Song of Azrael Special Presentation: Ezra's Burial Tomb in Iraq
Ezra's Burial Shrine, Al Uzayr, about 375 Km south of Baghdad.The Shrine of Ezra the Scribe is located in Southern Iraq on the bank of the Tigris. The history record of the Shrine of Ezra near Basra goes back to 457-432 BC.
I was able to locate more of Ezra's records back in 2000. These were available under the Arabic rendering for Ezra's name, Uzayr. I published several of them, but noticed an almost disturbing spike in military and government visits to the website. Apparently, they were concerned with why I was interested in Uzayr... the place. I didn't know Uzayr was a place. My studies concerned a person. At any rate, it was that confrontation that helped me fill in the blanks. The residents of the town honored Uzayr by naming the town after him. Later, the Shia built a beautiful shrine over Uzayr's tomb. The initial records identifying the Tomb of Ezra:
Military Records Concerning Uzayr ~ The place.
The 14th Infantry Division's 426th Infantry Brigade was reportedly deployed in the "Al Ezaire" area. The 18th Infantry Division's 95th Infantry Brigade was reportedly deployed in the Qala Salih / Al Ezair/Immarah area.
Al Uzayr [variants: Uzayr, Qasabat al `Uzayr, Azair, Al Ezaire, Al-Ezair, Ezra] is located in Maysam Governorat, about 375 Km south of Baghdad. Its remarkable sights included the Shrine of Ezra the Prophet or Scribe (Ezra Ha'Sofer). The Shrine of Ezra the Scribe is located in Southern Iraq on the bank of the Tigris. The history record of the Shrine of Ezra near Basra goes back to 457-432 BC.
There's a very ancient tradition which is probably true, that the prophet is buried here, but the actual shrine is new. In the 5th century BC, the Prophet Ezra recorded the Bible, changed the Hebrew alphabet to the current square script, introduced the Synagogue as the place of worship in lieu of the Temple and later led an Aliyah to Jerusalem. It was said of Ezra that if the Torah had not been given to Moses, Ezra would have been worthy to receive it. The Prophet Ezra (also known as Uraha) was held in high esteem by both Jews and Muslims, the principal inhabitants of the area besides Babylonian Jewish Christians.
From The Scribe:
Ezra, the son of a priest, set about to restore Jewish life in the land and was responsible, to a large extent, for codifying various aspects of Jewish practice, helping create the weekly division of Torah portions, for example. He died in Persia, according to historical sources, which could explain his being buried in southern Iraq, near the border with Iran.
The tomb, is located on the bank of the muddy and fast-flowing Tigris River in a town called Al-Uzayr, some 250 miles south of Baghdad. Al Uzayr, like Kifl, is a run-down place filled with mud brick homes, its main street lined with peddlers selling vegetables and live chickens. The shrine of Ezra sticks out among the drabness, topped with a blue-tiled dome and enclosed with a high cement wall that has what seems like a small minaret rising from one corner.
Zayir Zahlan, an 80-year-old man in a grayish robe and white keffiya, has been watching the tomb since the last Jewish family left town in 1950. Zahlan, who has a white beard and cloudy eyes, said he had guarded the shrine during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when most people had fled Al Uzayr, which was close to the front. He stayed there as well during the 1991 Gulf War and during the most recent fighting, he said; "I saw the prophet [Ezra] in a dream, arid he told me: Don't leave me, and I won't leave you'."
The 250-year-old building was renovated two years ago with help from the Saddam government. Less ornate than Ezekiel's tomb, it also has a front room that leads into a domed chamber holding a large tomb covered in green cloth. The dome, painted white with blue outlines, has the name of God, YHWH, written in large Hebrew letters on one side. Next door to the shrine stands what used to be a synagogue. White plastic lawn chairs were lined up against the walls of the room, which is used as an Islamic study center now.
The caretaker and his grandson, a 25-year-old Shiite imam with a wispy black beard, pointed to a large patched segment of the brick ceiling. An Iranian rocket came through that spot during the 1980s, tearing a hole in the ceiling but not exploding, they said. I asked if any old books remained from the time when the building was a synagogue. No, said the young imam, but we do have another book.
Death of Ezra the Scribe
The Tenth of Tivet by Aish.Com
The ninth day of Tevet is held to be the day of the death of Ezra the Scribe. This great Jew is comparable even to Moses in the eyes of the Talmud. "If the Torah had not been granted through Moses, it could have been granted to Israel through Ezra." Ezra led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. It was under his direction and inspiration, together with the help of the court Jew, Nechemiah, that the Second Temple was built, albeit originally in a much more modest scale and style than the grandeur of Solomon's Temple. Ezra also renewed the covenant of Moses between Israel and God, staunched the flow of intermarriage that afflicted the Jews returning to Jerusalem, strengthened public and private Sabbath observance, and created the necessary schools and intellectual tools for the furtherance of the knowledge and development of the Oral Law of Sinai within the Jewish people. A man of incorruptible character, great compassion, deep vision and erudition and inspirational charisma, Ezra the Scribe is responsible for the survival of Judaism and the Jews till this very day. It is no wonder therefore that Jews marked the day of his death as a sad day on the Jewish calendar. Since fasting on the eighth, ninth and 10th days of Tevet consecutively would be unreasonable, the events of the eighth and ninth were subsumed into the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet.
More to come over the spring season....
