#527 (s5768-16 / 16 Tevet 5768)

A Fish With A Mission

Baba Sali arranged a large feast in Marrakesh for the yahrzeit of his holy grandfather on 20 Tevet.

A Fish With A Mission

On one of his many travels through the large region of his jurisdiction in Morocco, Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzira, popularly known as Baba Sali, reached the city of Marrakesh towards evening. The date was the 18th of Tevet, a little more than a day before the hilula (yahrzeit) of his saintly grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzira on 20 Tevet. Rabbi Yisrael always held a large feast in his honor upon this date.

Rabbi Yisrael had not visited Marrakesh for a long time and the people were overjoyed to see him. He went to his granddaughter's house and feverish preparations began for the morrow's banquet.

Rabbi Yisrael asked his hostess to buy a special kind of fish for the celebration. This fish, however, was not available in that area. Besides, it only reached the fish markets in the summer, when it had attained a decent size. Now, it was such a delicacy, that even if it was accidentally caught by the local fishermen out of season, a special law required that they bring it to the palace and not withhold it for themselves.

Rabbi Yisrael granddaughter's husband was, therefore, surprised at his unusual request and tried to explain to Rabbi Yisrael that it was almost impossible to obtain that fish, especially at that particular season.

Rabbi Yisrael would not back down. He wanted that fish and none other. "Go out and seek it. I am certain that you will find it. I wish my guests to have that fish at the feast in honor of my saintly grandfather," he insisted.

His host went off to the synagogue early the next morning in time for the sunrise minyan. He intended to do the shopping for the meal right afterwards.

When he was halfway to the synagogue, he realized that in his haste, he had forgotten his tefilin at home. He had no choice but to retrace his steps.

On the way home, he came across a gentile with a huge cart of fish, hurrying off to the market with his merchandise. "I'll try my luck," thought the young man. "It surely cannot hurt to ask him what fish he has for sale."

He stopped the fish vendor and whispered in his ear, asking if he happened to have any of the fish that Rabbi Yisrael had especially asked for.

The man was taken aback by the question. He looked furtively about him, as if caught in an illegal act. Was this man a secret detective? Did he have any connections with the police? He hemmed and hawed, refusing to admit anything.

After the Jew repeatedly insisted that he had no affiliation with the law and that he had innocently asked about that fish, the fisherman revealed that he had, indeed, caught such a fish that morning and that he expected to make a big profit on it, if he was not discovered by the police.

"Sell it to me then," begged the young man.

The fish was a very large one. The two haggled over the price for a long time. In the end, the Jew took out his purse and paid for it in full. He then took his expensive prize and rushed home to show it to Rabbi Yisrael.

As he was walking home, imagining how happy Rabbi Yisrael would be to see the fish, it suddenly dawned on him why he had forgotten his tefilin at home. It had not been by chance, at all, but through Divine purpose.

When he went to tell Rabbi Yisrael, the latter greeted him with a shining face, even before he had a chance to open his mouth.

There was no need to tell him; he already knew everything. And he knew even more. Rabbi Yisrael revealed to his host that this very fish possessed an unusual soul that required tikun (spiritual rectification). He had come especially to Marrakesh to redeem the trapped soul through the hilula feast.

The young man told Rabbi Yisrael that he had not yet said his morning prayers and that he was in a hurry to be off. Rabbi Yisrael handed him a sum of money. It was the exact amount that he had paid for the fish. But he was not even surprised….

"Whoever informed Rabbi Yisrael that there was a fish with a soul that needed to be redeemed, surely told him how much I paid for it," thought the young man to himself with a smile.

The feast that day was most joyous. Everyone came and everyone enjoyed the rare treat that was served them, especially after they heard from their host how the fish had reached the table.

But Rabbi Yisrael was happiest of all. For not only had he been able to provide the delicacy that highlighted the hilula and caused such pleasure, he had the added privilege of being able to redeem the worthy soul trapped in that fish.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Rabbenu Yisrael Abuchatzira by A. Y. Harel, a son-in-law of Baba Sali; English translation by Sheindel Weinbach.

Biographic Notes:
Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzira [1890 - 4 Shvat 1984] known as Baba Sali, was born in Tafillalt, Morocco to one of Jewry's most illustrious families. From a young age he was renowned as a sage, miracle maker and master kabbalist. In 1964 he moved to Eretz Yisrael, eventually settling in 1970 in the Southern development town he made famous, Netivot. Several biographies have since been written about him, including two in English.

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzira (1807 - 20 Tevet 1880) is the most famous of all the Moroccan kabbalists. He authored twelve books of or touching upon Kabbala. The inestimable "Baba Sali" of our century was his grandson.


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.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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