Zohar (Acharei Mos, p. 70b ff.)

R. Yitzchak says: “Worthy are the righteous in this world and in the next, for they are altogether holy. Their bodies are holy, their Nefashos1 are holy, their Ruchos are holy, their Neshamos are holy of holies.

“These three levels reflect the sublime attributes. As we learnt, R. Yehudah says: ‘It is written,2 Let the earth bring forth living souls. This is the soul of Adam, the first man.’

“See: There are three levels, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah, and they are fused as one. The most sublime of them is the Neshamah. As R. Yosei says, ‘Every person has a Nefesh [which vitalizes the body],3 and a Nefesh4 higher than that Nefesh.

“‘If a man acts meritoriously with this Nefesh, there descends upon him a certain crown called Ruach, as implied by the verse,5 “Until a Ruach will be poured upon us from on high.” He will then be stirred with a different and sublime motivation to contemplate the ways of the Holy King.

“‘If a man acts meritoriously with this Ruach, he is invested with a holy, exalted and all-encompassing crown called Neshamah, the soul of God.’ ”

Thus has it been taught among the most hidden, mystic secrets, in the secrets of the book of King Solomon, where it is written,6 “And I praise the dead, for they are already dead”: Since it is written, “And I praise the dead,” why is it further stated, “for they are already dead”? The intent is that they have already died in this world in the service of their Master.

There it is written that God has made three abodes for the righteous: One is for the Nefashos of the righteous which have not left this world and are present here. When the world is in need of mercy and the living are suffering, the Nefashos [of the righteous] pray for them and go and inform those who sleep in Hebron [i.e., the Patriarchs]. They awaken and enter the terrestrial [lower] Gan Eden where the Ruchos of the righteous are clothed with crowns of light, and take counsel with them and issue decrees. The Holy One, blessed be He, grants their desire and has pity on the world.

These Nefashos of the righteous abide in this world to protect the living. This level is called the Nefesh. It does not depart from this world, but abides in the world to watch and know [what takes place] and to protect its generation. It is with regard to this Nefesh that the Companions7 say that the dead know the sorrows of the world, and the punishment of the wicked in this world. Concerning this [soul-level] it is written,8 “And this Nefesh will be cut off from its people.”

The second abode is the terrestrial [lower] Gan Eden.9 In it, the Holy One, blessed be He, has made sublime and precious chambers after the pattern of those of this world and of the celestial world, innumerable palaces of two colors, and trees and sweet-smelling herbs that grow afresh every day. This is the domain in which the Ruchos of the righteous abide, each one being clad in a precious garment after the pattern of this world and of the upper world.

The third abode is that holy celestial abode which is called “the bundle of life,”10 where that holy superior level called the Neshamah

regales itself. There it cleaves [to G‑d] to take pleasure in sublime delights. Concerning this level it is written,11 “Then shall you delight in God and I will make you ride on the high places….”

Now we have learnt that when the world requires mercy, [this is what transpires with regard to] these worthy righteous [souls]. Their Nefesh which is found in this world to shield the world rises upward, soars over the world, and informs the Ruach. The Ruach rises upward, is crowned, and informs the Neshamah, which in turn tells the Holy One, blessed be He. Then God has compassion on the world.

[And the process is reversed,] descending from the higher realms to the lower ones. The Neshamah informs the Ruach and the Ruach the Nefesh.

On every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, all [these three levels] are fused together, crowned as one and unified, so that they can be brought to prostrate themselves before the sublime King. They then return to their respective places. This is the inner intent of the verse,12 “And it will come to pass that every New Moon and every Sabbath, all flesh will come….”

Thus when the world requires mercy, the living — those who are worthy — go and inform the Nefashos of the righteous and weep over their graves. Why are they deemed worthy? Because their desire is that a Neshamah will cleave to a Neshamah.13 The Neshamos of the righteous then come together and soar aloft to the sleepers of Hebron, informing them of the sorrows of the world. They then all enter the gateway of Gan Eden and inform the Ruchos. Those Ruchos that are crowned in Gan Eden — celestial angels go about among them. They all

inform the Neshamos, and the Neshamos inform the Holy One, blessed be He. They all implore His mercies for the living, and God has compassion on the world for their sake. Regarding this Solomon said: “And I praise the dead, for they are already dead.”

Said R. Chiya: “I wonder if anyone knows how to inform the dead besides us.”

R. Abba replied: “The sufferings [of men] inform them, and the Torah informs them. For when there is none who knows how [to inform the dead], a Torah scroll is taken near to their graves, and [the dead] are aroused [and enquire] why it was exiled there; and then Dumah14 informs them.”

