A mighty battle against dark forces
During the few years of our life in Los Angeles, we were fortunate to get acquainted with members of the Abuhatzirah family, descendents of Yaacov Abuhatzirah, master of miracles, a great historical figure of the Sephardic Jewish community from North Africa.
There were times when we were invited to attend some of their celebrations. We were impressed with the beauty, lightheartedness and genuine joy of their gatherings. The welcome was warm and open, musicians were filling the atmosphere with enthusiastic melodies and songs with lyrics drawn from the psalms, the men were dancing together in heartfelt friendship and joy, the women were eagerly sharing with each other, children were jumping around, the food was lavish, exquisitely prepared and served. At one point our dear friend Meyir Abuhatzirah would dance. Everyone gathered around to watch him. His every movement communicated the inner bliss, the childlike spontaneity, the intense, passionate emotions and total surrender to God he felt. Indescribable and deeply moving.
Now you may have realized that people’s memory is very short. People forget even the most powerful miracles that have blessed mankind through the intercession of prayers. The events that have saved the lives of millions, are often soon forgotten. One of them was about a major disaster that was averted during World War II, through the active intercession of the great Master Yaacov Abuhatzirah. We heard about this documented historical event through some of the descendents of this great Master. It has also been recorded in three different books in Hebrew. Yet people forget.
This is the story: In the year 1883, at sundown, three dusty, exhausted companions are striding forth on camel’s back through the arid landscapes 100 miles north of Alexandria, Egypt. They are dismounting and setting up camp near the small village of Damanhur. They had started journeying 4 months ago from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and continued traveling non-stop through the burning deserts of the Sahara and through Egypt, a journey of about 2200 miles.
One of the companions is stretched out on the ground. He knows the time has come for him to leave this world. This man is the great renowned Tsaddik and Master of miracles Yaacov Abuhatzirah, beloved and revered by Jews and Moslems alike in all North Africa.
Now he is instructing his two faithful companions: “Please listen carefully: It was revealed to me from Above that in another few generations, a great darkness will spread in the world. Divine intervention will need to happen at this very spot. This is why I will die here, and you must bury me right here. Do not allow anyone to move my body from here!”
The two companions are devastated, struggling with many questions. Why was their beloved elderly Master so adamant about taking this exhausting journey? This was an ordeal that not even strong young men would undertake at such a pace! Why did they have to travel through the endless desolate sands of the Sahara Desert? Why not through the Mediterranean route? All the Jewish Communities on the way would have been thrilled to welcome him! Why does their Holy Master have to die in this way? What are those ominous predictions and sinister threats that he seems to be dealing with in the secret recesses of his awesome soul? Why did they fail reaching Jerusalem? What did they do wrong?
The two companions sensed their powerful Master was waging a mighty battle against dark forces, alone. They could only stand by and pray. Soon their holy Master peacefully left this world. They buried him right there.
Following a divine plan
The following historical accounts were related in a few books. They were also passed on to us from a friend of ours who was a student of Rav Kaduri, a great saintly Kabbalist living in Jerusalem who passed on recently in 1996 at 106 years of age. This Kabbalist was a member of the renowned Beit El Academy in Jerusalem. Its few members were all great tzaddikim, holy men of fiery commitment, wisdom and kindness.
So this is how the master plan from unknown higher forces began, 60 years before their actual manifestation:
Inscrutable design of a Holy Master
High up in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco there is a little village by the name of Tafillalet This was the home center of great saintly Kabbalists and Masters of miracles. They had lived there for countless generations going back all the way to the times of the Talmud. Among them lived Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah. He was revered by Jews and Muslims alike wherever he went. Even the royal family in Marrakesh held him in great esteem. Throughout his life, he traveled extensively in North Africa. Inspired by his powerful radiance and holiness, many Jewish communities were established, flourished and thrived wherever he had spent some time.
In 1883, at 79 years of age, he suddenly announced that he was on his way to Jerusalem. This was to be a long, dangerous journey of about
2,600 miles on camel’s back. All his friends, students and family became extremely alarmed, they cried and begged him to change his mind. He was adamant. He chose two of his faithful, physically strong students to come along with him, each on their own camel, and they left incognito.
Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah knew that if he would travel along the Mediterranean route, he would be detained at every stop with the needs of many crowds. Instead he chose to travel on the South side of the Atlas Mountains along the burning hot Sahara Desert sands. After a harrowing four- months journey, he and his companions finally arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. The Jewish community there was overjoyed to see him. They begged him to stay with them to recuperate, hoping he would decide to stay. But again, he knew he had to continue on his journey, without delay.
