Author Topic: Intercession of the saints in Judaism  (Read 1355 times)

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Offline RaphaCam

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Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« on: June 28, 2017, 11:03:01 PM »
Today I bought an Orthodox Jewish prayer book (Ma'aneh la-Shon) on a street bookshop out of curiosity and I was fascinated by its content. It's a book wholly dedicated to prayers that should be said over the grave of saints (tzadiqim)... Here's part of the foreword:

Quote
As such, the cemetery does not assume a central place in our Jewish experience. Yet, by an ancient and venerated tradition, prayer at the graves of the righteous is a common practice, one that is explored and sanctioned in both Torah law and its esoteric sources.

Our sages ask: “Why did Jacob bury Rachel on the way to Efras, rather than carry her body to the ancestral plot in the Cave of Machpelah?” They explain that Jacob had a prophetic vision of the Jewish people passing Rachel’s burial place as they were exiled from Jerusalem and led to Babylon. Whereupon Rachel would intercede on their behalf and her prayers would be heard:

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter wailing, Rachel weeping for her children…. Thus says G‑d: “Withhold your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears. Your work will be rewarded…. There is hope for your future…, your children will return from the land of the enemy.”

Similarly, on his way with the spies to Israel, Caleb paused in Hebron to pray at the Caves of the Patriarchs. These prayers saved him from becoming embroiled in the unfortunate plot of the spies.

To this day, people make their way to pray at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, at the burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the Machpela Cave in Hebron, and at King David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion. Indeed, until the recapture of the Western Wall in 1967, it was at King David’s Tomb that Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem would choose to pray.

Similarly, the graves of other righteous men and women, both in Eretz Yisrael and in the world at large, in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, have served as places of prayer for our people. [...]

Visiting the gravesite of a tzaddik with whom one had a personal connection is akin to a yechidus, a personal encounter of souls that takes place when the chasid comes to the Rebbe, seeking counsel and guidance. In the presence of the tzaddik’s G‑dliness, one’s self-consciousness quickly dissipates. The experience is similar when visiting the tzaddik’s resting place, for “the righteous are greater after death than in their lifetime,” and there is a residual influence of the soul which remains associated with the body in the grave, as the AriZal explains in Likkutei Torah. [...]

Although we cannot see the Rebbe [Yosef Yitzchak] physically, his is still the address to which we turn in times of crisis, or when a blessing is particularly called for. At the Ohel, thousands of men and women from all walks of life pour their hearts out to G‑d, and ask that the Rebbe intercede on their behalf.

After the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the Rebbe urged his followers to keep writing to him for blessings. “He will find a way,” the Rebbe explained, “to communicate his answer.” Surely this applies to the Rebbe as well.

I'm very curious about this because I had no idea that such a practice was commonplace. My thoughts:

  • Could this be an Old Testament practice with direct continuity with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the tombs of martyrs?
  • Could the cry of Rachel for her children prefigure the intercession of the Theotokos for hers?

Edit: I should probably have posted that on Religious Topics, but now it's done.  :P
« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 11:07:21 PM by RaphaCam »
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2017, 12:19:58 AM »
Since it's true the faithful departed are alive with God, there doesn't need to be some direct continuity between peoples who recognize the truth.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2017, 12:43:02 AM »
Since it's true the faithful departed are alive with God, there doesn't need to be some direct continuity between peoples who recognize the truth.
Yeah, but prayers to God over the graves of saints sound a bit specific to me... Just a supposition anyway.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 12:43:26 AM by RaphaCam »
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

May the Blessed Light shine Forth

Offline rakovsky

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2017, 08:05:13 AM »
Thanks for sharing.
In the gospels, it says that when Jesus is on the cross, people think Jesus is calling to Elijah , "Eli, Eli". This statement could suggest that in Judaism at the time, such practices as calling to the saints existed.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline Romaios

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2017, 08:40:50 AM »

Offline Iconodule

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2017, 09:18:56 AM »
Welcome back, Romaios!

