Blessings from a Great Man and Prayer at the Graves of the Righteous
Question: Is there any greater advantage in receiving a blessing from a great rabbi or praying at the graves of righteous individuals over any other regular prayer?
Answer: The Torah states (Bamidbar 13) that before the Spies embarked on their journey to spy on the Land of Canaan, Moshe Rabbeinu changed Hoshea bin Nun’s name to Yehoshua. Our Sages explain (Sotah 34b) that when Moshe Rabbeinu changed Hoshea’s name, he blessed him that Hashem should save him from the plot of the Spies, for when the Spies traveled to the Land of Canaan, they already had wicked intentions; Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned that Yehoshua might sin and fall into their trap and he therefore blessed him that Hashem should save Yehoshua from their plot.
Afterwards, the Torah states, “And they ascended in the south and he came to Hebron.” The Gemara questions why the verse states “And he came to Hebron” as opposed to “And they came to Hebron”? The Gemara therefore explains that only Kalev ben Yefuneh came to Hebron. Rava explained that he went there to prostate himself on the graves of our Patriarchs in the Machpela cave and exclaimed, “My forefathers! Please pray for me that I be saved from the plot of the Spies!”
We see from here that there is special significance in seeking out the blessing of the leader of the generation, especially when there is a special need to do now, as Yehoshua was saved from the Spies’ plot as a result of Moshe Rabbeinu’s blessing. We also see that there is special significance in praying at the graves of the righteous, for in the merit of his prayer, Kalev was also saved from the plot of the Spies and only he and Yehoshua merited entering the Land of Israel and to inherit their share in it for themselves and their children after them.
Similarly, the Gemara (Baba Batra 116a) states that if a member of one’s household is ill, one should go to a Torah scholar to request mercy on his behalf, as the verse states, “The wrath of a king is as messengers of death but a wise man will pacify it.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt” l explains (in his Chazon Ovadia-Avelut, Volume 1, page 29) that the prayer of a Torah scholar who constantly delves in Torah study is heard quickly. Regarding a Torah scholar who teaches Torah to the public does the verse state, “If you bring forth precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth” which our Sages (Baba Metzia 85a) expound to mean that even if Hashem has decreed a harsh decree, He shall nullify it for the sage.
We find this idea regarding King Asa, as the verse states (Divrei Ha’Yamaim II 16, 12), “And Asa fell ill in his feet in the thirty-ninth year of his kingdom etc. even in his illness he did not seek out Hashem, but to the physicians.” The Sefer Magid Ta’aluma (on the Rif, Berachot, page 310), that the seemingly extra word in the verse (“EtHashem”) includes Torah scholars, meaning that Asa did not seek out Torah scholars to pray on his behalf.
When Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would fall ill, he would ask those who toiled in Torah, especially great Torah scholars who came to visit him at home, to pray for him. He would ask this especially of his dear friend, Hagaon Harav Yehuda Moalem zt”l and Hagaon Harav Moshe Tzadka Shlit”a, among other Torah scholars. He would even ask his young students to pray for his speedy recovery.
Summary: Although every prayer has great significance, there is certainly a special significance in the prayer of a Torah scholar, especially if he is one of the luminaries of the generation. There is likewise special significance in praying at the graves of the righteous.