When Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri was 16 years old Rabbi Yosef Haim, known as the Ben Ish Chaim, the most important Sephardi rabbi of the 19th century, blessed Kadouri with a long life. Apparently the blessing worked.
Nobody knows precisely how old Kaduri was as the time of his death. Estimates range between 106 and 113.
Kadouri arrived in Israel from Bagdad, Iraq at the age of 17 and studied under several legendary kabbalists, including Rabbi Yehuda Pedaya, author of Beit Lechem Yehuda and Rabbi Efraim Cohen, head of a group of kabbalists who studied at Porat Yosef Yeshiva. Other rabbis include Rabbi Ezra Atia, head of Porat Yosef, Rabbi Mansour Ben-Shimon, and Rabbi Salman Eliyahu, father of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.
Kaduri later studied at Rabbi Yehuda Hadaya's Yeshivat Beit El in Jerusalem's Makor Baruch neighborhood. Rabbi Shmuel Darzi, one of Kaduri's last students/study partners passed away in January. Darzi was in his eighties.
Kaduri's close circle of friends and family say he was one of the few known living kabbalists who use 'practical kabbalah', a type of Jewish magic aimed at affecting a change in the world.
They say Kaduri learned from the great kabbalists of previous generations the practice of writing amulets which heal, enhance fertility, and bring success.
Also, according to his son David, Kaduri was involved in the removal of at least 20 Dybbuks, lost souls that stray into the hapless bodies of living people to torment them.
However, according to sources close to the ancient mystic, even Kaduri never dabbled in the most dangerous types of Kabbalah that included forcing oaths on demons and evil spirits. Kabbalists believe that it is possible, in theory, to use holy names to trap demons and harness their powers. But the father of modern Kabbalah, the type learned in all the Kabbalah Yeshivot of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Askneazi [the Ari], forbid the use of practical Kabbalah that involves forcing oaths on demons and evil spirits.
More rational schools of Judaism are skeptical about Kaduri's powers. For instance, haredi Lithuanian yeshiva heads and halachic authorities were conspicuously absent from the list of hospital visitors and rabbis who called to pray for Kaduri.
In contrast, in certain Sephardi circles Kaduri is considered a miracle worker. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of testimonials by Kaduri's faithful back up this claim to supernatural power. But even in the Sephardi yeshiva world rabbis such as Ovadia Yosef belittled Kaduri's ability to work miracles.
Nevertheless, few doubted Kaduri's righteousness. For most of his life Kaduri was unknown to the general public. He led a modest life of study and prayer. He worked as a bookbinder.
Kaduri's became known as a supernatural mystic began during and after the Yom Kippur War. Families of soldiers missing in action came to Kaduri to ask him to use his powers to determine whether their loved ones were dead or alive.
Kaduri's popularity reached an all-time high in the 1996 elections when the centenarian kabbalist's amulets helped Shas achieve an amazing electoral success.
At the time Shas was at an electoral low point. It's long stint with Labor, which led to the Oslo Accords, had repelled Shas's predominantly rightwing constituency. The haredi Ashkenazi rabbinic establishment had blackballed the Sephardi party for bucking Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach, the undisputed spiritual leader of Lithuanian haredi Judaism. Polls were forecasting that Shas would drop from six to four mandates.
The idea to use Kaduri's spiritual prowess to help Shas win the elections belonged to Shas chairman Aryeh Deri. Deri told the haredi weekly Bekehila that God showed him the light when he joined the annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav at Uman, Ukraine.
Shas managed to distribute 100,000 amulets before Chairman of the elections committee Theodore Or prohibited their use. Soon after Ofir Pines-Paz drafted a bill ratified by the Knesset that anchored Or's prohibition in legislation. But the amulets did the trick: Shas mustered 10 mandates.
In the 2003 elections Kaduri's grandson Yossi, who had demanded, and been refused, a realistic spot on the Shas list, attempted to use his grandfather to rekindle the electoral success of 1996 with his own political party called Ahavat Yisrael. But the party failed to gain the minimum votes needed to enter the Knesset.
Kaduri's son David claims his father passed on to him the secrets of amulet-writing. However, others claim that Kaduri's metaphysical powers cannot be inherited.
"He is the last of a lost generation," said one source close to the Kaduri family.
Kaduri is survived by two children, Rachel and David, and his second wife Dorit, in her fifties, who married Kaduri 12 years ago. Sarah, Kaduri's first wife, passed away 17 years ago.