In a deserted area about 100 miles North of Alexandria, near the village of Damanhur, he suddenly became deathly ill. He spoke to his two faithful companions, seeking to reveal to them the reason of their journey and why they are here, and why he must die here and be buried in this very spot. “Do not mourn for me too much. It is imperative that I be buried right here.”
Soon after Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah peacefully returned his soul to the Eternal All-Mighty One.
Shortly after, the two companions buried their holy Master. As soon as the news spread about this, a delegation coming from Alexandria insisted on bringing the remains of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah to Alexandria. They refused to pay attention to what the two faithful companions of the holy Master had to say. They unearthed the coffin and put it on a camel’s back. The camel broke its leg. They tried again with another camel, but this time a sand storm wind immobilized them for three days. They understood, finally gave up and buried the holy Master right there. Later they erected a tombstone for him and built a synagogue over it.
For the next few generations, many pilgrims, Jews and Muslims alike came to pray at this tomb site. They held their bonds of true devotion to their Creator through this holy Sage who had illuminated their lives with such powerful Light and was still often interceding for them with great miracles.
Urgent call through dreams
In 1943, exactly sixty years later, in Jerusalem, Rav Yitzchak Alfiya had a startling dream. He was a member of the Beit El Academy of holy Kabbalists headed by Rav Chadaryah and he was also closely connected with Rav Kaduri.
In his dream Rav Alfiya encountered a powerful holy man, surrounded with Light, who appeared to him with an urgent message:
“I am Yaakov Abuhatzirah. Please follow my request and come pray at my tomb site. It is urgent and vitally necessary for the salvation of Israel.”
The Rabbi woke up quite shaken. Going to Cairo seemed impossible because German troops led by General Rommel were invading Egypt and were already occupying Cairo. The Mediterranean Sea was infested with Nazi submarines and war ships. So Rav Alfiya thought that his experience was a symbolic dream. But the very same encounter with this holy Master happened to him again on the next night. Its same message was even more urgent. And on the third time on the following night, the call was overpowering. Rav Alfiya consulted with the members of the Academy.
– “Please describe for us this holy man in your dream.” They asked.
After hearing the content of the dream and receiving some descriptions about the face and appearance of this awesome visitor, the Kabbalists were convinced:
-“Surely this is a sign that our holy Master, Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah, is interceding for all the Jewish people. You have been selected for some reason to bring your prayers to the sacred site of his tomb. Please go there immediately. We will accompany you with our prayers. You will need a few miracles to get there.” “God will be with you”.
It took a few miracles to get there. First he needed permission from the occupying British Government officials to travel to Egypt. When he made his request for this permission, they laughed at him:
-“You want to commit suicide? Absolutely no civilians are allowed to travel there.”
He insisted again, day after day. Finally with the intervention of the members of the Academy, the British Commander in charge received him. After hearing Rav Alfiya’s story, the Commander said:
-“I cannot give you a visa but may I suggest that you discreetly ask the soldiers to allow you to travel by train with them?”
Rav Alfiya did as the Commander intimated and he was able to travel to Egypt among many British soldiers. Though Rav Alfiya’s presence was noticeable, somehow he miraculously went unseen when circumstances warranted. When he reached the Nile River he was also able to convince a humble fisherman to take him on his boat across the river. Somehow, Rav Alfiya succeeded in reaching Cairo.
The Kabbalist and Chief Rabbi of Egypt in Cairo, Rav Ben Simhon, was shocked to see him there.
– “Most honored Rav Alfiya, how on earth did you get here?” he cried in wonder. When he heard about the dream, he speedily called together nine selected devout members of his congregation who volunteered to accompany Rav Alfiya and travel to the tomb, even though it was already very dangerous, and getting worse day by day. When they arrived at the site of the tomb, they found its synagogue vandalized, desecrated and burned. The building was still standing.
The Air Force battle of El Alamein
On the first night of their arrival at the tomb, as they were focusing in deep prayer together, they noticed in the far distance some unusual lights in the night sky that were plummeting down to earth. Wondering what this was all about they listened to the BBC radio on the next morning. It was announced that an air force battle had just begun and was raging between British and German fighter planes. Many planes had gone down in flames. This news explained what happened with those lights they had seen in the distance plummeting down on the previous night. This battle became a famous, historical event: the battle of El Alamein. For three days the group of friends locked themselves into the tomb site and prayed with utmost intensity, while the war was raging all around them in the air and on land.
