November 18th 2014
Situated on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias is one of the four Israeli cities holy to Judaism. As a result, number of important Jewish rabbinical figures are buried in this scenic and historic coastal town. Visiting the graves of righteous people who, during their lifetimes, spiritually uplifted the Jewish people is an important part of a Holy Land tour. Jewish tradition teaches that praying at the grave of a righteous person allows you to build upon the spiritual merit of that person, in order to assist your prayers to ascend with greater force. And Tiberias is a wonderful place to do so.
Without question, the most important, and the most popular, grave in Tiberias is the final resting place of the 12th century rabbi, physician and philosopher Maimonides, also known as the Rambam. Maimonides was a codifier of Jewish law and philosophy, and is writings are extremely well known all over the world. In his lifetime, Maimonides earned his living as a physician in Morocco and Egypt. He requested that, after his death, his body be laid to rest in Israel. Legend has it that his sons knew where to bury their father by letting their father’s camels roam around Tiberias. When the camels stopped walking, that’s where the Rambam was buried.
The iconic 1st century Talmudic sage known as Rabbi Akiva lived much of his life as a common, unschooled shepherd. With his wife Rachel’s encouragement, he began to learn Torah at the age of 40 and went on to become a leading figure in the era surrounding the Second Temple’s destruction. The graves of both Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel are located in Tiberias. The Tomb of Rabbi Akiva’s wife Rachel has become an important place to visit in its own right.
Rabbi Meir, one of the most important rabbis of the 2nd century and a student of Rabbi Akiva’s, is also buried in Tiberias, below a synagogue. It is customary among auspicious travelers to come to the grave of Rabbi Meir for blessings.
There is also a custom for women to pray at the graves of righteous women, particularly for children and for Divine assistance with livelihood. Women in particular visit the graves of Yocheved, the mother of Moses; Tzipporah, the wife of Moses; Bilhah and Zilpah, who, along with Rachel and Leah, were wives to Jacob; as well as the tomb of Elisheva, wife of Aaron.