Abuhatzeira funeral_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The sudden and traumatic demise of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, who was stabbed to death overnight Thursday in his Beersheba yeshiva, has left thousands of his followers mourning and perplexed.
What made Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Elazar, so special to the scores of people from all walks of life who sought his blessing and advice?
“He had intuition, or the holy spirit; he had something going on. I attributed it to his family lineage, and his holy lifestyle,” said Chaim Cohen, an educator from Jerusalem.
Abuhatzeira was a scion to a famous Moroccan rabbinic dynasty. His grandfather was Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, the Baba Sali, believed by his followers to work miracles.
As for the lifestyle, Cohen said that Abuhatzeira trained himself to suffice with only two hours of sleep a night, with short naps during the day. That way, he could spend the whole day studying Torah and helping people. He also covered himself, and never looked at women. He would fast the entire month of Elul, and was a great Torah scholar.
“Nobody who had so much in body and spirit had such discipline in serving God, that’s why he had the gifts he had,” said Cohen, “which he used to help people.”
Cohen, who made aliya from the United States in 1983, would visit him regularly for his advice or blessing.
“I went to him once a week, I had been going to him for 15 years, and was seeing him on fairly regular basis,” he said.
“The rabbi knew how to give advice on business, health, relationship, questions of halacha,” said Cohen.
There were roughly 300-500 people coming for his advice and blessings every day of the days Abuhatzeira held reception, said Cohen, dividing them into three groups: “People who were curiosity types, who would come for one time, the inner circle, and others who were less or more closer to the rabbi. People would come in crisis situations, or generally to keep up with him,” he said.
And how did Cohen turn into a follower of the Baba Elazar?
“I had an electrician friend who was Moroccan, who kept telling me I have to meet him, he’s amazing,” Cohen relayed. “I told him it’s not my thing, I’m Ashkenazi and an American. After being urged I went, and on my first visit was amazed that all of Israel was there – Ashkenzazi, Sephardi, haredi, Lithuanian, Hassidim, secular.”
“He also had a large following of Americans,” Cohen noted. “There are people who would fly out of New York Saturday night, get there Sunday afternoon, and fly back to the US that same night. Usually business types looking for that kind of advice, but also people seeking counsel on medical procedures – the rabbi made himself aware of experts in those fields,” he said.
“People would ask why do I go to him. In order for things to be done the
way they were around him, it can’t be halfway, it has to be either pure
holiness or a pure fake. I believe it was pure holiness.
“He was also careful to not mislead people,” said Cohen. “If asked
whether he could guarantee what he was saying, he’d reply that only God
can guarantee, and I can just suggest this to you.”
“I used to think I didn’t want to play this game of ‘my rabbi is holier
than yours,’ but now that he’s gone, I don’t think any rabbi reached the
level he reached in terms of his holiness,” Cohen added.
Elad resident Asher Dahan is under arrest for the stabbing. He has been
sent by a court for a psychiatric examination to determine his mental
state. Dahan was apparently upset that a blessing he had received from
the 63-year-old rabbi did not materialize.