#513 (s5768-02 / 7 Tishrei 5768)
Tzadik of the Roosters
Before Rabbi Yosef
Saragosi passed away, he left instructions to be buried on the spot where
Elijah the Prophet had revealed himself to him, in the village of Ein Zeitim.
Tzadik of the Roosters
Rabbi Yosef Saragosi was an exile from Sicily during the time
of the Inquisition. At first, he settled in Egypt where he established a major
yeshiva. In the late 1400's he left Egypt and went to settle in Tsfat where
he devoted himself to the study of Kabbala. He was one of the chosen few to whom
Elijah the Prophet revealed himself. Soon thereafter he gained the distinction
of becoming the city's first elected chief rabbi in recorded history. In 1504
he made a historic decision about the Sabbatical year in the holy land, which
held sway even over the opinion of the leading rabbis of Jerusalem
from his greatness in Torah, he was also renowned for his character which was
like that of Aharon Hakohen. He settled arguments between neighbors and between
husband and wife. He offered his help not only to the Jews of Tsfat but also to
the Arabs, who came to him with their quarrels. They implicitly trusted him to
arrive at a true and just settlement.
Before R' Yosef passed away, he left
instructions to be buried on the very spot where Eliyahu had revealed himself
to him. His request was honored and his
grave was dug in Kfar Ein Zeitim, not far from the tomb of the tana,
Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai.
R' Yosef was a holy man, who performed miracles.
He gained his various titles from those miracles. He was called "Tzadik
of the Roosters" because of an interesting event which occurred after his
In those days, Tsfat was a regional center of the Ottoman Empire.
The governor of Tsfat at that time made life miserable for the Jews of Tsfat.
He was an evil, hard-hearted person who despised the Jews and was jealous of their
financial success. He had designs on their money.
Once, he decreed that
the Jews bring him hundreds of pure white roosters, knowing very well that they
would never be able to find such a large number in all of the surrounding area.
And if they were unable to fulfill his decree, he would be free to punish them
as he pleased.
The Jews of Tsfat decreed a fast upon themselves and gathered
in the beit haknesset - synagogue. They poured out their hearts and prayed
for heavenly assistance. Then they went to the graves of the many holy men who
were buried nearby, including that of Rabbi Yosef Saragosi, and prayed that the
merit of the righteous protect them and save them from the evil-doer.
night, the head of the community had a dream in which Rabbi Yosef Saragosi informed
him that Hashem had heard their prayers at his graveside. He then instructed him
to tell the Jews of Tsfat to gather all the roosters they could obtain, regardless
of color, and to bring them to a certain place.
When he awoke, the man was
very exited. He told his dream to the members of the community. They immediately
went off to gather all the roosters which they could find. They brought them to
the required place and a miracle occurred. The yellow, brown, black, reddish,
spotted fowl, all suddenly turned a pure white!
The Jews of Tsfat were overwhelmed
with joy. They quickly led the crowing chorus to the governor's house. The leader
of the community was at the head of the procession and informed the governor that
his request had been fulfilled. The governor looked at the snowy white crowing
birds and understood that the Jews had wrought a miracle. From that time on, he
was careful to treat his Jewish subjects fairly and to offer them his protection.
From that time, the appellation "Tzadik of the Roosters"
clung to R' Yosef Saragosi; many also called him "The White Tzadik".
The synagogue where he had been accustomed to study and pray during his lifetime
has been preserved to this very day and is referred to by the Jews of Tsfat as
"The Beit Haknesset
of R' Yosef the White Tzadik."
by Yerachmiel Tilles from "The Arizal - The Life and Times of Rabbi Yitzchak
Luria" by Nechemiah Piontac (Mesorah) and from "The Bannai Shul"
by Chana Katz
Rabbi Yosef Saragossi (14xx-?)
First chief rabbi in Tsfat's recorded history. Laid groundwork in 1490's-early
1500's for Zefat to subsequently become a major center of Torah scholarship. Sometimes
known as "Tzadik HaLavan" because of a miracle that occurred
in his name
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate
director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com
and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.
48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may
be ordered on our store
back to Top back
to Index Stories