Tuesday, January 24, 2012

29 Teves: Yarzheit: Rav Yitzchak Kadouri zt'l

An enormous crowd filled the streets of Jerusalem's Bucharim neighborhood to take part in the levaya of the elderly mekabol, HaRav Yitzchak Kadouri zt"l, who passed away on 29 Teves 5766 (2006) at the age of approx 107.
Painting of Rabbi Kaduri by Elena Girshbein


Yitzchak Kadouri (nee Diva) born in Baghdad to R' Zeev Diva, who worked as a spice dealer. As a boy he studied at the Zilcha beis medrash, which drew talmidim from the city's chareidi families. He visited Eretz Yisroel twice in his youth, once traveling through Jordan and a second time through Damascus. After the second time he decided to settle in Baghdad based on the advice of talmidei chachomim in Baghdad who feared the Enlightenment Movement would harm the spiritual development of chareidi youth as the Alliance began to launch activities in Iraq and other countries.

Upon his arrival in Eretz Yisroel the second time he changed his last name from Diva to Kadouri and fixed his place of study at Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the Old City. HaRav Yaakov Ovadia assisted him during his first years in Jerusalem, opening his home to the young man and even teaching his sons gemora for several months.

In Eretz Yisroel it was discovered he had studied from the tzaddikim of Iraq, applied himself to his Torah studies intensively and learned secrets of kabboloh and here in Jerusalem he wanted to study the proper kavonos of the set tefilloh. For several years he was a part of the group of mekubalim who gathered around HaRav Saliman Eliyahu.

The youngest member of the group, R' Yitzchak formed close ties with HaRav Ephraim Hakohen, the head of the mekubolim in Jerusalem and the father of HaRav Shalom Cohen, today rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Porat Yosef. Later he joined the group of mekubolim studying at Beit Knesses Oz Vehadar at the yeshiva. During this period HaRav Kadouri refused to accept tzedakah and decided to earn his living from a bookbinding business he started himself using a bundle of money he had brought from Baghdad.

The chaburoh surrounding HaRav Ephraim Hakohen included Jerusalem's leading mekubolim, such as HaRav Ezra Addes, the grandfather of HaRav Yehuda Addes ylct"a, HaRav Aharon Abud, HaRav Shaul Shaharbani and HaRav Aharon Raful, who would pray according to the kavonos of the Rashash and lived in the yeshiva housing rooms.
After marrying his first wife, Sarah, HaRav Kadouri lived in Shechunat Habucharim, one of Jerusalem's first neighborhoods built outside the Old City walls. He would stay at the yeshiva all week, coming home shortly before Shabbos.

In 5694 (1934) HaRav Kadouri was given a spacious apartment near the yeshiva on the street leading from the Jewish Quarter to the Kosel Maarovi when he agreed to bind all of the yeshiva's books and to copy by hand certain rare books deposited in the yeshiva library. The yeshiva paid him a salary of two liras per month, one for his bookbinding work and another as a member of the group of mekubolim. He agreed to bind only the yeshiva books, keeping the books he copied in his private collection. Before binding every book he would study it carefully and became one of the city's most knowledgeable scholars on many works. Often yeshiva members would come to his home to study from the books.

He would spend all day studying with the group of mekubolim and then spend the evening at home binding books. After Tikkun Chatzos he would go to sleep, waking up before dawn for Shacharis. In 5706 (1946) the yeshiva building turned into a fortress to defend against constant attacks by Arabs, but this did not prevent the yeshiva's rabbonim, including HaRav Yehuda Tzadka, from paying a visit to HaRav Kadouri's home to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his son, David.

With the imminent threat of the Old City falling into the hands of the Jordanians, HaRav Kadouri sought a way to save the yeshiva's sifrei Torah and the enormous collection of sifrei kodesh in his home. After all his efforts to smuggle out the books failed he hid in his library on the last day before the Jewish Quarter fell, unable to part with the books. A short time later Jordanian soldiers took over the house and the entire yeshiva with the surrounding buildings went up in flames. When news of the fire was brought to HaRav Kadouri at his home in Bucharim, he burst out in tears.

Following the petiroh of HaRav Ephraim Hakohen, head of Jerusalem's mekubolim, toward the end of 5709 (1949) HaRav Kadouri was selected to head the group. Yeshivat Porat Yosef had already relocated to Geula but the group of mekubolim opted to attach themselves to Yeshivat Beit Kel on Rechov Rashi. Nevertheless the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivat Porat Yosef, HaRav Tzadka and HaRav Ben-Tzion Abba Shaul zt"l set aside a room where HaRav Kadouri received people every day for years until he started his own yeshiva, Yeshivat Nachalat Yitzchak, on Rechov David in Bucharim.

During the course of his lifetime he wrote only a handful of articles, although others may never have reached the eyes of his talmidim. Some of his writings attacked those who engage in practical kabboloh without understanding any of the secrets of kabboloh. The secrets of the amulets he would write for healing and success were given to him by HaRav Yehuda Phetaia. He was also extensively involved in studying the kavonos of tefilloh. All other secrets of kabboloh which other figures professed to engage in were foreign to him.

Over the years he battled against figures involved in oaths and lots. In one of the few articles he published on this issue, written for the book Tamim Tihiyu by HaRav Yaakov Hillel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Chevrat Ahavat Shalom, he stressed that the only amulet formulations permitted to be written are those written by HaRav Yehuda Phetaia, "because he has foundations in the language of requests for mercy and the names are known, without any error."

