Rabbi Yosei of Peqi’in is mentioned in the Zohar, and is so called because he lived in this village in the Upper Galilee. Some of the priestly families from the village trace their lineage to him.
The tomb of R. Yosei is located in the lower-southern part of the village, along the steep descent to the nearby valley.
In Arabic, the tomb is called “Sadiq a-Tawahin,” due to its proximity to the flower mill.
In his book Shaar Ha-Gilgulim, R. Haim Vital describes the location of the tomb: “On this mountain, there is a kind of gathering of stones in a circle, and in their center is the place where R. Shimon bar Yohai, peace upon him, and his students, gathered to study […] in this very place, R. Yosei of Peqi’in is buried.”
When his death became known (as related in the Zohar), R. Elazar, the son of R. Shimon bar Yohai, went to his companions and said to them, “Friends! Let us return an act of kindness to the pomegranate that was full with all things, namely, R. Yosei of Peqi’in, who has departed from this world.” When the group reached the village, the residents saw them approaching, and went out to receive them, accompanying them to R. Yosei’s home. R. Yosei’s son, a young boy, cried by his father’s bedside, and let no one draw near him, saying, “Master of the Universe, it says in the Torah that ‘If you chance upon a bird’s nest… let the mother go’ (Deut. 22:6-7). Master of the Universe, uphold what is written in the Torah. My father and mother have two children – myself and my younger sister. You should have taken us and upheld what is written in the Torah! And if you say that it says ‘mother’ and not ‘father,’ now it is both: mother passed away and left her children, and now father, who was our protector, has left his children: where is the Torah’s law?”
When they heard all this, R. Elazar and his friends began to weep. They saw that the pillar of fire that had burned between them had ceased, but the child did not budge from his father. Suddenly, they heard a voice saying: “Joy unto you, R. Yosei, as the words of this child and his tears have reached the Holy Throne to do judgment, and the Holy One exchanged thirteen people for you and gave you twelve additional years to teach Torah to this young goat [the child], so perfect and endearing to the Holy One.”
R. Elazar and his friends let no one remain in the house. The pillar of fire immediately disappeared and R. Yosei opened his eyes.
R. Elazar said: “Joy unto us, who have seen the restoration of the dead with our own eyes.”
R. Yosei’s colleagues said to him, ”what joy for you – blessed is God who performed a miracle on your behalf due to your tears and the words uttered by your son, and added years onto your life.” They took the child, kissed him, and cried with him for joy. For three days, they rejoiced and composed original Torah commentary, but R. Yosei told them that he did not have permission for the next 12 years to reveal what he had seen in the world he had visited. He added that when his son’s 365 tears rose up to the Holy One at the moment he recited the verse, the 300,000 benches in heavens rattled, and all came before the Holy One and entreated him to show mercy.
R. Yosef Sofer, who arrived in Peqi’in in 1762, makes the first mention of R. Yosei’s tomb in the village: ”In this place there are many tombs of righteous men. There is also the tomb of one righteous man known as ’Yosei’ of Peqi’in. His tomb is a great wonder, made of stone like an oven, and he lies therein. At the tomb is a large stone like a door, and I was at that place, at his tomb.”
It is told that Avraham David Ha-Cohen Toma, the grandfather of Sa’adah, wife of Yosef Zeinati, became very curious regarding the depth of the tomb and cave there. Avraham David brought a reed and inserted it into the opening. He immediately regretted that he had been tempted by the evil impulse to desecrate the holy.
Returning home, he was agitated and regretful, and at night, he sat studiously with the Zohar in order to chase away the evil spirit that had come upon him. Suddenly the door of the house opened, and a man appeared wrapped in white shrouds, and called out: “Why did you desecrate my grave? You are condemned to death for this sin! But since I have found you reading the Zohar, I will take not your soul, but that of your son,” and disappeared. Avraham David Ha-Cohen Toma hurried to his son’s bed, and found him burning with fever. By morning, the child had returned his soul to the Creator. This is the version related in the Zohar.
According to the tradition of the villagers, when the tomb would fill with water during flooding, it was a sign that a plague was going to break out. Therefore, every winter, the heads of the village would go to pray at the tomb of R. Yosei in order to repeal the evil decree.