SHVAT 4, 5744

On this day, 5744, R’ Yisrael Abuhatzeira z”| also known as the Baba Sali (Praying Father) passed away at the age of 94 in Netivot, Israel. The Baba Sali was a revered figure in the world of Jewish thought, spirituality, and mysticism. He was a leader of the Moroccan-Sephardi Jewish community who moved to Israel in 1964 and was known for his ability to work miracles through his prayers. May his memory be a blessing.

The Baba Sali was born on Rosh Hashana, 5650 (1889), in Rissani, Morocco. He was a descendant of a prominent line of tzadikim (righteous ones) of the Abuhatzeira family line, directly the grandson of Yaakov Abuhatzeira. Not just tzadikim, his family was known to be “baalei mofet,” miracle workers, a practice that the Baba Sali continued in his lifetime.

While in Morocco, the family lived on a large estate that also served as a yeshiva (house of learning) for young students and the beit din (rabbinical court) led by his father. By the age of 12, the Baba Sali was already studying Torah day and night and was considered a diligent Torah scholar. Soon, he entered the yeshiva and began learning in-depth Kaballah.

One of the characteristics that distinguished the Baba Sali from a young age and something that his father saw as his potential for greatness was his devotion to “Shmirat HaLashon” and “Shmirat HaEynayim” – (respectively) guarding one’s speech and guarding one’s eyes.

Following the establishment of the State of Israel, life for Jews in Morocco drastically changed for the worse and some began to move to Europe and the Americas while most made Aliyah and moved to Israel. Amongst the first to move was the Baba Sali, who in 1951 (age 62), moved to Lod. While trying to keep a low profile, people in Israel “discovered” he was there and after rejecting various offers for the chief rabbinate, he returned to Morocco to inspire his community in need.

In 1964, he returned to Israel where he would stay for the remainder of his life. The Baba Sali moved to Netivot, a small town in the Negev that was initially a ma’abara (transit camp for Jewish refugees from Arab countries + Iran). Here, visitors from all over the country and the world began to visit him to ask for blessings and advice.

On this day, 4th of Shvat, 5744 (January 8, 1984), the Baba Sali passed away and was buried in Netivot. His funeral received about 100,000 people and his gravesite has become a place of popular pilgrimage in Israel – particularly today on his yahrzeit.

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