General Rommel had brought a mighty military arsenal of troops and fighter planes that by far outnumbered the British forces stationed in Egypt. With them came an SS unit that was there to round up all the Jews with the help of Almin Husseini, the virulent, anti-Semitic Arab leader. Plans were already in the making to create a concentration camp in Shechem. The British Forces, under the leadership of General Montgomery, needed great miracles to win in these confrontations with the Nazis. They were heroic enough to fight even though seemingly bound for disaster.
But then, help came to them from Above in a totally and unexpected unique form. The Almighty sent an invisible, microscopic enemy to the German troops and pilots. That enemy incapacitated them during battle. The name of this enemy? The bacteria called: dysentery! It looks like the German troops and pilots were too proud, or too embarrassed to admit they were sick “to the stomach” and did not ask for a reprieve.
On the third day, as the group of friends was still continuously day and night focused in intense prayer, Rav Alfiya saw a great, ethereal brilliant light lifting gently from the tomb and ascending toward the heavens. He felt a profound peace and he knew then that the enormous danger was averted and that all the Jewish communities of North Africa and Israel were saved. He also knew that the tide of this devastating, cruel World War was turned around.
World War II turned around
About that time the British military intelligence was able to intercept and listen to a telephone conversation between General Rommel and the Fűhrer, the insane leader of Germany. Rommel had to admit:
“This is the first time this ever happened to me. I have won all my battles so far. But I can’t win this battle. There is a certain resistance I can’t explain. Many of our planes are going down in flames. I am losing all our best pilots.”
The Fuhrer screeched back like a demented ranting maniac:
“You absolutely, must win this war! You must fight to the death!!” And on and on.
Most interestingly, after this telephone call the Fűhrer never won any battles again. He went from one military disaster to another. How did this happen?
Something unthinkable happened to the Fűhrer: Something absolutely outrageous: His loyal General, Rommel, chose to disregard his orders and do just the opposite of what he had so emphatically commanded!! His most successful General had turned tail! Yes, Rommel had the good sense to turn tail and retreat back, taking his troops by boat to occupied Italy. It is speculated that the Fuhrer must have gone insane with rage about this.
After this defeat, the Fuhrer made the kind of decisions that brought disaster to his military might and that completely turned the tide of the war: He already had declared war on the United States and on Russia, then he decided to send the major part of his troops to Russia. Then he neglected to make sure they were supplied with food and fuel!
As the months went by, all the radio stations in Germany and occupied Europe were broadcasting exciting news about the sweeping victories and glorious accomplishments of the German troops in Russia. But the truth was, many hundreds of thousands of those German soldiers were taken prisoner or freezing to death in those endless, snowy plains. The Fuhrer’s army was over- extended and often defeated, thus giving the courage to the Allies to lift up their heads and confront the enemy. From then on, it was just a matter of time until Europe and the world at large were completely free of the cruel insanity of this madman.
What Rabbi Yaacov Abuhatzirah knew and devised
In retrospect it is easy to imagine some of what happened in the heart and soul of the holy Master Yaacov Abuhatzirah.
Sixty years before these events happened, Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah foresaw through Divine inspiration what lay ahead. He knew what was needed to prevent disasters for his people. He struggled mightily against those forces of cruelty and darkness that would seek to grab ruler-ship over mankind. The only weapon he had was prayer. He had the powerful connection with the Infinite, Eternal One, mightily established during the seventy-nine years of his life. He also had the help of several other masterful, saintly souls such as the great Master knows as the Orach Chaim, who preceded him. And he had the simple, heartfelt prayers and faith of his beloved people, throughout their generations. He also trusted that when the time came the Almighty would also send help to turn this war around, through other great Kabbalists and saintly masters living on Earth at that crucial time.
Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah knew his tomb site was needed at this very spot to anchor the Light from Above at a place near the decisive battle. He also knew that the prayers initiated at his tomb site by a representative from Jerusalem, were crucial. He was able to contact Rav Alfia in dreams, as he knew that he was the one that would be the right channel for this dangerous mission. Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah needed his presence there, for Jerusalem and the Holy Land are the home of the Jewish people, their source of strength and hope, the Land of their soul.
Later on, when Rav Alfiya returned to the Holy Land, the British soldiers at the Sinai border greeted him like a hero. Somehow they knew that their victory was a true miracle from on High, from the protection and loving care we sometimes merit to receive from the hand of the Almighty through prayers. They had heard about the purpose of Rav Alfiya’s journey.
In 1883, sixty years before……….three lonely, exhausted travelers on a deserted road…..one of them is dying. Who could ever have guessed that much of the future destiny of millions is resting on their faith in the Almighty One? Who could ever have predicted that their foolish and inexplicable undertaking is turning the tide of a mighty war against evil darkness, sixty years hence?
