitement when I had the privilege of another double header raising the total to 5 in a row – my very own sweep!

So what topics comprised my bucket list for the “private audiences”?

In addition to the general personal requests one would imagine, my “wish lists” were directed to my passion for shalom bayit and marriage education and included:

  • Requests for appropriate shidduchim (appropriate matches) for those in need
  • Prayers for greater need and usage of the 5th edition Wedding Guide published by  The Givat Sharett Chesed Committee Simcha Gemach (of Beit Shemesh) established in memory of my parents
  • Prayers for greater recognition by engaged and newly married couples of the need to add marriage education course(s) as a must have item(s) before marriage or as a newlywed
  • Prayers that more voices would join the cause for couples to include marriage education courses in their own “bucket lists” prior to and during the first year(s) of marriage
  • Prayers for expanded forums for sharing the foundation of healthy and happy marriages. For example, both my parents and our patriarch Avraham and matriarch Sarah shared the lessons of mutual trust, respect, and devotion.  (Refer to “I Vote for Avraham and Sarah”)

Icing on the Cake –

There was one more stop to complete the cycle of visits to special burial places as part of the birthday celebration and that was to the burial place  of Rebbe Meir Baal Haness in Tiberias.

Who was Rebbe Meir Baal Haness z”l?

Rebbe Meir Baal Haness z”l, as shared in the Zissel Kivrei Tzadikim Encyclopedia, was a fourth generation Tana and one of the most respected Jewish Sages during the time of the Mishnah (139-163). Rabbi Meir served as one of the main leaders in Israel during the generation following the Bar Kochba rebellion.

The Rebbe has the reputation of being a miracle worker. Thousands visit his burial place every year. In fact, as an interesting aside, we made a  quick stop in the community of Or HaGanuz. By hashgacha pratis, we went inside the Regional Council’s building  and met a woman who said that there is a special chair inside the area of Rebbe’s resting place that if you sit on it all of your requests will be answered! Surely my birthday celebrations had to close the circle with a visit to this illustrious burial site!

What also  made this visit the full circle is that this miracle worker’s actions also spread to the realm of shalom bayit.  This incident shared in the Zissel Kivrei Tzadikim Encyclopedia epitomizes this commitment to shalom bayit:

Once a man got angry at his wife for coming back late from Rabbi Meir’s Friday night lecture. He kicked his wife out of the house declaring that he would not allow her in until she spat in the face of Rabbi Meir. After three weeks out of the house her neighbors encouraged her to approach Rabbi Meir.

Through his Roach Hakodesh, Rabbi Meir saw the full situation, as soon as the woman entered, he announced that his eye was in great pain and needed a woman who knew who to whisper on a wound to ease the pain. With the encouragement of her friends the woman stepped forward. When she got closer she confessed that she did not know how to perform the ritual. Rabbi Meir told her that instead she should spit seven times in his eye.

After she did this, Rabbi Meir instructed her to go home and tell her husband that while he commanded her to spit at him once, she had done so seven times. Students who realized what happened were enraged and asked Rabbi Meir why he agreed to degrade himself when they could have physically forced the husband to make up with his wife. Rabbi Meir replied that he was no better than Hashem who agreed to have his name erased by in an incident of an accused Sotah, to preserve peace between husband and wife.

Lessons from the Graves

If there is one thread that permeated the 5 private audiences during the course of my Hebrew and English Birthdays was the importance each placed on marriage related topics – from the reciprocal love between Rabbi Akiva and Rachel his devoted wife; to the general love of Rabbi Menachem Mendel to the heavenly assistance advocated by my expanded circle of Rabbinical heroes – we can take a lesson and focus on how as a society we can support new couples meeting and learning the skills to set the foundation for healthy and happy marriages in Eretz Yisrael – our future depends on it.

I highly recommend visiting these burial places and experiencing the gifts of our inheritance for yourself. I will always be grateful for the private audiences I had and the connection to these sites will be forever part of my own journey.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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