Although it is not uncommon for Jewish sages to be known by a pseudonym, such names are most often either abbreviations of their full names (e.g. RaMBaM, an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) or the names of their most popular writing (e.g. Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan). Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira (1890-1984), on the other hand, is most often referred to as the Baba Sali (the Praying Father).

The Baba Sali came from a long line of scholars. He was born on Rosh Hashana in 1890 in Tafelatetch, Morocco, where his father was the head of the Jewish court. He grew up immersed in Torah study and, as soon as he passed Bar Mitzvah age, joined the yeshiva housed on his family’s estate.

For years, the Baba Sali threw himself into a rigorous schedule of Torah study. With the coming of World War I, however, his world was upended. When the French moved into North Africa, many Moroccans in his region rebelled. The rebels not only fought the French, but harassed the Jews as well. When Rabbi David Abuhatzeira, the rabbi of the community and the Baba Sali’s older brother, was murdered, the Jews of Tafelatetch fled to Badniv, where they asked the Baba Sali to assume his brother’s position. The Baba Sali initially refused and, instead, went to Jerusalem to publish his late brother’s writings. One year later, however, he returned and accepted the position. In time, he (reluctantly) agreed to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Morocco.

In 1950, the Baba Sali moved to Israel and eventually settled in the southern town of Netivot. Soon Jews, both those from Morocco and elsewhere, were flocking to Netivot to receive blessings from the Baba Sali. There are many credible stories of miracles that occurred through the prayers of the holy Baba Sali.

He passed away, at age 94, on 4 Shevat 1984.

This Treat was originally posted on January 15, 2013.

Copyright © 2021 NJOP. All rights reserved.