Until recently, the great mekubal Rav Kadouri who was living here in Jerusalem could relate these events. He was there as a personal friend of Rav Alfiya.
“Who was Rav Alfiya?”
Rav Kadouri had a great sense of humor. One day he shared a story with my friend and other students that further revealed some aspects of the personality of Rav Alfiya.
A few years after World War II, word spread in Jerusalem that Rav Alfiya had just died and was going to be buried that very afternoon. The Jewish community came to mourn his departure. Tearful eulogies were being proclaimed with much sobbing and mourning from the crowd. Then a procession accompanied the body to the grave. And there was the moment when Rav Alfiya’s body was being lowered into the grave. At that very instant, Rav Alfiya stirred, opened his eyes and sprang to his feet!! Everyone stood there in shock. Some people screamed, panicked and ran away.
Rav Alfiya’s voice came booming out; “Hypocrites!” he shouted. People were stunned, totally bewildered, staring at him, questioning: “What is happening? He came back from the dead to call us names? What does he mean? We are hypocrites! We came to eulogize him!” Again, Rav Alfiya’s loud voice was heard proclaiming:
“Do you have to wait for a man to die before loving him? Why can’t you do it before? When I needed help from you, you refused. When I just wanted to borrow something, you declined. You people did not care at all! I was living with you all these years and you took it for granted. And now….why all of these dramatic eulogies? Why don’t you instead show real love and care for each other right now and every day? You all desperately need it. What are you waiting for? After you die it is definitely too late!”
Rav Alfiya had felt that the Jewish Community needed to receive an important lesson. To do this he hadn’t hesitated in taking a dramatic measure, going as far as faking his own death!! Rav Kaduri and his students had a good chuckle over that story.
No wonder Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzirah chose Rav Alfiya to be his messenger in Cairo. Rav Alfiya hesitated at nothing to make a point!
Rav Alfiya authored four outstanding books published in Hebrew entitled: HaKuntrass Hayehyeli, Ahavat Hashem, Or Chadash and Tsemach Tzadik.
Joshua and I have been blessed to meet the great sage Rav Kaduri a few times. We also have befriended a few descendants of Rav Yaacov Abuhatzirah, each alive with faith and a creative spirit. Each has their own miracle stories to tell about their lives connected with their revered ancestor, this spiritual giant still working out his blessings to protect and inspire them.
The soul of Sephardic Jewry
Yaacob Abuhatzirah had been a leading influence on all the Jewish communities of North Africa. His spiritual power infused the soul of Sephardic Jewry with a strong faith in the Almighty One. Still today, most Sephardic Jews are generally blessed with a simple, direct, intuitive faith in the supreme Almighty One. This has given them great resilience in all kinds of adversities and a basic positive outlook on life, a “joie de vivre”, a particular charm and uniqueness, a certain zest for life.
The Jewish communities of North Africa that flourished for centuries before 1948 were built entirely around the presence of a holy saintly Rabbi. As soon as students would gather together to learn Torah and pray in the company of a holy man, people would flock to them and form a closely bonded community, a spiritual center of inspiration and learning. It would attract to itself quality people that would continue building it and benefiting it. The spiritual influence and legacy of a holy man continued for many generations after he left this world, shaping the lives and destinies of countless thousands in a harmonious, well balanced, positive and strengthening way.
We have had many enjoyable interactions with the Sephardic people in the United States and in Israel. We have noticed that if Sephardic people haven’t yet been too much “educated” by some of the negative aspects of our Western culture, they still hold respect for their religious beliefs in their own unique way. When they pray, they not only put their heart into the words of prayers, they also sing them. When they are honored with the presence of a holy man among them, they intuitively sense his connection with the Highest Realms, with their Father in Heaven. They are grateful for this connection, they do not need to analyze how or why it happens. They feel awestruck by this silent power, this flow of loving- kindness, this brilliant light of clarity and higher knowing.
We can now realize that all this devotion to the Almighty for centuries contributed to turning the tide of World War II. Instead of being engulfed in the nightmare of Nazi destruction and barbarism countless millions in the world were now able to breathe again and recover gradually. Since then European countries have learned to co-operate together instead of fighting with each other. This is a great miracle.
But the greatest miracle of all was that the Jews were blessed with a window of opportunity and with the powerful drive to return to the Holy Land. They were motivated enough to face all hardships and danger in order to create a beloved home for their people.
from the book: Masters and Miracles – By Liliane Ritchie