This is a re-blog from 2012, as once again we have had commenters who are confused about why we pray at the graves of tzadikim.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often answer requests by saying that he would pray for the person at the grave of his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak.
The following is extracted from "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD
Published by Shaar Press
Every person has a direct line with G-d, and we are not permitted to pray to intermediaries. Indeed, the propriety of prayers where we appear to be asking for blessings from angels or for their intervention on our behalf, is the subject of debate, and must be interpreted in such a way that does not violate our basic belief that we relate only to G-d as the One from Whom everything emanates.
Yes, there is also the concept of faith in a tzaddik, which is derived from the verse in Exodus [14:31] "They had faith in G-d and in Moses, His servant". The sages derived from this verse that believing in the leader of Israel is equivalent to believing in the Creator [Mechilta]. In addition, the Talmud states that if there is a sick person in one's household, let him go to a chacham [a wise man] to pray for his recovery [Bava Basra 116a]. Inasmuch as everyone has a direct contact with G-d and we do not work through intermediaries, why is the prayer of a tzaddik more potent that one's own prayer?
There are several ways in which we can understand the concept of faith in a tzaddik. First and foremost is that the opinion of a wise man, a tzaddik, as a Torah authority, must be accepted and followed even if we are in disagreement with it [Sifri, Deut 17:11].
There is also a concept of receiving a blessing from a tzaddik and this has its basis in a statement from G-d to Abraham "And you will be a blessing" [Gen 12:2] which the Midrash interprets to mean that G-d gave Abraham the power to bless people, and that gift has been given to other tzaddikim as well. Nevertheless, a person must understand that even though the tzaddik conveys the blessing, the origin of the blessing is G-d.
A woman once came to Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobel, pleading for a blessing to have a child. To the amazement of the bystanders, the Rabbi, who was exceptionally kind and benevolent, said brusquely to her "I'm sorry, I cannot help you". The woman left the room tearful and broken hearted.
Noting the bewilderment of his chassidim, Rabbi Mordechai said "Just wait a few moments, then go find the woman and bring her back here." The chassidim did as they were told and when the woman came back, the Rabbi asked her "What did you do when you left here?"
The woman replied "I turned my eyes to Heaven and I said "Dear G-d, the Rabbi refuses to help me. Now You are my only hope. Bless me that I have a child."
Rabbi Mordechai said to the chassidim "This woman believed that I had magical powers, and she was trusting in me rather than in G-d. When I refused her request, she placed her trust in G-d where it belongs. She will now be blessed with a child."
The primary function of a tzaddik is to assist people in the proper service of G-d, to help them recognize their character defects and show them how to do teshuvah.
The power of a tzaddik is in his strong belief in G-d, and anyone who has that strong a belief can bring about similar results. When the tzaddik prays for a sick person, for example, and says that G-d is the healer of the sick, his belief is so strong that it actually brings down the Divine healing upon the person. In fact, said Rabbi Mordechai, the prime reason for having a relationship with a tzaddik is to learn how to perfect one's belief in G-d.