Yossi Banaah Synagogue

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Tzadik HaLavan Shul
Yossi Banaah Synagogue
בית כנסת הצדיק הלבן רבי יוסי בנאה צפת
tz-a-deek ha-la-van, yos-si ba-an-ay
Other Names:
Tzadik Halavan shul, the Beit Knesset Banah, Kever Aba Yosef Habani
Banai, Banni, Bana, Banaa, Bannay, Bannah
Old Synagogue in Safed, Israel where the Tana Rabbi Yosi Bannah is buried.

The Tzadik HaLavan synagogue, also known as the Yossi Banai Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in Tzfat. It was built in 1550 by refugees from Aragon, Spain around the gravesite of the 4th generation Tana Rabbi Yossi Banaa. It was rebuilt after both the 1759 and 1837 earthquakes.


[edit] Kever Rabbi Yossi Banai

Rabbi Yossi Banai was a forth generation Tana and a renown experet in the Kabbalistic mysteries regarding the creation of the world. He was buried along the mountainside of Tzfat and later the synagogue was built around his kever. His Tzyiun is located in a small room on the right side of the shul, underneath the women's section. An ancient Torah scroll is embedded inside the tziyun and nearby sits a 300 year old 'Chair of Eliyahu'. In the adjacent room there is an ancient mikva that is supposedly attached to a natural spring. To the dismay of many local residents, the room with the tziyun and the mikva are kept locked up at almost all times, although the adjacent Bet Knesset is open sometimes.

[edit] Miracle of the White Chickens

During the era of Ottoman rule the Jews of Tzfat witnessed a miracle in merit of Rebbe Yossi Banai. A cruel Ottoman ruler demanded that the Jews bring him a few hundred white chickens. He warned that dire consequences would result if the chickens were not brought within three days. Almost all of the chickens in Tzfat were multi-colored and the Jews of Tzfat panicked.

Many residents prayed at the gravesite Rabbi Yossi Saragosi, former chief rabbi of Tzfat. Then they went to the Yossi Banai Shul, remaining there for three days fasting and praying. On the third night one of the residents who was sleeping at the synagogue dreamt that Rabbi Yossi Saragosi advised the Jews to bring their chickens to his grave. All the Jews of Tzfat brought their chickens and roosters to Rabbi Yossi Saragosi’s grave and returned the next morning to find all their chickens had turned white. The Ottoman ruler, seeing this miracle, relaxed his harsh rule over the Jews and the Yossi Banai synagogue became known as the “Tzadik HaLavan” -- the White Righteous One -- synagogue.

[edit] Smicha - Rabbinical Ordination

The Tzadik HaLavan synagogue played another important role in Tzfat with an unusual ordination of Tzfat’s greatest 16th century rabbis. Rabbi Ya’akov Beirav, Safed’s Chief Rabbi during the early 16th century, wanted to reinstate “smicha,” the ordination of rabbis to the Sanhedrin. True smicha had been dissolved when the Sanhedrin dispersed during the Roman exile but Rabbi Beirav felt that the time had come to reestablish the authority that would unite the Jewish World and, he believed, bring the messiah. Tzfat’s rabbinical establishment supported Rabbi Beirav and ordained him, paving the way for him to bestow ordination on the great Tzfat rabbis, Rabbi Yosef Caro, Rabbi Moshe Metrani, Rabbi Moshe Galante, and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. This ceremony took place at the Tzaddik HaLavan synagogue. Subsequently, worldwide rabbinical condemnations and refusal to accept the reenactment of the Sanhedrin doomed the move and the initiative died out.

[edit] The Synagogue

The Tzaddik HaLavan synagogue is located one level up from the ancient Tzfat cemetery, above the Ari Sephardi Synagogue. Visitors walk through through a courtyard to enter the synagogue whose interior is blue, a Kabbalistic motif reminiscent of the heavens. The raised center “Bima” -- central prayer area -- is next to an Elijah’s chair which is used for circumcision ceremonies. Visitors will see painted etchings of biblical instruments along the ceiling’s arches. A local family, the Shabbabos, care for the synagogue and open it for Sabbath prayers. The prayer service is conducted in the Sepharadi tradition.

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