Every Frum Jew knows that Rabi Shimon bar Yochai is buried in Meron in the North of Israel. Most people have visited his tomb at least once, often on Lag Ba’Omer, and many are also aware that the famous Kever is actually a cave, as the Gemara in Bava Metziah tells us.
In addition, most people know the Gemara about Rabi Shimon fleeing and hiding from the Romans. He and his son Rabi Elazar spent 13 years living in a cave learning the deepest secrets of the Torah and writing the Mishna Rishona of the Zohar.
Here though, is where the confusion sets in. Most people don’t realize that the cave in Meron is not the cave in which Rabi Shimon hid for 13 years. If they ever think about it at all, they just make a Gezeira Shava “Cave, Cave” and assume that it’s all the same place.But it is not!
And what’s more, we actually do have a solid Mesora as to where that mysterious cave is, but it is rarely on anyone’s list of places to visit while in Eretz Yisroel. It should be…Imagine seeing the actual cave where the Toras HaNistar was revealed to Rav Shimon bar Yochai! Imagine looking for the famous carob tree that nourished Rav Shimon and his son all those years.
And imagine drinking from the very stream of water that Hashem provided for these two great Tzadikim.
Well, there’s a very good chance that you can do just that.My husband discovered this hidden gem while on a business trip in the heights of the Upper Galil. He was meeting a Druze tribal leader, and the fellow asked him, “Have you ever been to the Cave of Rabi Shimon? “My husband smiled and said, “Of course! Who hasn’t been to the cave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?”Said the elder, ” I see that you’ve never been there. Come with me, I want to show you something.”
They drove about a mile down the road and pulled over to the side. The fellow led him about 50 feet down the mountainside and there it was… a hidden tiny entrance to a cave. There was a small plaque there proclaiming that this was the cave in which the holy Tanna Rabi Shimon learned the holy Zohar.My husband immediately began looking for the carob tree, and he didn’t have to look very far.
Right in front of the entrance to the cave was a massive, heavily-trunked carob tree. And as he looked around, he realized that the entire hillside was covered with extensions of this tree. He was literally surrounded by what may have been Rabi Shimon’s own miraculous tree.He asked the Druze leader, Where is the stream of water? Is there a stream near here?
Instead of answering directly, the man said please follow me. They continued down the mountain and entered the quaint little village of Pekiin.
After a few twists and turns, they found themselves in the Town Square.Dominating the picturesque little square was a pool of water with a thin stream continuously running into it. The man said, “You wanted the Rabi’s stream? Here it is. It flows from the front of the cave underground all the way down the mountainside until here. We have tremendous respect for this water, and we use it for its blessing.”
My husband was floored. He could not get over his proximity to the legendary story of the gemara, and to the miracles therein related.
Upon further investigation we discovered that there is a single Jewish family that has been in Pekiin since the time of the Churban Habayis. There are two remaining members of the Zinati family living in the town, an older woman named Margalit, in her ’80s but still very sharp, and her nephew.
Margalit has lived in Pekiin her entire life, and the preservation of its Jewish history is her life’s work.They have a very clear tradition passed down over 1800 years identifying Rabi Shimon’s cave. Although the physical cave has collapsed and cannot be entered, there is a Mesora among the Kaballists that there is a צינור, a pipe of Kedusha that stretches from this cave to the cave in Meron, Rabi Shimon’s final resting place.
There are a number of other fascinating sites to see in Pekiin, including a shul dating back to and with artifacts from the Churban, in which Rabi Shimon and other Tannaim learned and taught, as well as several Tannaic Kevarim.
A visit to this incredible site is extremely rewarding, both because of the Kedusha of the place, the stunning views from the heights of Pekiin, and the intimate sense of a connection to our timeless history.
Written by:Tami Meisels, Nof ToursSpecializing in Private Tours for Families and Small Groups of Ladies and Girls
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