Sunday, January 29, 2012

4 Shevat: Yarzheit Baba Sali

Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeirah - The Baba Sali
Born: Tafillalt, Morocco,1890
Died: 4 Shevat, Israel, 1984

Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeirah was of a well-known rabbinical dynasty. His grandfather was the famous tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeirah. He had great skill in Talmudic interpretation and many of his halachic decisions were accepted and took root among his followers. He was regarded as someone who possessed the Ruach Hakodesh or "Divine Spirit".

Although still very young, people flocked to R' Yisrael for blessings for their parnassa (income), family, and health. Consequently he became known as "Baba Sali," (our praying father) because of the prayers that he would invoke on behalf of those who sought out his guidance.

One day, young Yisrael's father told him, "My child, you have a great power to bless people which you cannot measure. Your words can bring great help to men. From now on, you must use this power to say good things about others and to bless them."

Young Yisrael gave his word. Soon it became known that the blessings of this young child brought miraculous results. He became famous as Baba Sali. A master of the Kabbalah and a great Torah Sage, he took over his father's position as head of the yeshiva and Rabbi of the community. Although he regularly gave many lectures in Torah and kabbalah, he did not permit his students to write them down because he wanted his scholarship to remain unknown. Nevertheless, his fame as a holy man and a righteous Tzaddik continued to draw Jews to him from all over. Even Arabs came to receive his blessings and the coins he gave for charity.

At 19 he was inducted as the Rosh Hayeshiva, after his father's death. After an extended one year trip to Eretz Yisrael he returned, and was compelled to take the position of Rav of the community after the murder of his brother by an Arab. He gave daily lectures, served as a judge in the beit din (rabbinical court), and set the tone for the kehilla. The community appreciated that nothing escaped his holy, penetrating eyes. From throughout Morocco, people converged on his home for his blessings, his counsel, and his encouragement.

In 1964 when Baba Sali noted that much of Moroccan Jewry had emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, he followed them to fulfill his dream of settling there. Baba Sali chose Yavne as his home because many of his followers had settled there.

In 1970 he moved to Netivot where he was steadily visited by Chassidim, Ashkenazim and Sephardim who sought his unique counsel. He stressed emunah (faith), humility, ahavat Yisrael (love of fellow Jews) and kiyum hamitzvot (fulfillment of mitzvot). His phenomenal memory allowed him to access information at will, whether it dealt with law, Talmud, Kabbalah,etc.

He was very humble and did not want to attract attention, however, his prophetic powers and his miraculous prayers soon became renowned. Thousands of Jews from all over the world would come to seek his advice and blessings for children, health, and livelihood. Baba Sali was very close to other great Torah scholars, especially the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom he referred to as "the Great Eagle in the Heavens." He strongly encouraged the Rebbe's Mitzvah campaigns, especially urging young girls to light candles for Shabbat and Yom Tov.


Young and old, men and women, observant and secular, Sephardim and Ashkenazim of every stripe, all streamed to the door of the great kabbalist and tsaddik, Baba Sali, in Netivot, seeking his blessing and help. Everyone, without exception, held him in the highest esteem.

Once a man from Holon, Eliyahu, was scheduled to have his legs amputated. His spinal cord had been damaged by a bullet in the Yom Kippur War. He had already spent much time in the hospital, and so was reconciled to his fate. The procedure was to take place on Friday.

That Thursday, an elderly woman acquaintance suggested that he receive a blessing from Baba Sali before the operation. She said that she knew of someone who had been paralyzed, yet was healed through Baba Sali's blessing. Although Eli was not at all observant, he decided to try it anyway, in desperation. Maybe, maybe....

It would have been impossible to get permission to leave the hospital the day before the operation, so Eli snuck out. He didn't even disclose his intention to see Baba Sali to his concerned family.

Eli sat on a chair in the waiting room near the entrance to the tsaddik's room. After many hours, finally his turn came. The custom was, before anything, to approach Baba Sali on his couch and kiss his hand, but because of the advanced thrombosis of his legs and the crippling pain that accompanied it, Eli was unable even to rise to enter the room.

Following Baba Sali's instruction, Rabbanit Simi, his wife, approached Eli and asked, "Do you put on tefillin?" Do you keep Shabbat? Do you say blessings?

"No," admitted Eli, and burst into sobs.

Baba Sali seemed to be moved by Eli's suffering and his sincerity. He said to him, "If you do my will and observe the Shabbat and repent completely, then G-d, too, will listen to my will."

With great emotion, Eli promptly cried out, "I accept upon myself the obligation to observe the Shabbat in all its details. I also promise to do full tshuvah, to 'return' in repentance all the way."