R. Yosei added: “They then know that the world is in distress and the living are not worthy or do not know how to inform them. At that time, they all cry out for the dishonor done to the Torah, which has been exiled to such a place.

“If men repent and weep with all their heart and turn to the Holy One, blessed be He, then [the Nefashos of the righteous] all gather together and plead for mercy and inform the sleepers of Hebron, and enter Gan Eden to inform the Ruchos there, as we have said. But if they do not repent wholeheartedly, [but still] make petitions and cry over the distress of the world, then woe to them. For they have assembled for nothing. [The Nefashos of the righteous say:] “Who has caused the holy Torah to be exiled for them without repenting?” And all [these Nefashos] go to call renewed attention to the sins [of these people]. Therefore men should not go to the cemetery to make petitions without repentance and fasting.”

R. Abba said: “[One should not go] unless he undertakes three fasts.”

R. Yosei, however, said: “One is sufficient, even on the same day [one goes to the cemetery], provided the world is in a situation of acute distress. [If people fast,] all [the Nefashos] join forces to ask for mercy for the world.”

It was taught: R. Yehudah said, “One day R. Chizkiyah and R. Yeissa were traveling. They came upon Gush Chalav, which was in ruin.

“They sat down near the cemetery, R. Yeissa having in his hand a portion of a Torah scroll which had been torn. While they were sitting, a grave began to stir near them and [there was a] cry: “Alas, alas, for the world is in distress, for a Torah scroll has been exiled here. Otherwise, the living have come to mock us and to shame us with their Torah!”

“R. Chizkiyah and R. Yeissa were greatly alarmed. R. Chizkiyah said: ‘Who are you?’

“[The voice] replied: ‘I am dead, but I have been awakened by the Torah scroll. For once the world was in distress, and the living came here to awaken us with a Torah scroll. My companions and I approached the sleepers of Hebron. When we were joined with the Ruchos of the righteous in Gan Eden, it was discovered that the Torah scroll which the living brought before us was invalid, there being a superfluous vav in the verse,15 “Which have a cloven hoof, [divided] into two parts.” As such, falsehood was uttered in the name of the King. So the Ruchos said that since falsehood was uttered in the name of the King, these souls should not return to them. And they thrust me and my companions out of the assembly, until a certain elder who was among them went and brought the scribe of R. Hamnuna the Elder.

“‘Then R. Elazar the son of R. Shimon who was buried with us was aroused and entreated for them in Gan Eden and the world was healed. Permission was then granted to us [to return to the assembly].

“‘From the day that R. Elazar was disinterred from his grave here and reburied with his father [in Meron], there is none [among us] that has been aroused to stand before the sleepers of Hebron, for we remember with fear the day when they rejected me and my companions. And now that you have come to us with a Torah scroll, I assume that the world is in distress. Therefore I am dismayed, for I wonder: Who will be the first to go and tell those truly righteous ones, the sleepers of Hebron?’

“R. Yeissa left with the portion of the scroll and R. Chizkiyah said: ‘God forbid, the world is not in distress, and we have not come for that purpose.’

“R. Chizkiyah and R. Yeissa then rose and went on their way. ‘Certainly,’ they said, ‘when there are no righteous in the world, the world is sustained only by the dead.’

“R. Yeissa asked: ‘Why, when rain is needed for the world, do we go [and pray] at [the resting place of] the dead? For the Torah forbids [us to] “inquire of the dead.”’16

“He replied: ‘You have not yet seen the wing of the Bird of Eden.’17. The ‘dead’ to whom the verse refers are those who may certainly be termed dead, i.e., the sinners of the heathen who are forever dead. But of Israel who are truly righteous, Solomon says: “And I praise the dead, for they are already dead”; i.e., they have died in the past, but now they are living.

“‘Furthermore, when other peoples visit their dead, they come with magic to arouse evil spirits upon themselves. When, by contrast, the Jews visit their dead, they come in profuse repentance before the Holy One, blessed be He, with a contrite heart and with fasting. This is all with the intent that the holy Neshamos entreat the Holy One, blessed be He, for mercy on their behalf — and then, for their sake, He has compassion on the world.

“‘In regard to this, we have learnt: A righteous man even when he departs from this world, does not [truly] rise above or vanish from any world. For he is to be found in all worlds more than in his lifetime. In his lifetime, he is found only in this [material] world, but afterwards, he is found in three worlds, and accessible therein. This is alluded to by the verse,18 “Young maidens (עלמות) love you.” Do not read עלמות , “young maidens,” but rather עולמות , “worlds.” Happy is their lot.’”

