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Time to Shine the Light

Refoel Pride

For years, Rav Shlomo Bussu, grandson of the Baba Sali, was an anonymous kollel avreich… until pressured to forge the next link in his chain of tradition and meet a thirsting public

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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“We have to focus our bechirah only on the things that are in the realm of free choice, which is the choice between tov and ra. But when you come to a choice between two ways to good — don’t choose. Leave it to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The more you leave in His Hands, the more He does. Because the best thing is to say, ‘I don’t want anything — He knows the best.’ In my own experience, nothing went better when I went the way I wanted. Hashem always knows better” (Photos: Moshe Shapoff)

Y ou have to climb the stairs at the side of the Hamelech Hachassid print shop in order to get to Beit Medrash Tiferet L’Yisrael, but for those who know Rav Shlomo Bussu, the location is really no surprise — his shul is tucked away, just as he’s been all these years.

Situated at 25 Rechov Givat Shaul, in the middle of yet another aging Jerusalem industrial area giving way to gleaming residential towers on either side, the two-year-old shul occupies a humble address that is sure to become prime real estate.

On this sunny spring day, Rav Shlomo Bussu is giving chizuk to a group of American bochurim from a Sephardi yeshivah before they head back to the States for Pesach. He is wearing multiple pairs of tzitzis and tefillin — he keeps his tefillin on all day long, every weekday. He speaks to them in their language — fluent English softened by a light French accent — about how victories over the yetzer hara, even the ones that seem so small down here, take on majestic proportions Above.

After his shmuess, the bochurim form a line to receive individual brachos from Rav Bussu. He gives them each a warm smile, a firm handshake, and a clap on the shoulder, along with personalized counsel. His good cheer and easy camaraderie with these young men call to mind a winning coach exhorting his team. But the bochurim’s awed demeanor shows that their rosh yeshivah prepared them well for this visit: for Rav Bussu is a mekubal, towering talmid chacham, a posek, sofer, shochet, and mohel. He is also a grandson of the Baba Sali, Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira zy”a, the beloved mekubal and leader of Moroccan Jewry who was niftar in 1984 — himself the grandson of the revered Abir Yaakov, Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira, scion of a distinguished line of Torah scholars and kabbalists stretching back to the time of Rav Chaim Vital and the Arizal.

Into the Open

This public role is relatively new for Rav Bussu, one he stepped into only several years ago. For the quarter century before that, he stationed himself in the Ohalei Avraham shul on Eretz Chefetz Street in Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, learning as an anonymous kollel avreich. He adopted the rigorous schedule practiced in the Abuchatzeira family, engrossing himself in Torah for 18 hours every day, sleeping just two hours a night, and fasting from morning to evening — all out of the public eye.

“The Baba Sali was always running away from kavod, a model of anivus, and now the whole world knows who the Baba Sali was.It’s a whole avodah to run from kavod that you don’t find in many other places today” And now, it seems, honor has taken off in pursuit of the Baba Sali’s grandson

“Those were my best years,” he says with a hint of a wistful smile of the years in his “hideout,” where avreichim in the neighborhood knew a brilliant tzaddik was in their midst, but not many others had an inkling. “It’s best to be under cover, to be nistar. Something that is hidden cannot be compared to that which is known by people.”

He resisted taking on a public role, but his relatives pressured him to forge the next link in the chain of tradition, binding together the generations of the Abuchatzeira family. “They told me, ‘If people don’t come to you, they will go to all kinds of charlatans.’ ”

In the end, he consented, because he was persuaded that his yichus could be a powerful asset. “If a person comes to me with an open heart, and he’s excited about meeting me because I’m a grandson of the Baba Sali… without [the yichus] it would be much, much harder to influence that person. You can’t pass up the opportunity to be mekarev him and be mechazek him.”

The decision really came down to how best to make a kiddush Hashem. And for that, there couldn’t have been a better role model than his saintly grandfather, the Baba Sali. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 704)

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