Monday, January 18, 2010

What would you think a headline in USA Today read, “Federal Reserve Board to visit Lourdes”?

You’d think ‘Uh-oh. Things must be tougher than I thought’, right? The people who control the nation’s economic situation, looking for a miracle from Lourdes? Good grief.

See, that’s where Israel is different. Today, a local headline reads, “Bank of Israel Workers Visit Babi Sali's Grave”. Few of us are surprised to hear it, and most of us think, “Isn’t that great?”

Indeed, today – January 19, or more correctly the 4th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat – is the 26th year since the passing of the great Moroccan Kabbalist known universally is “Baba Sali” (‘praying father’) Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeira. And indeed, a group of Bank of Israel employees – not to mention thousands of others – will travel today to Netivot to visit his gravesite.

An arranged communal visit to Netivot by high-flying financial gurus is nothing to sneeze at, all by itself. Netivot is just down the road apiece from Beersheba, and is one of the little villages, along with Sderot, that our Arab cousins enjoy pelting with their rockets and mortars.

Baba Sali is a familiar presence in Beersheba. Look in most of the little shops in the Old City, and there you’ll see his picture. In most of these small businesses, Baba Sali’s face looks down on shoppers even more often than does that of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, although his smiling face is almost universal, too. Baba Sali enjoys universal respect from almost everyone, heads of state down to man on the street, even among those who regard themselves as secular.

As a wonder-worker, Babi Sali, in modern times, is unequalled. Accounts of healing, both physical and spiritual, abound. Here’s one recounted by Rabbi Lazer Brody on his blog, Lazerbeams

"A young man who was injured in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He underwent a series of operations, but was rendered a cripple. One of his legs was so bad that the doctors want to amputate it. A friend suggested that he visit the Baba Sali, who was known to work wonders with his prayers. At first, the soldier (a secular Jew) refused. But in despair, he decided to give it a try.

He was ushered into the Baba Sali's study.

"Do you put on tefillin every day?" Baba Sali asked.
"Do you keep Shabbat?"
"If that's the case, " Baba Sali replied, "you should be thankful that only one leg is in such a serious condition. We believe that Hashem gives us healthy limbs so that we may serve Him. Those who don't keep the mitzvot should regard their healthy limbs as gifts."

At that, the young man burst into tears.

Baba Sali looked him the eye and asked, "If I bless you that you will be able to stand, will you begin to observe the mitzvot?"

"I promise," the young man eagerly replied.

"Then give me your hand, and may you have a complete recovery, with Hashem's help."

After the young man kissed Baba Sali's hand, Rebbetzin Abuchatzeira told him to try and stand up. To his surprise, he was able to stand up immediately, and even take a number of steps without assistance.

Startled by the remarkable change in his situation, the young man ran out of the house in search of a telephone. The nearest telephone was in Yeshivas Hanegev, a few feet away from Rav Yisroel's home.

The young man raced over to the yeshiva, and called his family to tell them about the miracle. The yeshiva students, who overheard the conversation, were stunned. Taking him by the hand, they broke out into a fervent dance.

A short while later, the young man returned to Rav Yisroel's house with many of the yeshiva students, and a special festive meal was held in honor of the miracle. The young man's story spread like wildfire throughout the country, and caused many to adopt a Torah lifestyle.

May Baba Sali's holy and beloved memory invoke Divine compassion on all of us, amen.”

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