Harav Oursharga: A Jewish Pilgrimage to Yazd

At 8:00 a.m, almost all the buses gather at the old Masjed-e-Jameh (Grand Mosque) to go to the Yazd’s Jewish district, in which there are two old synagogues still in operation. Every year, on 28th of Hebraic month “Heshvan”, Iranian Jews gather at the tomb of the Harav Oursharga to pay tribute to this prominent Jewish mystic and religious scholar. He died 200 years ago but has always been respected by Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Yazd.

The shopkeepers watch the people who are carrying candles and heading to Hadash Synagogue. When I walk in the earthen alleys of Yazd and I pass the short and old corridors of the Synagogue and get to the pleasant yard, I encounter an astonishing ballyhoo. I see a large number of people, and the voice of prayer and devotion, laughters and greetings, new friendships and people who are receiving the breakfast dishes.


Harav Oursharga in Yazd

With my eyes I pause on the faces of the pilgrims who have come to this place from different Iranian cities and regions. 3 buses from Tehran, one bus from Shiraz, one bus from Isfahan and those people who have arrived in Yazd by their own cars or train, to get benefit from this spiritual atmosphere. I hear the acclamation and there is a 13-year old boy who, as of this date, has got to the age of Bar-Mitzvah, and can join the Jewish men. He is very lucky that his adolescence is celebrated at the presence of this population and with this manner. Chocolates are thrown to the air and acclamation and cheers continue. Everyone has chosen a corner and the members of every tour have gathered together. Local bread, Halva Ardeh (a special sweet), eggs, the smell of the tea and the voice of a man who is reading Bible. Life is going on in this place.

Iranian Jews praying at a synagogue in Iran

Iranian Jews praying at a synagogue in Iran

Aeron and Mishkan are in the yard of the Synagogue. Men take out the holy books from the stand. A book is also brought for Mishkan. The crowd stand up. Different accents and languages, next to each other, respect the one and only God. All this enthusiasm and devotion are due to the man for whom the monotheists still gather at his tomb after 200 years since his death.

Old women and mothers standing on the platforms of the yard are looking at the young girls, whose chance for marriage may arrive one of these days. Zhila says she has come here to select a wife for her son and she will ask the Harav Oursharga to make them fortunate. An old man from Shiraz has chosen a girl from Tehran and  is looking for a paper and pen to write her phone number. Sometimes fathers come to help the mothers and so there are many proposals here. Zarrabian says; “such places are the best for finding the future spouse. It is difficult for the minorities to find a spouse and these places allow us to have a better selection.”

yazd jewish temple

One of the Yazd’s old synagogue

The noise of the young people double the spirit and joy of the atmosphere. Old men are seen telling their memories for friends and younger ones. Parviz Minaei who has organized the travel for one of the buses from Tehran talks about his memories too, about his relatives who were present in the past years and now their seat is empty.

Around 10:00 AM, the crowd moves from the eastern side of General Mosque (Masjed-e-Jameh), which is a Jewish neighborhood in order to visit the historical city of Yazd. Most of the people go to Yazd ancient Bazaar and they come back to the buses with bags full of souvenirs from Yazd. Then, they go to the Tomb of Harav Oursharga and the 2 sons. The tomb of Harav Harav Oursharga is located in a large area full of olive and pine tress. On the way to Oursharga Tomb, there are some graves, on which no name is engraved, but they seem to be very old. On the transom of the tomb, next to the name of Harav Oursharga ben Harav Samouel is written 135th descendant of the Prophet David and the two sons. Also the Date 17 Iloul 5756, equal to September 1996 shows the endeavors of Isaac Goharian and the Jewish Community inside and outside the country for reconstruction and renovation of the tomb. The Jews gather at his tomb and pray. There is a special silence in this small space. A young guy weeps and somebody calls to seek praying. A lady passes by and she talks about the benevolences of the mystic Oursharga , who could find the secretes of people by looking at their faces. Dian says; “Harav Oursharga was able to teach the Bible from the mouth of Elyahou Hannavi , and there is a quotation from Harav Bal Shem Toub that, although there was a long distance between them, but he has been in contact with him.”

The crowd put their oblations into a small box opposite the tomb. Daniela, a Tehrani 10-year old girl prays for health of all people and also her father David and her mother. She says she has come so that Harav Oursharga may satisfy her need. Hadieh Minaei wants to be successful in all stages of her studies and Albert says he likes to marry with his beloved girl friend and hopes for luck and fortune.

I look at the garden and the olive and palm trees. There is no shelter for the pilgrims to escape from the hot sunshine of Yazd, but they are sitting on the platforms of the garden and praying.

God is one and only

God, One and Only

We go out the Harav Oursharga ’s tomb. My companions are waiting for us in the shadow of the trees to come back to Tehran. In their faces, I can see full hope to tomorrow, a hope one can find in pious people after a spiritual day. The bus moves and everybody says goodbye to Yazd and Harav Oursharga . When I sit in the bus, I review the history of Jews’ presence in Iran and I stare at the faces of every individual companion. One from Touyserkan, another from Isfahan, the other from Shiraz, and another from Kerman, and …. The bus passes the night and it stops at Qom roadside so that men read Tefila towards Ourshalim (Jerusalem). There and then, I feel the presence of God in all minutes of human being. The nearby passengers watch the Jewish men and ask questions. I look at the minarets of the mosque behind us, and say to myself: “And God of the world is one and only”.

* A version of this article was published on Tehran’s Jewish community

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