We have learned: It is written,19 “May the Nefesh of my lord be bound in the bond of life.” Why does the verse say “the Nefesh of my

lord”? [Seemingly,] “the Neshamah of my lord” would be more appropriate. [In resolution, it can be said, that] as mentioned above, happy is the lot of the righteous, for all [three levels of the soul] are bound together, the Nefesh with the Ruach, the Ruach with the Neshamah, and the Neshamah with the Holy One, blessed be He. Thus, even the Nefesh [of the righteous] is “bound in the bond of life.”

R. Elazar said: “The Companions said that it is forbidden to exile a Torah scroll from one synagogue to another, all the more so to bring it out into the street. Why then [do we take it] into the street [when praying for rain]?”

R. Yehudah replied: “As we have explained, so that [the dead] may be aroused because of it and entreat for the world.”

R. Abba said: “When the Shechinah was exiled, it was also exiled from place to place until it said,20 ‘If only I could be in the wilderness, in a lodging place for wayfarers!’ Similarly, in this instance, [the scroll] is first taken from synagogue to synagogue, then into the street, then to ‘the wilderness, the lodging place of wayfarers.’”

R. Yehudah said: “In Babylon, they are afraid to take [a Torah scroll] even from synagogue to synagogue, all the more so [into the street].”

It has been taught that R. Shimon said to the companions: “In my days the world will not require this.”

R. Yosei said to him: “The righteous shield the world in their lifetime, and after their death even more than during their lifetime. This is reflected in the verse:21 ‘I will defend this city, saving it for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David.’ In David’s lifetime, this was not said.”

R. Yehudah said: “Why does the verse state ‘for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David,’ putting [David] on a par [with God Himself, as it were]? — Because David was found worthy of being connected with the Holy Chariot of the Patriarchs, and therefore all is one.22 Blessed be He forever and ever.”

From Maavar Yabok23

May it be Your will, God our Lord and Lord of our ancestors, that You cloak Yourself with Your mercies and gird Yourself with Your

pardon, and that Your attributes of mercy and humility appear before You and cause us to stand in a crown of light, and not in a place of darkness.24 May the Torah be our occupation. May our hearts not become proud, nor our eyes dark, nor may we be ashamed before our ancestors.25 Protect us from insolent men and from impudence, from a wicked man, from an evil companion, from an evil neighbor, from severe judgment, and from a harsh adversary.26

My God, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. Let my soul be silent to those who curse me; let my soul be as dust to all. Open my heart to Your Torah, and let my soul eagerly pursue Your commandments.27 As for all those who plot evil against me, speedily annul their counsel and frustrate their design. Let them be as chaff before the wind; let the angel of God thrust them away.28 So that Your beloved ones will be released, save with Your right hand and answer me.29 Do this for the sake of Your name; do it for the sake of Your right hand; do it for the sake of Your Torah; do it for the sake of Your holiness.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, God, my Rock and my Redeemer.30

May it be Your will that I not become irritated by my colleagues, nor my colleagues become irritated by me; that we not rule that the pure is impure, nor that the impure is pure; that we not rule that the permitted is forbidden, nor that the forbidden is permitted.31

May it be Your will that no man’s heart be stirred with hatred or envy toward us, and that our heart not be stirred with hatred or envy toward any man. Create a pure heart within us,32 so that we are able to evoke [the acceptance of] our desires from Your holy abode.

May Your Torah fill our homes throughout our entire lifetime.
May our words be [accepted as] supplications before You. Focus our

hearts to revere Your name. Draw us close to all that You love, and act charitably with us for Your name’s sake.

May it be Your will that You grant us a good heart, a good portion, a good inclination, a good friend, a good reputation, a good disposition, a good character, a humble soul, and a meek spirit. Do not let Your name be desecrated because of us; let us not become the subject of gossip. And in the end, do not let our souls be cut off, nor our hopes end in disappointment.

Do not make us dependent on the gifts of mortals and do not delegate our sustenance to them, for their generosity is limited and [it is accompanied by] great shame.

Grant our hearts the desire to turn to You in complete repentance so that we will not be put to shame before our ancestors in the World to Come. And so may it be Your will, God our Lord and Lord of our ancestors, to destroy and to remove the yoke of the Evil Inclination from our hearts. For You have created us to fulfill Your will, and we are obligated to fulfill Your will. You desire this; we desire this. What prevents this from happening? — The yeast in the dough.33 It is revealed and known before You that we do not have the strength to withstand it. Instead, may it be Your will, God our Lord and Lord of our ancestors, to remove it from us and subdue it, so that we shall wholeheartedly make Your will, our will.