The Talmud points out (Succah 52a), there are meant to be two Messiahs -- redeemers of Israel. The first one, according to tradition, will descend from the line of Joseph, and die in battle, while paving the way for the final Messiah, who will descend from the line of David.
The Torah tells us that, just before Jacob died, he gave Joseph an extra piece of Israel -- the city of Shechem (Genesis 48:22). It was in Shechem that Joseph's brothers sold him down into slavery, and, it was to Shechem that the bones of Joseph were brought from Egypt hundreds of years later for their final burial.
It was here in Shechem -- called Nablus by the Arabs -- that the yeshivah stood, until two weeks ago, when it was viciously destroyed.
Regarding the territory of Joseph, the Zohar, the chief work of the Kabbalah, has this to say:
In the time of the resurrection of the dead, many camps will arise in Land of the Galil, because that is where the Messiah is going to be first revealed, since it is part of Joseph's territory. It will be the first place to be destroyed. It will begin there ahead of all other places, and then spread to the nations. (Zohar, Vayakhel 220a)
Shechem, according to the Talmud, is a place where bad things happen (Sotah 11a). It is a place "set aside for punishment," and at this time, this prophecy has come true. Arabs have ruthlessly murdered heroic Jews -- Jews who were self-sacrificing for the sake of Torah, for the sake of Israel, and for the sake of Jewish history -- and pillaged and destroyed the yeshivah, and burned many holy books.
And now, with the Israeli withdrawal from the site, in the minds of Arabs and Jews alike, Shechem represents a weak point in the Israeli chain of command.
But it need not be so.
IN SHECHEM, THIRTY-SIX
It is pointed out in the Kabbalah -- where so many secrets about Messianic times are revealed -- that the first letters of each of the words Baruch Shem kevod malchut l'olam va'ed, spell the words, b'Shechem lamed-vav, meaning "in Shechem, thirty-six."
Baruch Shem is the second verse of the Shema said twice a day. According to tradition, it represents our belief that God orchestrates the events of history, even when this fact is veiled by nature and "natural" cause-and-effect. This verse alludes to the day when God will stop working undercover and reveal himself to humanity in an obvious manner. In other words, it is a verse that alludes to the final redemption.
But, why "in Shechem thirty-six?" And "thirty-six" what? That's a question that opens up a Kabbalistic "pandora's box," for thirty-six is all about exile AND redemption.
There are many phrases that have the same gematria or numerical value and they all point in the direction of one answer: the original primordial light of creation, which, the Talmud (Brochos 8:5) says shone for thirty-six hours before God hid it for the righteous people of history. This light is redemption; when it shines, evil is banished.
This is why Moses was born with it, and exemplified it, and was even compared to it. He was also born in the Hebrew year 2368, thirty-six years after Egyptian servitude officially began following the death of the last of Joseph's brothers, Levi.
This light is called Ohr HaTikun -- the "Light of Rectification." It shone for Adam on day six of creation; it shone again at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given; and, with the help of God, it is going to shine again, soon -- permanently -- for the generation of Messiah.
As we mentioned earlier, Ten Sefirot represent a "chain of command" between God and the world as we know it. Each of those Ten Sefirot are also meant to have a sub-set of Ten Sefirot of their own, but, during times of exile, we only have six. Six times six, of course, is thirty-six, and, it represents our potential to fulfill the purpose of creation.
This challenge is actually alluded to in one of God's own name, Elohim. Kabbalah teaches that this name is really made up of two parts: the first three letters add up to a numerical value or gematria of thirty-six, corresponding to the six sefirot we have examined; the last two letter have numerical value or gematria of fifty, representing one of the top three sefirot -- binah, which is associated with "fifty gates of understanding."
What does all this mean?
If we, the Jewish people, act as if God and Torah are all that counts, then, the light of binah is drawn down and becomes attached to the lower six sefirot, and, this, in turn, elevates these six sefirot upward towards binah. The result is redemption.
This is actually what we were trying accomplish at the end of the Yom Kippur service, when we say the Shema once, Baruch Shem kevod three times, and Hashem et Elohim seven times -- one time for each level of heaven that, in exile, stands between us and the Divine Presence.
If, on the other hand, we act inconsistently with our belief in God, paying only lip service to His desire for creation and us within it, then, binah is drawn upward, the six sefirot downward, and falsehood and exile overrun creation.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) says that, when falsehood rules the minds of men, this is actually one of the signs that Messiah is not too far away.
Judging by the reporting of the Israeli-Arab conflict by many prominent newspapers, we have entered that era.
Even the name Shechem itself symbolizes this idea. The first and last letter are separated from each other by the letter kaf which symbolizes intellectual blindness. However, when kaf is removed, and these two letters are allowed to unite, then they spell the word shem, "name," a euphemism for the Tetragrammaton, God's holy ineffable name -- Ha-shem, "the Name."
Yes, Shechem is a place set aside for punishment. However, that is only up until the time for redemption, and, when that time comes, then, the hidden light of creation will be unleashed, a light clearly associated with Joseph, and it will cause great miracles. Miracles that will clearly reveal the hand of God in history, and cause God's name to be unified, with or without our efforts.
So, how fitting it is at this late stage of history, while the Jewish people seem to be grappling for ground on so many fronts, that Joseph뭩 Tomb was decimated. I hope it is a good sign, for they know not upon which holy ground they tread, nor what powers of redemption they have unleashed.
Perhaps the spirit of Messiah Ben Joseph?
A year of miracles and peaceful redemption for all the Jewish people!