Praying to the Dead
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: I see through all that garbage when Edwards is on TV. What I don't understand is why so many people fall for it? On the other hand how different is going to visit relatives and great Rabbi's "kevers" and praying at their tombstones?
Mesora: We are not supposed to pray at their graves, unless the prayer is directed to God alone. Otherwise, it is also as you say a form of contacting the dead.
Reader: A few years ago a member of our community in New York passed away and a "chasidishe" Rebbi led the procession with the "arron" to the plot where the burial was to take place. Upon reaching the first tombstone in that block the Rebbi stopped the procession and took out a hammer from his pocket and knocked three times on that tombstone and apologized for disturbing the the dead. And what about the thousands of our people who travel to Eastern Europe and Russia to visit and pray at the grave site of famous Rabbis? Could this constitute NECROMANCY?
Mesora: It could be. We must know, God hears our prayers everywhere. Similarly, inserting kapituls into the Western Wall is also contrary to the pasuk at the end of Parshas Yisro, "bkol makom asher azkir es shmi, avo alecha uvarachticha", "in all places where My name is mentioned, I will come to you and bless you".
However, if one is inspired by visiting the graves of the righteous, that is permissible, and it may even have a long lasting positive effect on this person. Calev went to the graves of the patriarchs upon the initial entrance to Israel, to remind himself of the reality of God's promise of the land to those patriarchs. Their reality of their burial plots in front of his eyes strengthened the reality of God's promise of the land, as these individual were the recipients of the promise. As if to say, "If they are real, then so is God's word."
Calev never doubted that the patriarchs were real, but he understood human psychology. Now being confronted with the corrupt spies attempting to deny God's promise of a victory against the current inhabitants of Israel, Calev desired to harness all aspects of his personality to counter the emotional pull of the spies. Laying his eyes upon their graves added another component of emotional stability to Calev's position.
But, he did not pray to the forefathers.
In no way do we pray to people, alive or dead.

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