Great Leaders of our People
“Baba Sali,” Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira
The name Abuchatzeira
has become legendary in fact, story and song among wide circles of
modern-day Jews. This is due in no small measure to the impact on the Jewish
consciousness of the life of the “Baba Sali,” the “Praying Father” of the
Moroccan Jewish Community, who made “Aliyah”
to “Eretz Yisrael” in the middle of the twentieth century.
Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira was the scion of a family of great “Talmidei
Chachamim” (Torah Scholars) and “Ba’alei Mofes” (individuals who have the
ability through prayer of performing miracles). The name Abuchatzeira comes
to the fore in the person of Rav Shmuel Abuchatzeira, who was described by
as an “Ish Elokim Kadosh,” a holy man of G-d. Shmuel’s son, Masud (“Moshe”
in Arabic), became the Rav in the Moroccan City of Tafelatlech, and was
followed in this position by his son, Yaakov, known as the “Abir Yaakov,”
Prince of Yaakov. His eldest son, named Masud after his grandfather, was the
father of Rav Yisrael, the “Baba Sali,” who soon distinguished himself by
his devotion to the study of Torah and service of HaShem. His potential for
greatness was recognized by his father, who encouraged him in his studies
and, realizing that his son would be given the ability to have his blessings
fulfilled, instilled in him the characteristic of “Shemirat HaLashon,”
guarding one’s speech to an exceptional degree, as well as “Shemirat
HaEynayim,” guarding one’s eyes, to avoid witnessing unholy behavior.
Preceding the instruction of
(5:24), which advocates marriage by the age of eighteen by two years, Rav
Yisrael was married at the age of sixteen to Precha Amsalem, who served as a
worthy “Ezer K’negdo,” a soul-mate and helpmate (Bereshit 2:18) throughout
their long marriage. One occasion when the “Baba Sali’s” wife participated
with him in the performance of a “miracle” was when a non-religious soldier
in the Israel Defense Force whose legs were paralyzed during the Yom Kippur
war, came to the Rav as a last resort for help. Rav Yisrael ascertained that
he neither put on
Tefillin nor observed the Shabbat. He told the soldier that HaShem gives
us limbs in order to serve Him, and if he would commit himself to becoming
observant, he would help him receive a complete recovery. The soldier kissed
the hand of the “Baba Sali,” and the Rabbi’s wife urged him to try to stand,
and the soldier who had been paralyzed in his legs, stood up and began to
Rav Yisrael was one of the leaders of the “Aliyah” of Moroccan Jewry to
“Eretz Yisrael,” which saw the transfer of nearly the entire population of
that community to the Holy Land.
The “Baba Sali” settled in Netivot, adjacent to the Yeshivat HaNegev.
Because of his great influence, the Negev began to blossom spiritually, and
thousands of Jews returned to their roots. The influence of this great
Tzaddik extended far beyond Netivot, the Moroccan Jewish Community and
“Eretz Yisrael,” and he became a cherished leader of the World Jewish
Community. He was “niftar” in “Shevat” of 5744, and was mourned by thousands
of Jews, throughout Israel and throughout the world.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.