Cause love, brotherliness, peace and friendship to dwell within our portion. Bring ultimate success to our posterity and let our hopes become manifest. Increase the number of students in our boundaries. Let us rejoice in our portion in Gan Eden. Perfect for us a good heart and a good friend and let us arise and discover that the hopes of our hearts [have been fulfilled]. And may our heart’s desire come before You in a good light.34

May it be Your will, God our Lord and Lord of our ancestors, to forgive and pardon us for all our sins and our iniquities and grant us atonement for all our transgressions. We implore You, God of mercy, Master of forgiveness: Forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement. Cleanse our sins in Your great mercy, but not through suffering or severe illness.35 And then we will no longer turn away from following You, and we will merit the pleasure of Your affection.

May it be Your will, God our Lord and Lord of our ancestors, to grant us long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of unhampered physical activity, a life permeated with the fear of sin, a life devoid of shame and disgrace, a life of prosperity and honor, a life imbued with the love of the Torah and the fear of heaven, a life in which You will fulfill all the desires of our hearts for good.36

[Grant our requests] in the merit of the tannaim37 and the amoraim38 , the forearms and supports of the forces of holiness, whose resting place is unassailable; in the merit of the righteous men who are buried in this place; and in particular in the merit of the tzaddikim — our master, mentor and Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the son of our master, mentor and Rebbe,Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber, and our master, mentor and Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the son of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. May their merit protect us and all the members of our households.

May my prayer be [accepted as] pure before Him Who dwells on high, so that He deal kindly with me and my descendants and their descendants — in this world, for long days and years of life and peace, and in the World to Come, so that we may delight in loving Him at both the higher and lesser levels of love.

May their Nefashos rest pleasantly, and be sated by the spiritual lights for which they yearn. May their limbs be granted repose. May their spirits become stronger in Gan Eden, and their Neshamos be delighted in the sublime Gan Eden, in “the bond of life” with God our Lord. May their bones rest and derive satisfaction from the delight of His house together with all those of Israel who lie [in the grave], with mercy, forgiveness, and consolation. And let us say: Amen.

Do this for the sake of Your name; do it for the sake of Your right hand; do it for the sake of Your Torah; do it for the sake of Your holiness.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, God, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The following passage — from “May the pleasantness”
through “forever and ever” — is read seven times:

May the pleasantness of God our Lord be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our hands.39

[To] you who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Omnipotent:

I say of God: “He is my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I trust.

“He will save you from the ensnaring trap, from the destructive pestilence.

“He will cover you with His pinions and you will find refuge under His wings; His truth is a shield and armor.

“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

“Nor the pestilence that proceeds in gloom, nor the destruction that ravages at noon.

“A thousand may fall at your [left] side, and ten thousand at your right, but it will not reach you.

“You need only look with your eyes, and you will see the retribution of the wicked.

“Because [you have said,] ‘You God are my shelter,’ and you have made the Most High your haven,

“No evil will befall you, nor will plague approach your tent.

“For He will instruct His angels in your behalf, to protect you in all your ways.

“They will carry you in their hands, lest you hurt your foot on a rock.

“You will tread upon the lion and the viper; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.”

[God will say]: “Because he desires Me, I will deliver him; I will elevate him because he knows My name.

“When he calls on Me, I will answer him; I am with him in distress, I will rescue him and bring him honor.

“I will satiate him with long life, and show him My deliverance.”40

We implore You, by the great power of Your right hand, release the one who is bound.

Accept the supplication of Your people; elevate us, purify us, Awesome One.

Mighty One, we beseech You, guard as the apple of the eye those who seek Your Oneness.

Bless them, purify them; bestow upon them continually Your merciful righteousness.

Powerful, Holy One, in Your abounding goodness, guide Your congregation.

Only and Exalted One, turn to Your people who are mindful of Your holiness.

Accept our supplication and hear our cry, You who know secret thoughts.

Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.

Rabbah41 bar bar Chanah said in the name of R. Yochanan: “In the future, the righteous will be called by the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written:42 ‘All that is called by My Name, indeed, it is for My glory that I have created it, formed it and made it….’ ”

R. Elazar said: “In the future, the term ‘holy’ will be said in the presence of the righteous as it is said in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written:43 ‘And it shall come to pass that those who are left in Zion and those who remain in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone in Jerusalem that is inscribed for life.’ And it is written:44 ‘And those who put their trust in You will be happy; they will sing forever, for You shield them; those who love Your name will rejoice in You.’”

When one leaves the cemetery, one should say:

May it be Your will, God my Lord and Lord of my ancestors, that all that I have asked of You be in Your eyes like an incense offering. Deal with me leniently, beyond the measure of the law, for You, merciful One, listen willingly to the prayer of Your servant. For this reason I have come before You, for I have no mediator to intercede with You on my behalf. Do not turn me away empty-handed from Your presence, for You listen to prayers — for the sake of all the righteous resting here and for the sake of Your great glory. Blessed be He who hears prayer.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, God, my Rock and my Redeemer.45