Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeirah is better known to Moroccan
and Israeli Jews
Sali, which is Arabic
for "our praying father". A Talmudic
scholar and alleged miracle worker
, he died in 1984 and was buried in Netivot, Israel
, where over 100,000 people visited his grave within 24 hours. His name continues to be important to Sephardic
Jews in Israel and throughout the Diaspora
, attracting numerous visitors to his shrine and with a brisk sale in Baba Sali relics
and blessings continuing since his death. His "support" is also considered a matter of importance to Israel's numerous religious-based political parties, with various groups hinting that a vote for them would bring his blessing.
Baba Sali was born in 1890, in the city of Tafillalt, Morocco. His father, Massoud, was a rabbi and a kabbalist, as were most of his family. Reportedly gifted with the power of blessing, he was locally reknowned by an early age, and was elected to run the local Yeshiva at age 19. After his brother's murder a few years later, he became the community's rabbi and a judge in the local rabbinical court. By this time he was visited daily by hundreds of Moroccans hoping to receive his blessings.
In 1964 he emigrated to Israel, settling in Yavne like many members of his community. He moved to the town of Netivot a few years later.
Amongst the many stories about Baba Sali, he is reputed to have exorcised demons from a haunted synagogue in Tzfat (Safed) on his first visit to Israel, enabled many childless couples to give birth, and brought innumerable devotees good luck and protection. While I am personally skeptical about the miracles worked by him or any other religious figure, the unshakable faith of his followers is an important facet of modern Sephardic tradition.