Question: [Thursday, 18th Iyar, 5782]
This year, due to all the various government limitations, I am unable to make it to the gravesite of Rebbe Shimon in Meron as I do annually. My question is, is there any value in me traveling to the north to an area from which I can see the Kever, and pray from there, and would this be considered similar to having gone to the Kever, or is this considered meaningless?
Going to an area which is close enough to the gravesite of the Tzaddik from where you can see the grave, does contain value, and is considered a form of Hishtatchus [i.e. visiting the gravesite of the Tzaddik] on some level. One can pray from that area and say Tehillim in the merit of the Tzaddik, while there.
The concept of restrictions which limit people from going to the gravesite of the Tzaddik has always existed with regard to Kohanim, and nevertheless, we find that throughout generations Kohanim would travel to the gravesite of Tzadikim to pray next to them even though they cannot come close to it and cannot actually enter the cemetery. So is proven from various areas in the Talmud, which record stories of Talmudic sages who would visit grave sites from a distance, due to inability to come close to them, such as due to being a priest and the like. They would pray from outside, from an area from where they can see the grave. The Poskim who address the question of what value such a visitation carries [since they cannot actually go to the area of the grave] explain that it does carry significance due to several reasons. 1) Simply the fact that one traveled for the sake of visiting the Tzaddik and is in an area from which he can see the grave, arouses one in repentance and good deeds, which is one of the entire purposes of Hishtatchus by Kivrei Tzadikim, and hence even if one does not make it to the actual four cubits of the gravesite, its value is intrinsic. 2) The law is that the blessing which is recited upon visiting a cemetery is to be recited upon seeing it even from a distance, even if one does not go inside. 3) The souls of those buried in the grave notice those people who come to pay them a visitation even if they are a distance from the grave, and such visitors give pleasantness to the soul of the deceased.
Sources: Dudaei Hasadeh 21; See Makor Chesed 450:2 on Sefer Chassidim 450 that there is Talmudic basis for this custom of a Kohen visiting the grave from a distance, as the Gemara in Bava Basra 58b states that Abayey came to the Kever of Tuvi Bar Masan, and Abayey was a Kohen, as he was from the family of Eily, as stated in Yevamos 105b. Likewise, in Brachos 18b it states that Shmuel went to the courtyard of the grave, and Shmuel was a Kohen as understood from Megillah 22a; Nitei Gavriel 76:11; See regarding the blessing being set upon sending a cemetery: Aruch Hashulchan 224:8; Piskeiy Teshuvos 224:10