In the article he also attacks users of oaths and praises HaRav Hillel's fight against those who mislead others to believe tricks presented in the guise of applied kabbalah. "His entirely beneficial intention is to save Am Yisrael from people who use sorcery and demons to demonstrate their power and deceive their followers and demand much money from them and take oaths and sometimes mix the sacred and the profane, demons with the names of angels, and sometimes inadvertently cause harm to those who ask them questions and there are amulets that are nothing but rattles. Therefore he who fears the Word of Hashem will avoid applied kabbalah."

HaRav Kadouri wrote several kabbolah books, primarily the different formulations of the amulets, but refused to print and distribute them, keeping them only for those familiar with sod. When people would come to him asking for amulets he would insist they recite a chapter of Tehillim for a certain period and made clear that without full Shabbos observance the amulet would provide no benefits.

His entire life was filled with Torah study, day and night, and lengthy tefillos at Yeshivat Nachalat Yitzchak together with his kabbalah talmidim.

HaRav Kadouri's meals were extremely meager and he abstained from numerous types of food. Every morning he would study Chok LeYisroel after breakfast, and then would delve deep into gemora sugyos for hours on end. He would study late into the night, sitting and learning for hours without rest. Whenever a new book came into his hands he would study it from cover to cover and was able to recite entire excerpts from memory.

According to his talmidim HaRav Kadouri knew the entire Shas and poskim verbatim. While studying he would often hold his beard in his hands, but refrained from doing so on Shabbos to avoid pulling out any hairs. When a beard hair fell out during the week he would keep it in a special box.

Throughout his lifetime he also adhered to asceticism in his speech. He never uttered an untoward word about others and would keep his distance from people who spoke excessively. Every full moon he would travel to the gravesites of various tzaddikim around the country to pray.

In general he spoke exceedingly little. For many years he did not say shiurim, but had others say them in his presence. He would make only comments, as he felt necessary.

His home was open to all. Even after certain household items and pieces of jewelry were stolen, he refused to shut the doors to the public and continued to help everyone who sought his assistance.
HaRav Kadouri avoided leaving Eretz Yisroel unnecessarily, but when he had to conduct a fundraising campaign for the yeshiva building he traveled abroad with his son. The moment he was told the amount collected would suffice for the phase of the building under construction he would insist on returning immediately. On one occasion an entire audience was waiting for his arrival, but he refused to remain abroad any longer, saying he was unable to direct his prayers while outside of Eretz Yisroel. Once the building was complete he stopped leaving Eretz Yisroel.

His wife, Sarah, who managed their modest home loyally until her last day, passed away on Lag B'Omer 5749 (1989). Five years later he remarried and his second wife. She too helped him maintain his daily schedule of Torah and chessed.

For decades people would come to his home seeking advice and brochos and asking him to pray for them. Many people were spared following his blessings, but he remained humble in his ways, devoting most of his time to the study of Torah, both nigleh and nistar.

During the last weeks of his life, he was rushed to Bikur Cholim Hospital to be treated for influenza. Following his recovery he returned home, but a short time later contracted an acute lung infection. He spent the last 13 days of his life in critical condition under the treatment of Bikur Cholim's top physicians, who kept him anaesthetised and connected to a respirator. His family members and talmidim did not leave his bedside and Jews everywhere prayed for his recovery.
Shortly after Shabbos ended, the family and close talmidim, along with a group of Jerusalem mekubolim, were summoned to recite Vidui and prayers at his bedside. They pleaded tearfully and cried out to Heaven, but at 10:00 p.m. HaRav Kadouri passed away.

The mittoh was brought to the yeshiva adjacent to his home and throughout the night and the morning hours family members, talmidim and other followers recited Tehillim under a heavy veil of sorrow. Hundreds of people were unable to make their way into the packed building.

In the late morning the police began closing streets leading to Rechov David and thousands of participants were already on hand when the hespeidim began at noon on Sunday. The police apparently underestimated the crowd and observers said that they were seriously understaffed to control the hundreds of thousands who attended.

Among the eulogizers were HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, HaRav Beniyahu Shmueli, HaRav David Batzri, HaRav Yehuda Addes, HaRav Ovadia Yosef, HaRav Shlomo Amar, HaRav Reuven Elbaz and HaRav Moshe Cohen. All of the maspidim recounted the deceased's tzidkus and elevated character, his unique avodas Hashem, his devotion to Torah study day and night, his frugal lifestyle and his many acts of chessed. They also said he felt the suffering of every Jew in Klal Yisroel and would pray wholeheartedly for anyone in need. Before the procession set out it was announced that only those who immersed in a mikveh beforehand would be permitted to carry the mittoh.

Following the many hespeidim and a short address by President Moshe Katsav the levaya set out on foot toward Har Hamenuchos via Rechov Yechezkel, Malchei Yisrael, Torah Mitzion, Hatzvi and Yirmiyahu. All of the stores along the way closed down for hours as the very long stream of people passed.
When the mittoh arrived at the burial plot shortly before 3:00 p.m. the deceased's talmidim and leading mekubolim recited Shlosh Esrei Middos and Kabolas Ol Malchus Shomayim. A bitter cry could be heard throughout the cemetery as the mittoh was lowered into the ground. For hours afterwards thousands passed by the gravesite to pay their final respects.

Over 100 medics and paramedics were on hand during the procession with 10 Magen David Adom ambulances and 22 Hatzoloh motorcycles.

Throughout the day the Municipal Traffic Department worked in cooperation with Israel Police, which dispatched 700 officers to control the city's main thoroughfares and provide security for the procession. Traffic lights were adjusted and a special information hotline was set up. Early in the morning the Sanitation Department began to clear refuse bins to facilitate free passage.

Chacham Yitzchak Kadouri is Buried on Har Menuchos - Givat Shaul, Israel, and  is survived by a son and a daughter, grandchildren and other descendants.

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