Baba Sali the great spiritual leader, the Master of Loving Kindness that illuminated the skies of the Sephardic Jewry, was born in Tefillalet, the remote village community perched in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. This place was the home of great tzaddikim and kabbalists since the destruction of the Temple 2000 years ago. It was also the birthplace of the Master of Miracles, Yaacov Abuchatseira (see chapter 12, “Turning the tide of the Second World War”).
After the War of Independence in 1948, Baba Sali moved to Israel to accompany and give support to all his sepharadi brethren migrating to Israel. He chose to settle in the small remote desert town of Netivot. From there his example of loving kindness and faith spread all over the land, sending healing and blessings to every receptive heart.
One of the ways Baba Sali was conveying his blessings was through the media of water. Miracle stories abound about his blessed drops of water restoring health and harmony in relationships as well as in seemingly hopeless situations. One story I vividly remember is when one drop of this water put in the mouth of a comatose patient that was given up by the doctors. He immediately opened his eyes and soon recovered.
Joshua and I met Baba Sali indirectly through our deep friendship with Rabbi Moshe Ben Tov (See Chapter 28). We were also privileged to hear the extraordinary story of a special friend.
Do you think angels are ethereal beings that are very rarely seen in our world? I have known angels in human form – they are the gentlest, most humble, deep, loving and caring human beings ever encountered in our busy, anxious, pragmatic world. Perhaps you have also met some, without realizing who they were.
I was fortunate to meet one of them a few years ago in Los Angeles. We both felt blessed with an immediate connection. A beautiful woman in every way, Rifka* radiates an aura of grace, kindness and beauty. Her voice is melodious and comforting, her words filled with sparkling, inspired, unique healing thoughts and ideas. Her laugher is catchy, communicating a joyful lightness of spirit. In her company life looks like an exciting adventure filled with potential yet to be discovered.
Before I met her, life hadn’t been easy for her. She had learned to survive an abusive husband, had given birth to five children, divorced, and being strong and courageous she lovingly raised her children on her own until they were grown. Then a spiritual awakening turned her life around. She focused in her search for what is the loftiest, most pure, loving and meaningful purpose in her life. With our help and encouragement as well as of a soul brother who was going through a similar spiritual process, she began to draw closer to her Jewish spiritual roots.
Reading about our great Tsaddikim (holy masters), Rifka felt especially drawn to the revered father of the Sephardic Jewry, the Baba Sali. “Baba”, meaning father.
Unexpectantly, to Rifka’s delight, people began to bring her photographs of Baba Sali, even though they didn’t know anything about her deepening soul connection with this particular tsaddik. More photographs kept coming her way from different sources.
Rifka came to settle here in Jerusalem alone with $450.00 in her pocket, her entire savings. She was welcomed at the family home of our son David and wife Natanella. Roaming about Jerusalem, she was thrilled and awed by the holiness of the atmosphere of this city.
When Rifka’s money had dwindled down to $20, she gave it away to someone who seemed to need it more than her. The next day, an unexpected check arrived for her in the mail for $20.
As soon as she could, Rifka took the bus with her spiritual soul brother to the desert town of Netivot to meet with Baba Sali. When she arrived at his home center, she was quite disappointed to hear that he was not seeing women at any time. Her soul brother reassured her that Baba Sali was just as effective in his connection and blessings towards women when he received their written request. So Rifka wrote down her request, gave it to the Gabbai (the personal attendant) and began to enjoy the people waiting there with her. She was fascinated to hear the stories of the healings which had occurred to them after they had connected with their holy master Baba Sali.
At one point, she asked for directions to the bathroom and walked her way through some meandering corridors. Suddenly, she saw an open door – inside the room there was Baba Sali sitting in deep meditative study, waiting for the next person who needed his blessing. Rifka just stood there transfixed, hardly daring to look at him. How long? It seemed a moment touching eternity. Then someone came bustling about and re-directed her to the bathroom.
Rifka felt that Baba Sali knew who she was, that he had directed her to him so that she wouldn’t be too disappointed at not being able to see him in person.
A few days after receiving Baba Sali’s blessings, Rifka found a small apartment in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, as well as work as a caterer for a Yeshivah (study hall). She couldn’t bear to give less than quality meals for the students, even though there was very little funding from the Yeshivah. She even went into debt buying the right kind of food for them. Aside from that, her kitchen was open to many young spiritually searching souls wandering through Jerusalem. Whoever she touched was uplifted and comforted.
In the meantime, the powerful, beloved master of loving kindness, Baba Sali, left this world. Many hundreds of thousands of Jews mourned his departure. He had been fasting most of his life, yet he died at 105 years of age. He left behind an awesome legacy: his radiance of loving kindness, of powerful strength, humility, purity, clarity and wisdom, through his ceaseless, absolutely committed devotion to God and man. The countless miracles he engendered throughout his life were uplifting and strengthening the entire nation in many ways.
Almost a year later, as Rifka was returning home from an errand, she found her helper, a simple, humble and devoted man who was doing the food shopping for her, standing there looking a bit bewildered.
“Rifka,” he said empathically, “you really should lock your door.”
“Why?” she responded. “There is nothing much here worth stealing. Besides, somebody might need a place to eat and rest.”
“Nevertheless, I really think you should lock your door.”
“I found someone sitting here in your rocking chair.”
“He was an old man, all dressed in white.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. There are all kinds of mystical souls roaming around here. You don’t need to be worried.”
Rifka’s helper looked pensive and awed. He didn’t say any more.
A few days later, Rifka was invited to attend a Hillulah (a Sephardic anniversary celebration in honor of a holy man) for Baba Sali. Rifka brought her humble helper along. When they arrived at the home that was hosting the celebration they saw a portrait of Baba Sali hanging on the wall at the entrance. The moment Rifka’s helper looked at the portrait, he pointed to it. “That’s him! That’s him! The old man who was sitting in your rocking chair just a few days ago! He is the one who came to visit!”
Why wasn’t Rifka privileged to see Baba Sali herself? My guess is that Baba Sali knew that if he would appear to her, she would have fainted on the spot! So he chose to appear to someone else and through this he was able to relay the message that he was with her, very much aware of the holy work she was doing. Perhaps he wanted to convey to her that he also wanted to be one of her guests!
Soon after, Rifka found her soul mate, a physician. She and her beloved husband now live in a beautiful home in Jerusalem. Rifka is now a counselor. How could it be otherwise? She counsels from a loving heart, a high spiritual vision, and a soul-healing inner strength.
*Rifka is a pseudonym for privacy