Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remembering Shimon HaTzaddik

Last night (Friday night), 29 Tishrei, was the yahrzeit of Shimon HaTzaddik, the last of the Great Assembly and the Kohen Gadol during the reign of Alexander the Great. Everyone remembers the story of Alexander's march to Jerusalem. Hearing that the Emperor was going to destroy the Holy City, Shimon HaTzaddik dressed in his priestly garb and traveled to meet Alexander.

When Alexander the Great saw him, he dismounted from his horse and bowed to Shimon HaTzaddik. Alexander explained that Shimon's face was the one he had seen when he went victoriously into battle. On a tour of the Holy Temple, Alexander told Shimon that he wanted his statue to be placed in Bet HaMikdash. Shimon talked him into a different tribute - all the Jewish boys born that year would be named Alexander. The Emperor was very pleased.

Shimon HaTzaddik said that the world depended on three things - on Torah, on the Temple Service and on acts of loving kindness.

The High Priest is buried in Wadi Joz, near Sheikh Jarrah, on the road leading to Mount Scopus. Since last night was Shabbat, thousands of Jews came to the grave of Shimon HaTzaddik tonight (motzei Shabbat) instead. They prayed, lit candles, lit a fire, danced and even held "chaluka"s at which they gave little three year old boys their first hair cuts.

The crowd at Shimon HaTzaddik's burial place varied from chassid to Sephardi, and all the families of little boys were equally joyous. They held little chaluka ceremonies, and then danced with the children in circles of celebrants. A band played and the atmosphere was very joyous.

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