[This Wednesday night-Thursday,
4 Shvat, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzira, or "Baba Sali"
as he was affectionately known throughout the Jewish world. Tens of thousands
of people are expected to converge at his resting palce in Nativot this week.]
and old, men and women, observant and secular, Sephardim and Ashkenazim of every
stripe, all streamed to the door of the great kabbalist and tsaddik, Baba Sali,
in Netivot, seeking his blessing and help. Everyone, without exception, held him
in the highest esteem.
Once a man from Holon, Eliyahu, was scheduled to
have his legs amputated. His spinal cord had been damaged by a bullet in the Yom
Kippur War. He had already spent much time in the hospital, and so was reconciled
to his fate. The procedure was to take place on Friday.
That Thursday, an
elderly woman acquaintance suggested that he receive a blessing from Baba Sali
before the operation. She said that she knew of someone who had been paralyzed,
yet was healed through Baba Sali's blessing. Although Eli was not at all observant,
he decided to try it anyway, in desperation. Maybe, maybe....
It would have
been impossible to get permission to leave the hospital the day before the operation,
so Eli snuck out. He didn't even disclose his intention to see Baba Sali to his
Eli sat on a chair in the waiting room near the entrance
to the tsaddik's room. After many hours, finally his turn came. The custom
was, before anything, to approach Baba Sali on his couch and kiss his hand, but
because of the advanced thrombosis of his legs and the crippling pain that accompanied
it, Eli was unable even to rise to enter the room.
Following Baba Sali's
instruction, Rabbanit Simi, his wife, approached Eli and asked, "Do you put
on tefillin?" Do you keep Shabbat? Do you say blessings?
admitted Eli, and burst into sobs.
Baba Sali seemed to be moved by Eli's
suffering and his sincerity. He said to him, "If you do my will and observe
the Shabbat and repent completely, then G-d, too, will listen to my will."
With great emotion, Eli promptly cried out, "I accept upon myself
the obligation to observe the Shabbat in all its details. I also promise to do
full tshuvah, to 'return' in repentance all the way."
Sali's directive, Eli was served tea. After he drank it, the Rabbanit suggested
that being that the Rav had blessed him, he should try to get up, in order to
go and and kiss the Rav's hand.
After much effort and pain, Eli managed
to rise. He couldn't believe it-his legs were obeying him! Shakily, he walked
over to Baba Sali and kissed his hand! By then nearly delirious with shock and
joy, he began to thank Baba Sali profusely. The Rav interrupted him, saying with
a smile, "Don't thank me. Just say: 'Blessed are those who sanctify His name
As if in a dream, Eli stumbled out the door and descended
the stairs. He experimented, walking this way and that. He had to know: Was he
really awake? Could this truly be happening? With each step, his legs felt better.
his "new" legs, he went over to Yeshiva HaNegev, not too far from the
home of Baba Sali. When the students realized they were seeing the results of
a miracle that had just occurred, they surrounded Eli with happy dancing and singing,
and words of praise and gratitude to G-d.
Rejoicing in his new-found ability
to walk, Eli returned to the home of Baba Sali to say goodbye properly and to
thank him again. He also expressed his fear that his legs would relapse to their
previous weakness and disease. Baba Sali calmed him, saying cheerfully, "Don't
worry. In the merit of your oath to 'return' and repent, and especially that you
promised to observe Shabbat according to its laws, which is equal to all the commandments,
G-d has done this miracle and nullified the decree against you. Now it is up to
you to fulfill your words."
Leaving Baba Sali's house again, Eli telephoned
his mother. "I'm all better!" he shouted, without explanation. She figured
that fear of the surgery had caused him to loose touch with reality. "Are
you coming home?" she asked with concern. "Or will you go straight to
Eli then told her what he had promised Baba Sali, the
blessing that he had received from the tsaddik, and the miraculous improvement
that had already occurred. As soon as he hung up, he called his doctor at Achilov
Hospital in Tel Aviv and informed him of his cure. The doctor told Eli to be back
at the hospital the following day, and to "stop acting crazy!"
did go to the hospital the next day. The doctor was barely able to accept the
evidence of his eyes. After a few days and many tests, Eli was released. The first
thing he did was to return to Netivot, to thank Baba Sali again. The Rav requested
of his household that a seudat hoda'ah, a meal of thanksgiving to G-d in
honor of the miracle, be prepared and served. At the end of the meal, Baba Sali
blessed a bottle of water and told Eli to deliver it to the hospital so that his
doctor could drink l'chaim from it. "And tell him," added Baba Sali,
"not to be so hasty to cut off legs."
Baba Sali's gabbai
(attendant) during most of his years in Netivot, Rabbi Eliyahu Alfasi [who witnessed
much of the story and heard the rest of the details from Eli of Holon], reports
that he once asked Baba Sali how he performed this great miracle. The tsaddik
answered him innocently, "Believe me, Eliyahu, all I did was tell him 'Stand
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from Baba Sali-Rebbeinu HaKadosh,
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.