I know very little about this topic, but the OP is fascinating.

Could you give some examples of prayers? Are they addressed to the saints directly or are they addressed to God, in memory of so-and-so, or...?
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 09:20:24 AM by Iconodule »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2017, 11:50:56 AM »
In the gospels, it says that when Jesus is on the cross, people think Jesus is calling to Elijah , "Eli, Eli". This statement could suggest that in Judaism at the time, such practices as calling to the saints existed.
Wow, I never thought about this passage that way, even though it sounds clear. Jews traditionally leave an empty chair for the Prophet Elijah on Bar Mitzvah parties, so maybe he is/was considered a specially powerful intercessor.

Here's an older thread on the same topic:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,4500.0.html
Oh, reading it.

Could you give some examples of prayers? Are they addressed to the saints directly or are they addressed to God, in memory of so-and-so, or...?
They're prayers adressed to God, and this is what I found very interesting. The texts is mostly Psalms (including 119, or 118 in the Greek numbering) and other prayers of similar content, but there are other interesting excerpts such as:
  • a couple of invocation to the saints, and even for them
  • lighting an oil lamp in the memory of the saints
  • a lengthy quote of the Talmud explaining death and the afterlife in Judaism
  • prayers of repentance
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 11:53:04 AM by RaphaCam »
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

May the Blessed Light shine Forth

Offline RaphaCam

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"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

May the Blessed Light shine Forth

Offline rakovsky

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2017, 01:54:16 PM »
Anything like this in the Talmud or early (before c. 200 BC) would be very helpful regarding prayers to the departed.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline Faithseeker

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2017, 04:36:42 PM »
Yes, it is a common practice in Orthodox Judaism. The Siddur (daily prayer book) includes intercessions of the Patriarchs and King David. Prayers for women who are trying to bear children mention those of Hanna and the Matriarchs.


Offline Faithseeker

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2017, 04:41:29 PM »
I only glanced at the older thread.

The proper term is not Hasids - the plural of Chassid (pronounced with "ch" like Bach) is Chassidim.

Prayers of intercession to the Rebbeim (plural of Rebbe), the head of a dynasty (community), have been common throughout Judaism and not specifically ordered only to Chassidim over the past 350+ years.

The Tzaddikim (the Righteous) have always been reverenced and prayers of intercession common. Prayers are always addressed to God with the addition of something similar to "Rebbe ... please pray for us."

Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2017, 04:52:34 PM »
"Hasids" is proper enough for English-speakers.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Faithseeker

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2017, 05:05:32 PM »
"Hasids" is proper enough for English-speakers.

I respectfully disagree. We should use proper language when referring to individuals. Such as we don't say "the Scotch" when referring to individuals from Scotland - they are "Scots." We don't say "Indians" when referring to Indigenous individuals, we say "Indigenous" or in the US "Native Americans" or in Australia and other countries "Aboriginal."

Language is a reflection of respect, likewise "Hasids" is a not proper enough for English-speakers, it is ignorance of proper respect.


Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2017, 05:21:26 PM »
"Hasids" is proper enough for English-speakers.

I respectfully disagree. We should use proper language when referring to individuals. Such as we don't say "the Scotch" when referring to individuals from Scotland - they are "Scots." We don't say "Indians" when referring to Indigenous individuals, we say "Indigenous" or in the US "Native Americans" or in Australia and other countries "Aboriginal."

Language is a reflection of respect, likewise "Hasids" is a not proper enough for English-speakers, it is ignorance of proper respect.

