Baba Sali (September 1890- January 8, 1984)
Rabbi Yisrael was the scion of a distinguished family of Sephardic Torah scholars and tzadikkim who were also known as baalei mofet (miracle workers). He is the grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hasira. The patriarch of this family was Rabbi Shmuel Abuhatzeira. Born in the land of Israel, Rabbi Shmuel lived in Damascus for a while, where he studied Torah together with Rabbi Chaim Vital. In Shem Hagedolim, the Chida described Rabbi Shmuel as “an ish Elokim kadosh (a holy man of God). Wise people speak of his might and wonders in saving the Jewish community from many difficulties.”
Rabbi Shmuel and his family eventually moved to the city of Tafilalt, Morocco, where Rabbi Shmuel’s son Mas’ud (Moshe in Hebrew) became the rav of the city. Rabbi Mas’ud’s son, Yaakov, known as the Avir Yaakov, succeeded his father as rabbi of Tafilalt. Rabbi Yaakov’s eldest son, Mas’ud, became an av beit din in the same city, and it was here that his son, Yisrael, the Baba Sali, was born.
Yisrael was born on Rosh Hashanah 5650 (1890) and grew up in a home permeated with Torah study and holy behavior. His family lived on a large estate which included a yeshiva where young scholars studied night and day. The beit din (rabbinical court) of his father, Rabbi Mas’ud, was also located on the premises. His older brother, Rabbi David, studied by himself in an attic. On the rare times that Rabbi Mas’ud traveled, he would cover his eyes with his cape to avoid seeing inappropriate sights.
As a child, Yisrael was a diligent Torah scholar, studying day and night. At the age of 12, he began to fast during the six weeks of Shovavim. Knowing his parents would not let him continue, he hid his fasting from them, but his brother, David, noticed how weak and pale he was. Though David urged him to stop, Yisrael continued his fasting.
After his bar mitzvah, he entered his family’s yeshiva, where the students rose at midnight for Tikkun Chatzot and then studied Kabbalistic works until dawn, when they would go to the mikveh, pray the morning service, and eat breakfast. This was followed by in-depth Gemara study, the afternoon prayers, and a shiur in Shulchan Aruch.
At the age of 16, he married Freha Amsalem.
Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Sali, was a leading Moroccan Sephardic rabbi and kabbalist who was renowned for his alleged ability to work miracles through his prayers. He was one of the leaders of the Aliyah of Moroccan Jewry to Israel, which saw the transfer of nearly the entire population of that community to the Holy Land. His burial place in Netivot, Israel has become a shrine for prayers and petitioners