/ posted 4 Shvat 5760)
A KABBALIST'S VISIT TO THE CITY OF KABBALAH
During this sojourn in Tsfat, the miraculous kabbalistic powers
of Baba Sali were revealed.
A KABBALIST'S VISIT TO THE CITY OF
During his first visit to Israel in 1921, Baba Sali, then a young
man aged thirty-one, came to the holy city of Tsfat. He desired to immerse in
the famous underground-spring mikveh of the holy Arizal, renowned 16th century
Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak
Luria, and to pray at the graves of the many tzadikim and sages buried in
the ancient cemetery that the mikveh is next to. He also wished to meet and
speak with the many great Torah sages in the city, especially the well-known
scholar and kabbalist, Rabbi
Shlomo-Eliezer Alfandri, who was already past one hundred years of age.
The two eventually sat and discussed Kabbalah for a long time.
During this sojourn in Tsfat, the miraculous kabbalistic powers of Baba Sali
were revealed. Rabbi Moshe Shetrit, who was one of his first attendants and
about twelve years old at the time, described the events that took place. [ed.
note: When Baba Sali passed away in 1984, there where still people in Tsfat
who had witnessed it 57 years before.]
"One day, after we had been in Jerusalem for a while, the Rav asked me
to call a taxi so that he could visit the holy city of Tsfat. When we arrived,
he was greeted by the leading rabbis of the community and presented with an
apartment for his private use. Later that afternoon, after he had rested, he
summoned me and told me he was on his way to immerse in the Mikvah
of the Holy Ari of blessed memory. He asked me to find the person who held
the key to the Ari
Synagogue [Sefardi], for he wished to pray there when he came up from the
"Everyone who heard was amazed because this shul in the lower part of
the Old City near the cemetery had been locked up for a period of more than
ten years. Visitors were not allowed. We were told this was because many people
had mysteriously lost their lives there. Baba Sali heard this but he was not
perturbed in the slightest. He repeated his instruction to me.
" I left to enquire about the key. Knowing that I was serving the Rav,
some people led me to the aged caretaker of the synagogue. When I requested
the key, he refused. I protested that the great Baba Sali had sent me for it,
but he remained steadfast. 'I will not give the key to anyone,' he declared.
'It would be as if I am a murderer!'
"I begged and pleaded. I told him that Baba Sali was no ordinary person
and that if he was prepared to risk it he must know what he was doing. I said
that I could not possibly return to the Rav without fulfilling his order to
"After a while he reluctantly consented. But he said that both Baba Sali
and the key would have to be bound to a rope so that they could be retrieved
afterwards, so sure he was that the outcome would be tragic, since anyone who
had forced his way in in the past decade had not emerged alive.
"He accompanied me to the synagogue, and I gave the Rav the key. The old
man sat on a large rock nearby, trembling in fearful anticipation of the coming
tragedy. Baba Sali told me go in with him. I must admit that I hesitated. The
Rav smiled. He instructed me to hold on to his robe and to be careful to not
say a word. He assured me I need not be afraid.
"We entered through the synagogue's outer gates into the courtyard. The
Rav walked confidently along the right side of the courtyard and then went up
to the inner door and inserted the key. We crossed the threshold and descended
a few steps into the synagogue. To my amazement, although it was nearly dusk,
the inside of the synagogue was bright with sunlight as if it were midday!
"Baba Sali strode to the front of the shul with me holdiong on tightly.
And there drew aside the curtain in front of the Holy Ark. He unfastened the
door, and took out a Torah scroll. For several minutes he read from it, imbued
with intense religious fervor.
"Afterwards we sat down on one of the benches on the right side of the
synagogue. The Rav turned to me and said, 'You can let go of my robe now. There
is no longer any danger to anyone.' We prayed Minchah and then departed. When
we emerged, the caretaker jumped up and ran over to greet Baba Sali, kissing
his handand embracing him. He was so relieved and happy he was speechless. Soon
after he hurried off to tell everyone of the miracle.
"Baba Sali explained that there had been a harmful spiritual force that
had taken up residence in the synagogue. It had been created by the sins of
the community, and he had with G-d's help, succeeded to rectify it. If they
now would repent from their sins and not resume doing them, the synagogue would
"Word spread quickly. The episode became the talk of the city, and hundreds
flocked to the synagogue to see, and to thank the young master Baba Sali who
had opened its doors."
[Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Babi Sali (Judaica Press).
First printed in Ascent Quarterly #12. Subsequently revised several times and
also expanded from Tzefat sources.]
Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzira [Rosh Hashana 1889 - 4 Shvat 1984], or "Baba
Sali," as he was affectionately known throughout the Jewish world,
was born in Tafillalt Morocco to one of Jewry's most illustrious families. From
a young age he earned a reputaion as a sage, leader, miracle maker and master
kabbalist. In 1964 he moved to Israel, eventually settling in 1970 in the Southern
development town, Netivot, where thousands of followers and admirers from all
over the world and across the Jewish spectrum streamed to see him and ask his
blessing. Even today his burial place there is a pilgrimmage site for tens of
thousands of visitors. Since his passing, several biographies have been published,
including two in English.
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
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