Rabbi Ovadia's cave

What prompted Rabbi Ovadia of Bertinoro to leave everything, his position and his livelihood, and move to Jerusalem?

Rabbi Ovadia served as Rabbi of Castello, in Italy, and was one of the most important Jewish bankers in the city.

After the widower decided to immigrate to the Land of Israel, and after many wanderings, he was able to reach Jerusalem on the 13th of Nissan 5248 (1488 CE). On his trip to Israel, and while he was there, he wrote several letters to members of his family. In these letters, he describes the situation of the Jews in the countries he passed through, and the situation of Jerusalem at the time of his arrival there. Among other things, he described Jerusalem as “mostly desolate and deserted… and it has no wall around it… and of the Jews, seventy homeowners remain; the people are poor and have no livelihood”. In addition, he gave a description of the development of the Jewish cemetery: “The Josaphat valley… that is where Jewish cemetery is now. The old graves are under the Mount of Olives, on the slope by the valley.”

Rabbi Ovadia did not stand aside when faced with the difficult situation of the Jewish community, and he helped the Jewish community in Jerusalem to develop both spiritually and financially with the help of bank deposits he had in Italy. After a time, Rabbi Ovadia of Bertinoro was appointed the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, an appointment that was also recognized by the Mamluk authorities.

Rabbi Ovadia is remembered for his commentaries on the six books of the Mishnah. He began writing his great essay while he was still outside Israel, and finished it in Jerusalem.

The date of his death, according to tradition, is the third day of Sivan, and opinions differ about the year. However, the grave’s location is known to us from several sources. This is how Rabbi Moshe ben Habib describes it in his book “Get A Simple Divorce”: “Today this spring (the Gihon) is known to the south of Jerusalem… and it is the body of the cemetery near the sealed cave where Mordechai, Rabbi Kalonymus and Rabbi Ovadia of Bertinoro, and the rest of the righteous are buried, as we know from the elders.”

The tomb is located on the slopes of the Kidron at the foot of the village of Silvan, and it can also be seen from the roof of Beit HaTsofeh in the City of David.

Recently, the day of his death, according to the 3rd of Sivan tradition, has become one of the great festive occasions held on the Mount of Olives. Thousands of people from all walks of life, including rabbis, ministers and public leaders, go up to the grave of the tzaddik (righteous man) on that day, and pray for the everyone and for themselves.