Yossi Bna'a Synagogue/ HaTzadik HaLavan (the white righteous man)
The oldest standing Sepharadi synagogue in Tzfat, it was built by refugees from Argonia, Spain, in the late 1400s on the upper border of the 'Musta'arvim 'neighborhood before the Sepharadi neighborhood was expanded in the early 1500. (The Mustaravim were Jews whose families had been in the Land of Israel since Roman times, preceding the return of those who came after the Spanish expulsion of 1492).
Next to the synagogue is a small room where R’ Yossi Bna'a, one of the 3rd century Talmudic sages is buried. R’ Bna'a was known for mapping out the burial places of the great sages who are buried throughout the North of Israel.
The Jews of Tzfat tell the legend of the “miracle of the chickens” that occurred because of the intervention of the Tzaddik HaLavan: after an edict was issued which would have expelled the Jews from Tzfat unless a certain number of white chickens was delivered to the Turkish ruler, Jews prayed to the Tzaddik HaLavan for intervention, and all the chickens of Tzfat turned white.
The building of the synagogue was only partially destroyed by the 1837 earthquake. The restoration is mainly in the form of the low wood ceiling in the prayer area, but the women’s section and the burial room are the original construction. There is an old Torah Scroll in the synagogue which was donated by the Sepharadi community in the 19th century and accompanies the yearly processional to Mount Meron on Lag B’Omer.
A visit and a prayer at this synagogue helps to inspire and arouse our ability to do 'miracles' – to reach above and beyond our limitations.