Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Ohel, Graceland and other Graves

So, my Facebook update that generated the most comments by friends was one noting that since I was driving from Queens, NY to Lawrence, NY, and the grave of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe was on the path, I would stop off there and check it out.








The Ohel, as it's known in the 'hood, turns out to be a visitors' center, in which one can learn a bit about Chabad, and sit and compose a letter, apparently to the late Rabbi Schneerson z"l or to the late Mrs. Schneerson (aka Chaya Mushka), z"l. From the center, one walks a short distance to the gravesites of Rabbi Schneerson and, nearby, that of Mrs. Schneeerson.

At the rebbe's grave, one is supposed to tear up the letter that s/he wrote to the rebbe and toss it onto the grave [I asked at the center why these are torn. The gentleman at the information center, a very friendly kind of guy, said that nobody really knows, but that the past Lubavitcher Rebbe also tore up notes left at graves]. My theory is that in heaven, there's another replica of 770 Eastern Parkway (just as there is in Kfar Chabad, Israel), and that the rebbe's neshama has a type of RSS feed that notifies him when there's a new torn up note that he has to piece together like a jigsaw puzzle to read.



Chaya Mushka's grave is not ignored either. Not only does she get notes, but I saw on her grave a number of wedding invitations. I've been to a number of weddings in Crown Heights, the solar system's capitol of Chabad, and have yet to see her at any. I'd probably have to call ghostbusters if I did.

So, the Torah never told the gravesite of Moshe/Moses, ostensibly so that a cult of the dead would not arise. But, we've managed to do it anyway. To be honest though, the Ohel was far from the most ostentatious or inspirational kever (grave) that I've visited. So, here some remarkable Jewish burial sites from my travels:


  • The tomb of Rabbi Meir, also known as Rabbi Meir Ba'al Ha-nes - Tiberias, Israel - So the deal is that the late Rabbi Meir can hook you up with objects you've lost if you donate a few bucks and say the right phrases. But the kever is more remarkable for the fact that it has a flea market of religious and holy items right there. And a vending machine through which you can purchase Psalms/Tehillim!



  • Rambam's (Maimonides) grave - Tiberias, Israel - A rather impressive complex. Even more impressive is the industry that has grown up around it: the Rambam dental clinic is located across the street and Rambam Arak is sold on tables just yards from the grave!




  • R. Shimon bar Yochai's grave - Meron, Israel - I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never been there. Particularly since, back in the day, the yeshiva I attended in Jerusalem prohibited us from going there for the mass party that happens every Lag B'Omer (needless to say that said prohibition became the incentive for half of our yeshiva to head there!). It's supposed to be a real happening.

  • And, of course, Graceland. Not a Jewish grave? According to researchers, the King had significant Jewish roots. In addition to being a Shabbos goy in his early days in Memphis. (http://www.elvispresleynews.com/JewishElvis.html , http://www.schmelvis.com/intro.html , http://www.beliefnet.com/story/111/story_11112_1.html).

Have others? Please leave a comment on my blog, so others can learn and share!