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Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeira is one of the most famous miracle rabbis known today. He was born in Morocco and made Aliyah much later in his life.
He was known as an Admor (meaning the equivalent of a Chassidic Rebbe) and had the additional abbreviation Meluban added after his name – meaning “accustomed to miracles”. He was a true servant of G-d in every sense of the word, wanting nothing else in his life than to fulfil G-d’s wishes. Although an Admor in his own right, he had a strong connection with many of the other Chassidic Rebbe’s including the Lubavitcher Rebbe. There is a famous correspondence between the two. The Baba Sali wanted very much to learn and live by the Lubavitcher Rebbe i.e. in New York with him. The Rebbe wrote back telling him that G-d had blessed him with powers that were meant to help those in Israel where he ended up living. It was because of this that the Baba Sali ended up settling where he did!
He was an authentic Kabbalist – not like the popular “Kabbalist” of today’s generation. He did not use his “magical powers” to perform things to show off. On the contrary, it was because he was so attached to G-d at all times, that “The Tzaddik decrees and G-d fulfils.” He never made use of his knowledge of practical Kabbalah. His powers and Ruach HaKodesh came not from practical use of G-d’s Names and the like, but rather because of his extreme holiness!
His father was the first born son of Rebbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira – well known for his knowledge of Kabbalah and his complete devotion to Hashem. He in turn was a direct descendant of Rebbi Shmuel Elbaz – a pupil of Rabbi Chaim Vital, the student of the holy Arizal!
The most famous story concerns how “Elbaz” became known as Abuchatzeira. In those days, it is told, one person from the Yeshiva would go around collecting the necessary funding to help the Yeshiva (and those learning in it) to be supported monetarily. There were no cars in those days, and in fact, in order to build up wealth, it was necessary to travel overseas – and that was done *without* an airplane! The only means to do so was by ship.
In the Yeshiva where Rabbi Shmuel Elbaz (a great Tzaddik himself!) learned, they decided to cast lots by drawing thin sticks from the hand of one person. Various sizes were placed in the hand, making them all look the same size. The person picking out the shortest stick would be chosen for the arduous journey across the sea. As things turned out, this time it was Rabbi Shmuel who chose that “unwanted” stick, and he set out immediately onto his Shlichus (mission) to bring in the funding necessary to simply continue living and be able to continue learning.
Rabbi Shmuel was a humble man. He set out to the dock, and saw a ship ready to set sail. The fee to board it was a high one, and Rabbi Shmuel lacked the money to purchase a ticket. What would he do?! He approached the captain and asked him if he could perhaps board it, and take up some lodging aboard the ship where the storage rooms were. A place perhaps – where brooms were stored – and there would be just enough room for him to stay closeted in. The captain refused.
Rabbi Shmuel told the captain that he would be delighted to work for his boarding of course! He would clean the deck, serve the passengers food, whatever it would take. The captain refused.
There was nothing Rabbi Shmuel could say or do to convince the captain to take him aboard. Rabbi Shmuel knew well the importance of his mission and realised that he would still travel – no matter what! The ship set sail shortly thereafter. As it did so, Rabbi Shmuel took out a mat that he had brought with him to sit upon. He threw it open upon the waters. The mat floated. Rabbi Shmuel sat on top of it… and it continued to float, moving at the same pace as the large ship. Suddenly people were shouting about at the miracle they were seeing in front of their eyes. The commotion alerted the captain, who realised that his “poor Jewish peddler beggar” was in reality a very great man – a Tzaddik. Naturally he offered him a wonderful cabin onboard with all sorts of delights to honour the great Tzaddik!
Rabbi Shmuel declined, and continued the entire journey next to the ship until he reached his destination! From the day this story became known, Rabbi Shmuel became known as Abu Chatzeira – or the translation of these Arabic words, “Father of the Mat.” Since then, all of his descendants have been known as Abuchatzeira.
Of course, his descendants did not only inherit this prestigious name, but also the ability to perform miracles – naturally!
To tell the stories about Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeira, would fill volumes of books, and indeed many have been printed. Each better than the next, filled with stories most of us would think of only as fantasy and fairy tales. Ironically – they’re true!