At Baba Sali's directive, Eli was served tea. After he drank it, the Rabbanit suggested that being that the Rav had blessed him, he should try to get up, in order to go and and kiss the Rav's hand.

After much effort and pain, Eli managed to rise. He couldn't believe it-his legs were obeying him! Shakily, he walked over to Baba Sali and kissed his hand! By then nearly delirious with shock and joy, he began to thank Baba Sali profusely. The Rav interrupted him, saying with a smile, "Don't thank me. Just say: 'Blessed are those who sanctify His name publicly!'"

As if in a dream, Eli stumbled out the door and descended the stairs. He experimented, walking this way and that. He had to know: Was he really awake? Could this truly be happening? With each step, his legs felt better.

On his "new" legs, he went over to Yeshiva HaNegev, not too far from the home of Baba Sali. When the students realized they were seeing the results of a miracle that had just occurred, they surrounded Eli with happy dancing and singing, and words of praise and gratitude to G-d.

Rejoicing in his new-found ability to walk, Eli returned to the home of Baba Sali to say goodbye properly and to thank him again. He also expressed his fear that his legs would relapse to their previous weakness and disease. Baba Sali calmed him, saying cheerfully, "Don't worry. In the merit of your oath to 'return' and repent, and especially that you promised to observe Shabbat according to its laws, which is equal to all the commandments, G-d has done this miracle and nullified the decree against you. Now it is up to you to fulfill your words."

Leaving Baba Sali's house again, Eli telephoned his mother. "I'm all better!" he shouted, without explanation. She figured that fear of the surgery had caused him to loose touch with reality. "Are you coming home?" she asked with concern. "Or will you go straight to the hospital?"

Eli then told her what he had promised Baba Sali, the blessing that he had received from the tsaddik, and the miraculous improvement that had already occurred. As soon as he hung up, he called his doctor at Achilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and informed him of his cure. The doctor told Eli to be back at the hospital the following day, and to "stop acting crazy!"

Eli did go to the hospital the next day. The doctor was barely able to accept the evidence of his eyes. After a few days and many tests, Eli was released. The first thing he did was to return to Netivot, to thank Baba Sali again. The Rav requested of his household that a seudat hoda'ah, a meal of thanksgiving to G-d in honor of the miracle, be prepared and served. At the end of the meal, Baba Sali blessed a bottle of water and told Eli to deliver it to the hospital so that his doctor could drink l'chaim from it. "And tell him," added Baba Sali, "not to be so hasty to cut off legs."

Baba Sali's gabbai (attendant) during most of his years in Netivot, Rabbi Eliyahu Alfasi [who witnessed much of the story and heard the rest of the details from Eli of Holon], reports that he once asked Baba Sali how he performed this great miracle. The tzaddik answered him innocently, "Believe me, Eliyahu, all I did was tell him 'Stand up!'"


Anonymous said...

Devorah, why is it that you always cover the yahrtzeits of the two great Sephardi kabbalists, HaRav Kaduri, ztvk"l, and the Baba Sali, ztvk"l, yet you never cover the third member of the "trio", HaRav Mordechai Sharabi, ztvk"l?

Devorah said...

I'm sorry to say I have no idea who HaRav Sharabi is/was.... I've heard the name, but that's all I know. Maybe you can fill me in.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday 31 January / 7 Shevat:
On Tuesday of the week of Shabbat Beshallach, it is propitious for one's livelihood to read the Torah portion about the Giving of the Manna in the Wilderness (Exodus 16:4-36) twice in Hebrew and once in the Aramaic Targum (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov d. 1815). Those without access to the Aramaic may read the passage in the vernacular.
Thursday night-Friday 2-3 February / 10 Shevat
Today is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the "RaShaSh" (1720-77), author of Siddur HaKavvanot Kabbalistic prayerbook, and of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the "Frierdicher Rebbe" of Lubavitch (1880-1950). On 10 Shevat 1951 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson of Lubavitch formally became Rebbe in succession to his father-in-law, the Friedricher Rebbe.
those who wish to do the tanach studiy with RAvraham Greenbaum of breslov, he started from prophet JOshua to the end, about 4 years back, every year we re do it.

Devorah said...

Thank you 10Rainbow, I need reminding of a lot of things lately. Sometimes I click onto my own blog and secretly hope it's updated itself with all the necessary info ::))

Anonymous said...