This is really funny. It's quite simple that "-s" is an English plural and "h" is an English sound. If you really wanted to draw these parallels, you'd have to show that we use "na h'Alban" to refer to the Scottish in polite speech. (Oh, and by the way, the politically-correct term for American Indians is now First Nations, and Aboriginal is now considered a slur in Australia.)
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Faithseeker

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2017, 05:30:56 PM »
I am not an Australian nor am I an American, so thank you for the clarification. I'm Canadian and we refer to the native people of our country as Indigenous. Likewise, I do not live in Scotland, however, my father's family is from Scotland. I know in the past as he was growing up it was common to use the term "Scotch." Now that people are more educated, we try to use proper language that reflects the individuals, countries, communities, etc. to whom we refer.

I take your comment in reference to "being funny" as a point of my ignorance of linguistic reference. You have corrected me on the terminology that I erred in and I respectfully accept that. Likewise, I would ask you to do the same with the use of "Hasids" which is a derogatory term. Also "Hasid" or "Chassid" is not an English word, therefore creating a plural term would not include adding an "s." When one learns of the proper terminology, it is common to accept that and respect it. If a term is used out of ignorance, then if one can correct that, it is the respectful thing to do.

I realise you and I have disagreeing viewpoints on various issues. I respect that and likewise, in return, I would assume you do as well.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 05:33:20 PM by Faithseeker »

Offline Iconodule

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2017, 09:15:35 AM »
There doesn't seem to be much consensus among native Americans /American Indians/ etc. as to how they should be referred. Some prefer one term, some the other, some insist on being addressed by the name of their particular nation.
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Offline Helladius

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2017, 10:33:28 AM »
Thanks for sharing.
In the gospels, it says that when Jesus is on the cross, people think Jesus is calling to Elijah , "Eli, Eli". This statement could suggest that in Judaism at the time, such practices as calling to the saints existed.

Really, really interesting thread!! And the above is a great point which I had never considered before :O

Please forgive/bear with my theological ignorance/mistakes... I'm wondering here - how do we understand prayer to the righteous dead in Jewish practice before Christ? I had always assumed prayer to the saints was something grounded upon Christ's resurrection and triumph over death. (In brief, I had understood it something like this: Christ triumphed over death, we're all alive in Christ, and the living and dead are united in the community of His Spouse the Church. Furthermore the saints - through theosis - have becomes icons/mirrors of Christ for us.) Clearly I've not quite been understanding right! Can someone explain to me, please: what difference does Christ's resurrection make to how the intercession of the saints/righteous dead works? Thanks :)
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2017, 12:46:10 PM »
Thanks for sharing.
In the gospels, it says that when Jesus is on the cross, people think Jesus is calling to Elijah , "Eli, Eli". This statement could suggest that in Judaism at the time, such practices as calling to the saints existed.

Really, really interesting thread!! And the above is a great point which I had never considered before :O

Please forgive/bear with my theological ignorance/mistakes... I'm wondering here - how do we understand prayer to the righteous dead in Jewish practice before Christ? I had always assumed prayer to the saints was something grounded upon Christ's resurrection and triumph over death. (In brief, I had understood it something like this: Christ triumphed over death, we're all alive in Christ, and the living and dead are united in the community of His Spouse the Church. Furthermore the saints - through theosis - have becomes icons/mirrors of Christ for us.) Clearly I've not quite been understanding right! Can someone explain to me, please: what difference does Christ's resurrection make to how the intercession of the saints/righteous dead works? Thanks :)

Remember, only the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Alkis

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2017, 01:15:13 PM »
When I study Judaism I feel strange. Sometimes I feel very familiar and I say "yes we believe that too" and other times "no this is wrong". Generally the main difference between Orthodox Church and Rabbinic Judaism is Christ. And the other differences are related to this.
For You keep my lamp burning; Lord my God You illumine my darkness. (Psalm 17:29)

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Intercession of the saints in Judaism
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2017, 02:12:34 PM »
When I study Judaism I feel strange. Sometimes I feel very familiar and I say "yes we believe that too" and other times "no this is wrong". Generally the main difference between Orthodox Church and Rabbinic Judaism is Christ. And the other differences are related to this.

Well, yes.