Being a holy man, Rabbi Yisrael guarded his eyes from any site forbidden by the Torah. He would wear a cloak around him that completely shielded him from anything “unsightly”. In addition, he would usually walk, accompanied by his Gabbai (sexton) wherever he went – even when it was to the Mikvah! In this way, he could keep his eyes on the ground without bumping into anything.
A story is told of the young Rabbi Yisroel. He came home from school one day and approached his father R’ Massoud. He told his father that he had been in class, and one of his classmates had done something terrible (R' Yisroel never stood for injustice!), and so he had considered cursing him for it! R’ Massoud scolded R’ Yisrael and told him that his mouth would be used for giving blessings when he would get older – blessings that would be fulfilled, and that he should never use it for bad things. Needless to say, R’ Yisrael never spoke any bad word again. Indeed his mouth was used for blessings, and the very words themselves would cause miracles to happen.
He was also known for his miracle of making Arak (a very strong alcoholic beverage) appear from nowhere. He would have a celebration at his home, inviting many guests – who he promised would never get drunk from drinking Arak while with him. Nobody ever did! When the Arak would reach the bottom of the bottle, R’ Yisrael would place a cloth over the bottle, and then continue to pour as if pouring from a full bottle. The Arak never ended.
R’ Yisrael wasn’t known for his celebrating though. On the contrary, he spent much time fasting. So much so that one can see from the thinness of his body – just how much he must have fasted! Often, R’ Yisrael would undertake a very dangerous fast – known in Kabbalah as a Taanis Hafsaka – an interrupted fast! It is called “interrupted” because the fast begins after Shabbat, and continues until the beginning of the next Shabbat (which interrupts it!) There is no eating or drinking during this entire time. So great is this fast, that the Kabbalah speaks of it as being the equivalent of thousands of ordinary fasts!!! (NOTE: This should NOT be undertaken by ANYONE! Fasting in general is something that needs to be discussed with one’s Rabbi before doing anything like this. There are far greater ways of doing Teshuva today than to weaken the body and find oneself unable to do anything as a result, or worse, become severely sick!) In addition, R’ Yisrael would recite the Tikkun Chatzot prayer (midnight prayer for the destruction of the Temple) every single night – after which he would study Torah until the morning and then pray.
R’ Yisrael had already begun this holy path of life even before he was 13 years old! His older brother R’ Dovid HY”D (a very great Tzaddik who was killed Al Kiddush Hashem!) noticed him the first time he undertook this fast, and seeing his weakness (hidden from everyone else apparently!) he scolded his brother telling him that there was no reason for someone so young to have to fast. He wasn’t even BarMitzvah – what could he have done wrong?! The truth is that R’ Yisrael had never done anything wrong. His entire life was devoted completely to G-d.
The stories concerning his level of Kashrut are legendary. He refused to eat any processed food, and only ate from what his wife would cook for him. He had his own private Shochet who he trusted (and tested!) and would eat no other meat! (A far cry from today’s “Kashrut experts” who believe that any food product with any sign that indicates that it is Kosher means it is Kosher, not having a clue about the actual standards used!)
Such a Tzaddik comes into this world but once in many many generations. His Brochas are legendary, and those who read about this great Tzaddik today long to receive a blessing from him.
His eldest son R’ Meir died just months before he did. In fact, R’ Yisrael said that after his son died, there was no reason for him to continue living, and died within the year! R’ Meir had five sons – Rav Elazar (murdered 27 Tammuz 5771 by Asher Dahan) Rav Dovid, Rav Refael, Rav Yeshua Ve'Rachamim and Rav Yekutiel. All the sons are outstanding Mekubalim in their own rights. Rav Dovid has a Yeshiva in Nahariya. The Baba Sali had another son - Baba Baruch - born to him in his old age.
The Baba Sali is buried in Netivot where he lived for the last years of his life.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the books of the Abir Yaakov (Baba Sali's grandfather,) Rabbi Dovid HY"D (Baba Sali's brother) or biographies about the family, be in touch with Reb Eliyahu. Books are sent from the Holy Land of Israel!