HaRav Mordechai Sharabi, ztvk"l, was one of the leading Sephardi/Mizrachi kabbalists of the past half-century or so, on par with the Baba Sali, ztvk"l, and HaRav Kaduri, ztvk"l. He was born in 1908 in Yemen, and died on 20 MarCheshvan 5744 (1983), only a few months before the Baba Sali. (There is a story about how the Baba Sali sensed a terrible gezeira against the Jews of Israel, that much Jewish blood would be spilled. Even though he was over 94 years of age, he fasted, beseeching HaShem to avert the decree. In the end, he revealed that one of the generation's tzaddikim agreed to give his life as a kapparah. That day, HaRav Sharabi fell deathly ill, and passed away a few days later.) He was the founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Nahar Shalom, a yeshiva fo mekubalim based on the kavvanot of the RaShaSh (R'Shalom Sharabi, 1720-1797, who, I have heard though with trouble understanding how, he was a direct descendant of). HaRav Yosef Shelomo Dayan, ztvk"l, who you have covered on your site in the past, was one of his talmidim. There is a a Wikipedia entry on him, though I'm not sure how informative. A better source to find out more on him would probably be mekubal of A good place to start would be here: Also, maybe Yaak (of Yeranen Yaakov) might have more information on him. I hope this helps.

Devorah said...

Thanks for all that.
Here is the Rav Dahan post - one of the first things I ever blogged [back in 2007, on the old deleted blog, but re-posted in 2010]
Sefer HaTikunim

Anonymous said...

The Baba Sali wanted to come to live in America in proximity to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but the Rebbe advised him that he was needed in Israel to guide the Sefardim arriving to the "frei" medina.

A biography of the Baba Sali entitled Sidna Baba Sali relates that the Baba Sali began seeking the Rebbe’s advice as early as 5712, when he was considering leaving Eretz Yisroel, where he had moved to from Morocco only a year earlier:

“His entire purpose in ascending to the Holy Land was in order to study Torah and serve G-d without disturbance. However, because of the poor spiritual conditions in the land of Israel at the time, he was considering leaving the holy for the mundane, and perhaps, moving to the United States... where one can devote oneself to the study of Torah and the worship of G-d without too much trouble. ... In a long letter, comprising teachings from the Talmud, kabbala, and chassidus, the Rebbe explains to the tzaddik that Heaven had appointed him to be ‘a comprehensive5 man and a leader of Israel,’ whom tens of thousands of Jews listen to and whom Heaven had given extraordinary abilities [to function in this capacity]. It would thus be appropriate, the Rebbe suggests, for him to remain in the land of Israel, where he would be in close proximity to our Sephardic brothers, who thirst for the word of G-d.”

Similarly, in a letter to the Baba Sali dated 9 Nissan 5712 (April 4, 1952),6 the Rebbe writes:

“I was pleased to receive your original important letter, as well as your letter of Adar. Let me state here my opinion in response to your question...concerning the fact that you moved to the Holy Land in order to immerse yourself in the study of Torah and the worship of G-d, but are now considering moving to the United States.”

Parenthetically, Rabbi Benzion Grossman, who was a regular visitor at the Baba Sali’s home, told me that many years ago he heard from those who were close to the tzaddik an explanation of why the tzaddik wanted to move to the United States in 5712, when there were hardly any religious Jews there and, in particular, no organized Sephardic communities. They said in the Baba Sali’s name that his main reason for wanting to do this was in order to live in close proximity to the Rebbe, for he felt that this would greatly enhance his efforts to hasten the Messianic Redemption. This also explains why the Rebbe’s opinion about his moving to the U.S. was so important to him.

The Rebbe goes on to write him a long letter full of Kabbalistic teachings, and advises him to remain in the Holy Land, because he is a king, as in the Talmudic teaching, “Who are the kings? – the rabbis [are the kings]!” The Rebbe explains to the Baba Sali that he is “a comprehensive man and a leader of Israel, whom tens of thousands of Jews listen to... The honorable Gaon has been given the great and awesome merit of using the talents that G-d has graced you with and the royal treasures that have been passed on to you, generation by generation, from your holy ancestors, to lead the holy communities who follow you into war against the evil inclination, the husks7 and the Other Side,8 to fight the war of G-d, and to publicize G-dliness in all of your surroundings.”

In a letter dated 13 Nissan 5713 (March 29, 1953)9 the Rebbe tells the Baba Sali that he is happy to hear that the tzaddik does not harbor any resentment toward him for advising him (in the abovementioned letter) to “devote your powers to work for the public [welfare] rather than dwell in solitude. Indeed, it is written in Rav Sherira Gaon’s Letter that when Rav came to Bavel he did not establish his residence in a place of Torah, but rather, specifically in a place that was barren of Torah, where he dedicated himself to closing the breaches in Torah observance.”

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