Hundreds of worshippers flocked to the tomb of Rabbi Eliezer Papo , the leader of the Jewish community of Selestria in Bulgaria, famous for writing the "Pele Yoetz", a work of musar (ethical) literature which gives advice on how to behave as a Jew in many aspects of life.
The event was led by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, who prayed for "the salvation of the people living in Zion from the Iranian threat."
Rabbi Pinto has been gathering thousands of worshippers and travelling with them to Rabbi Papo's tomb for a day of prayers for the past 11 years. His followers believe that praying over the grave will result in miracles and salvation. This year, the event was directed at the Iranian threat.
Upon arriving at the grave, the participants surrounded Rabbi Pinto and began singing and dancing. They then said Selichot and blew hundreds of shofarot in an emotional display, which caused many of the participants to break into tears.
Prayer near rabbi's tomb (Photo: Ofer Avitan)
Rabbi Pinto said over the grave, "Every generation receives its power from a different book in the Bible. Our generation receives its roots from the Book of Esther, which is the last Megillah and the book of the last generation."
He added that just like in the book, which takes place in Persia, the Jewish people were united and won, and this is what has to be done now.
"The Jewish people must live in friendship and love," the rabbi said. "Many people are worried and afraid about what will happen with the people of Israel, about the dangers we are facing… Our power is in unfounded love (as opposed to unfounded hatred) and in a positive regard of everyone."
Talking to Ynet, Rabbi Pinto added, "The history of Ahasuerus (the king of Persia in the Book of Esther) is repeating itself in a shocking manner. Then, and now, the ruler of Persia is seeking to destroy and kill the Jewish people. But just like then it ended without the blood of one single Jew being shed, no blood will be shed here either.
"We must remember, however, that at the time the Jewish Diaspora did not offer advice to the army and state leaders, but rather focused on unity and complete faith that God will find the way to save the people."
One of the most influential rabbis
As the visit was the first major public event since July's murderous terror attack in Bulgaria, the security arrangements were tightened. Visitors were escorted by many police cars, and all their baggage underwent strict security checks.
The Varna airport was shut down in honor of the delegation's arrival, and Rabbi Pinto was greeted by the city's mayor and Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria Shaul Kamisa.
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, head of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, is known for his connections to many politicians and business tycoons.
Despite his young age (just 38), he has been named one of the most influential rabbis and heads educational and welfare institutions with assets and activities worth tens of millions of shekels.