Weekly Chasidic Story #1386 (5784-43) 25 Sivan 5784 (July 1, 2024)

"Kabbalists and Politics"

That night, Rabbanit Tzviyah, wife of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, ztz'l, received two phone calls, from Baba Sali and then from the Gerrer Rebbe. Shortly after, an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe arrived, all three with the same message.

Why this week: The 25th of the Jewish month of Sivan (2024: July 2) is the 14th yahrzeit of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.


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Kabbalists and Politics


When the suggestion was first made in 1982 that Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu should run for the position of chief rabbi of Israel, his wife objected.

Rabbanit Tzviyah Eliyahu felt it was difficult enough as it was for him to cope with the crowds who gathered on their doorstep each morning with questions, let alone the unceasing telephone calls at all hours of the day and night. Making matters more complicated, she knew that Rabbi Eliyahu wouldn't turn anyone away, no matter what he was in the middle of doing. No matter how simple, small or trivial a question was, Rabbi Eliyahu would drop whatever he was involved in to try and answer it.

Rabbanit Eliyahu just didn't know how her husband would manage to keep up with the even greater demands of the positon - and she feared that he would never have a free moment again.

When Rabbi Eliyahu heard that his wife was opposed to his appointment, he immediately rejected the idea to those who were suggesting it.

But then Rabbanit Eliyahu again contemplated the proposal, eventually concluding that helping the Jewish people was an essential role of theirs. She felt that if the people were advocating her husband's candidacy so strongly, she wouldn't stand in their way.

Rabbi Eliyahu finally agreed and then nearly backed out again shortly thereafter, on the advice of his wife, who had once more fallen into doubt, beset by reservations and uncertainty. The situation was especially complicated, as right after his candidacy was announced, all kinds of people began coming out of the woodwork with memories of the rabbi's time in prison and so on.

The Rabbanit worried about him being in a position that would put him under so much public scrutiny, in addition to the huge toll it would take on his time and energy.

One Erev Shabbat, Rabbanit Tzviyah poured out her heart to her husband, sharing all her hesitations. On Motzey Shabbat, she started receiving phone calls. The first was from the Baba Sali, who told her that Rabbi Eliyahu's candidacy was from Heaven and she shouldn't fight it.

The Gerrer Rebbe [1] called next, saying the same thing. A short time later, an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe arrived with the same message: "In Heaven they chose you."

She believed that these messages where truly Heaven sent. It was as if those righteous men had sensed the doubts plaguing her heart and then reached out to reassure her - each using the exact same wording to encourage and support her.

The following Monday, Rabbanit Eliyahu went to visit Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri [2] to ask him a question about a personal matter.

He asked her why she was asking him when she could ask her own husband.

She responded that while her husband was a rabbi who gave halachic (Jewish law) rulings, she was seeking a kabbalist to give her a blessing.

Rabbi Kaduri laughed, saying that her husband was also a kabbalist and that he could also give blessings that would be fulfilled.

He added, "And all the Kabbalah I know I learned from Rabbi Eliyahu's father. So how could it be that he doesn't have the power to give blessings?"

He then asked her if the three rabbis had sent their messages to her on Motzey Shabbat. When she confirmed that they had, Rabbi Kaduri nodded, affirming their words.

Rabbanit Eliyahu recalled wondering how he could know all of this, as she couldn't imagine the rabbis calling and telling him what they had done and said - but she didn't ask. She just knew that all her objections had vanished. She could - and would - support her husband as chief rabbi of Israel.

After her husband's passing, she recalled this story.

"When I think back to all that happened during that time, I wonder what I was thinking. How could I not have seen the greatness of my husband in those days? He managed to conceal himself even from me. And perhaps even today, even after so many stories have been shared, he's still concealing himself?

[Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu served a ten-year term as Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel from 1983-1993. --yt]

Source: Excerpted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the book, "RABBI MORDECHAI ELIYAHU: A Legend of Humility and Leadership" - which was excerpted from the original 5-volume Hebrew set, which was mainly compiled by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu , who also encouraged the excellent English translation by Mrs Shira-Yehudit Djalilmand of Tsfat
(Original title of this story: "A Choice Made in Heaven")

Why this week?
The 25th of the Jewish month of Sivan [2024: Monday, July 1] is the yahrzeit of Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu

Footnotes:1] Rabbi Simcha-Bunim Alter, the Lev Samei'ach, 1898-1992, the 5th Rebbe of Gur
2]A renowned and widely sought-after kabbalist, originally from Baghdad. His birth year is disputed, usually estimated between 1898 and 1902.He passed away in Jerusalem in 2006.

Biographical notes (in order of appearance):
Rabbi Mordechai-Tzemach Eliyahu [of blessed memory: 5689 - 25 Sivan 5770 (1929-2010)], son of Rabbi Salman Eliyahu, a leader of the Sephardic kabbalists in Jerusalem, served as the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel from 1983 to 1993. Rabbi Mordechai was a noted sage in all areas of Torah study, as well as a significant kabbalist, and was considered to be one of the leading authorities on Jewish law in Israel. His son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who is currently the popular Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, was also the main force in compiling the 5-volume Hebrew set from which the English book cited above was taken.


Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzira [Rosh HaShana 1899 - 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 was renowned as a sage, leader, miracle maker and master kabbalist. In 1964 he moved to Eretz Yisrael, 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.

Rabbi Simcha-Bunim Alter (1898- 7 Tammuz 1992), also known as the Lev Simcha after the works he authored, became the fifth Gerrer Rebbe in 1977 at age 79, succeeding his brother, known as the Beit Yisrael. During the reign of his brother he was known to have been a successful astute businessman, as well as heavily involved in the leadership of Agudas Yisrael, the strictly religious political party. During the time of his leadership, the number of Ger Chasidism in the State of Israel increased greatly. A biography of him has been published in English, called "From The Summit. The seventh and current Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Alter, is his nephew.
[Supplemented from religion.fandom.com/wiki]


Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe [11 Nissan 5662 - 3 Tammuz 5754 (April 1902 - June 1994)], became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law's passing on 10 Shvat 5710 (1950) He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.



Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri [1898 (1902?) - 2006] was born in Baghdad. At age 17, he already knew the Talmud and its rulings by heart, and he was able to present his teachings before the greatest scholars of the time. In 1924, he made aliyah to Israel and studied in the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem. After the 1948 War of Independence. Rabbi Kaduri switched to the Beit El Kabbalists' Yeshiva. He resided in the Bucharim neighborhood of Jerusalem and earned his living as a bookbinder. Later, he became head of the Nahalat Yitzhak Kabbalists' Yeshiva and High Court. Rabbi Kaduri excelled in his modesty, simplicity, love of people and in his readiness to reach out to and bless any person, whether secular or religious, laborer or business man, child or elderly. He would receive the thousands that came to him equally, with warmth and love. Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral and many thousands continue to pray at his graveside, in Jerusalem. [Excerpted from en.israelmint.com; photo from ruachisrael.com/]

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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