Weekly Chasidic Story #874 (s5774-52 / 30 Menachem Av 5774)

Innocent and Illiterate

The family of Baba Meir [son of Baba Sali] Abuhatzeira became accustomed that anyone about to move to Israel would spend half a day in their home crying.

Connection: Weekly Reading - Deut. 18:13


Innocent and Illiterate


For many years, before the great wave of immigration to Israel after 1948, many Moroccan Jews yearned to move to the Holy Land, but only some of them managed to fulfill their dreams. Unlike aliyah in later years which brought thousands of Jews to Israel in large groups, only a few families at a time managed to leave their homeland for this long and arduous journey.
Before completing his travel arrangements, anyone wishing to move from the large Jewish community in Tafilalet to Eretz Yisrael would first go to seek the permission of Rabbi Meir Abuhatzeira ("Baba Meir"). On completing all the necessary preparations, he would arrive with his entire family at Baba Meir's home in order to bid him farewell. They would remain there for four or five hours with tears flowing like water and their sobs reverberating throughout the house. Rabbi Meir's children would wonder why Jews en route to Jerusalem were crying. When the children asked the emigrants why they were crying, the response would be that they were about to embark on a difficult and danger-filled journey. The family became accustomed to the fact that anyone about to move to Israel would spend half a day in their home sobbing.

Arriving in Rabbi Meir's home in Arpud (to where the family had fled from rebel Moslem persecution-ed.) one day was a man he had known years before in a previous town of residence. The man was very innocent, his innocence being his greatest asset as well as his biggest shortcoming. He had no understanding of what was happening in the world around him, yet he had pure and sincere faith in the Creator and in the tzadikim He planted in this world. He made up his mind one day to move to the Holy Land and had come to part from Rabbi Meir. He recalled from his days in Midelt that the custom had been to arrive at Baba Meir's home and cry prior to embarking on the journey. The man wished to do the same; he knew well that he had what to cry about.
A river of tears began to flow. He sobbed like someone who had just lost a close relative. Rabbi Meir, noticing that his cries went beyond those of the average person about to make this great move, asked him why he cried so much. The man answered: "Baba Meir, you have known me for a long time and I know you are aware that I am certainly not an educated man. I cannot recognize even a single letter of the alphabet and I have not read even one book in my entire life. I have managed until now to support myself through my business dealings with the gentiles. What does the future have in store for me? The population of Eretz Yisrael is composed of teachers and scholars, who will not even spare a glance at a boor such as myself. I am so ignorant that I cannot even tell you whether the white page on the other side of a book's cover is the first or final page of the book! How will I earn a living and what will I do all day?" He stopped speaking, yet his sobs continued.
Rabbi Meir turned to him saying: "Listen to me! Your innocence and ignorance is precisely what will help you manage in Eretz Yisrael. The fact that you cannot read and write will provide you with a livelihood for your entire life!"

The man listened and his eyes lit up. His tears dried up and gave way to a smile. He bowed as he took his leave of Baba Meir and was overjoyed with the blessing he had just received.
From that moment until the time of his journey, he happily conveyed his joy over the blessing he had received to all his neighbors. Then, aboard the ship, the other passengers who were fearful of what the future had in store for them, detected his tranquility. He explained to them, smiling: "I have nothing to fear, for I have the tzadik Baba Meir's blessing in my knapsack. This will provide me with a living for the remainder of my life. "It is precisely my being an innocent ignorant fool that will provide me with a living."
The other travelers considered his words proof of his naivete and stupidity.

The man arrived in Eretz Yisrael and settled in Kfar Ata, located on the Mediterranean coast between Haifa and Akko. His sons excelled in both their religious and secular studies and succeeded in whatever they turned to. One of his sons received a job at "Institute 3," a part of the "Weapons Development Network," where he became well-liked by one of the leading missile engineers who appointed him as his personal assistant.

One day, the engineer mentioned to his assistant a problem the institute had been having for a long time. Every day, many potential secret missile plans were sketched. At the end of the day, there being no use for nearly all of them, these plans had to be destroyed. The engineers' cupboards were overflowing and the engineers, who were already swamped with work, did not have the time to deal with this.

The young man offered to destroy the documents himself, but the engineer made it quite clear that he does not have the security clearance to be permitted to take the slightest glance at these secret papers.

The educated engineer answered incredulously, "Can it be that there is anyone in the entire land of Israel who does not know how to read and write?"

The young man responded: "My father is such a person." The engineer could not believe his ears - how could such an ignoramus be the father of such a learned son. Despite his skepticism, he passed the suggestion to the managers of the plant. They were thrilled with it, so they promptly requested the security people to conduct a security check.

The ones assigned began investigating the background of the supposedly illiterate immigrant from Morocco. When convinced that he was in no way connected with any enemies of the state, they decided to visit him personally to assess what kind of man he was.

When they arrived at his home in Kfar Ata, they found him wandering on the porch and simply staring. They spoke with him for a few moments and realized that he actually was as simple as his son had claimed. They gave him a newspaper to look at. He held it sideways. They asked him how he managed to pray if he could not read. He told them that he had learned the prayers by heart in his youth and merely mumbled the words.

The security investigators reported back to their superiors. Realizing that this man was uniquely suited for the job, they offered him the position of "Destroyer of Secret Documents" of the entire Institute 3. They gave him his own office where he sat from morning until night, tearing and burning. At the end of each month he was compensated with a handsome salary.
After thirty years, he was forced to retire because of his age. Despite the sizable pension and severance pay that was guaranteed him, he was upset. He travelled up the coast to speak with Baba Meir's son, Rabbi David-Chai Abuhatzira, the Chief Rabbi of Nahariya (north of Acco), and said to him sorrowfully, "Your father promised me a living for my entire life, yet they have terminated my job."

In less than a week after that, the managers of the institute contacted him and asked whether he would consider returning to work, for "they have been able to found anyone qualified to take your place!"

The man worked there for many more years, as long as he was able, and all of his needs were provided. Everything Baba Meir said decades earlier came true.


Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Abir Yaakob: The Lives & Times of the Saintly Grand Rabbis of the Abichazira Dynasty (vol 2.) by Chaonch Regal…who heard the story from Rabbi David-Chai Abuhatzeira, son of Baba Meir and currently still the Chief Rabbi of Nahariya, israel.

Connection: weekly reading - Deut.18:13 ("Innocent you shall be with G-D your G-d").

Biographical note:
Rabbi Meir Abuhatzira, popularly called "Baba Meir" (10 Tevet 1917 - 17 Nissan 1983), was the oldest son and designated spiritual successor of the Baba Sali. The Lubavitcher Rebbe indicated in private conversation that he was one of the pillars of the world. However, he pre-deceased his illustrious father by two years. Born and educated in Morocco where he became there one of the most important rabbis of his generation as well as an accomplished Kabbalis. In 19??, he made aliyah and moved to Ashdod, where, after turning down an offer to be chief rabbi of Jerusalem, he lived reclusively for the rest of his life. Today, one of his five sons, Rabbi David, chief rabbi of Nahariya, is considered the scion of the Abuhatzeira clan.
Photo credit: //Geni.com


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