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The Holy Defender: Chapter 1 

And then someone shouted, “The sorcerer!”


We will now relate a story about the holy Rav Shmuel Abuchatzeira. Saintly mekubal, fiery defender of Jews everywhere, are just a few of the titles of Rav Shmuel. His children, the famed tzaddikim and mekubalim of the Abuchatzeira family, include Rav Yackov Abuchatzeira (the Abir Yackov), the Baba Sali , and many others, such as Rav David Chai Abuchatzeira, who lives today in Naharea.

The stories of his miracles are many, and they were brought about because of Rav Shmuel’s intense love for his people and his desire to keep them safe from harsh decrees and evil oppressors. Utilizing the power of Torah, with his vast and deep knowledge of the secrets of kabbalah, this tzaddik became known far and wide as a miracle worker, even in the eyes of the local Arab populace.


Hundreds of mourners walked somberly through the sandy ground, their heads bent as the sun beat down overhead. The sound of soft weeping filled the air as they moved slowly, blinking to see through their tears. They held aloft the body of a person who had recently passed away from the Jewish community.

Suddenly, the procession came to an abrupt halt. Everyone in the back bumped into the person in front of them, creating a ripple effect as bodies crashed into one another. People looked ahead to see what had caused the march to abruptly stop. They saw the pallbearers shouting in panic.

“It’s impossible to budge the niftar even an inch further!” One of the carriers called out above the ever-increasing tumult. “It just won’t move!”

The elders in the procession convened, and the decision was swiftly made. The people carrying the niftar would be replaced with others, and then, perhaps whatever obstacle was causing the niftar’s body to be frozen in place would be removed.

Silence reigned as the carriers stepped aside and the new ones reverently knelt to pick up the niftar and continue walking. But it did not help. The body was anchored in place, as though invisible stakes of iron were locking it into the ground.

A sense of panic rippled through the crowd. Something nefarious was occurring, but they did not know what it was.

And then someone shouted, “The sorcerer!”

Everyone turned toward a small house which was built in the outskirts of town, on the road leading to the cemetery. Dilapidated and blackened with some sort of soot, this was a fitting looking residence for a man known throughout the village as a practitioner of the dark magic — a man so proficient in the art of harnessing the forces of evil, that even the Jewish sages in the locality avoided him at all costs.

The seforim explain that everything was created with opposites. Every force has an opposing force. Forces of kedushah have forces of impurity oppose them. In those days, in the 1800s, there were still a few evil people who could harness the destructive powers of impurity, following in the footsteps of Lavan, Bilaam, and other wicked people throughout history.

This sorcerer was one of those people. He was good at what he practiced, and he had a steady following, a devoted group of pupils whom he would instruct on how to access the dark forces and use them for evil purposes.

As everyone turned in the direction of the sorcerer’s house, they could see a shadow standing by the window facing them. Then, the shadow receded into the house. It was clear this was no coincidence. The sorcerer was once again up to no good.

There was no choice. A few people were selected to approach the sorcerer. The hour was late, and if things continued as they were, the niftar would be left stuck in the road for who knew how long.

The Yidden approached the small, run-down house with much trepidation. They knocked on the door. It was opened by a short, skinny boy, only 12 or 13 years old.

“What do you want?” The boy’s eyes narrowed.

“We are having trouble outside. The body of a deceased person is frozen in place.”

“So? Kick it! Maybe that’ll motivate it to move!” The boy laughed at his own joke.

“Please, we know your teacher has something to do with this. Fetch him, and let us discuss the matter with him directly.”

“Wait here.”

The boy returned a moment later, smiling smugly.

“A bag filled with coins will solve the issue.” And he requested an astronomical sum of money.

“This isn’t fair! We’ve done nothing to deserve this! All we want to do is bury our dead. Even your teacher should appreciate that we are trying to do one last kindness to someone incapable of helping himself. Would he really stop us from proceeding to the cemetery to bury a human being?”

The boy’s face changed slightly.

“Look, you clearly do not understand the sorcerer if you are speaking this way. Compassion is for the weak, kindness for the foolish. This is what he preaches. You are seriously trying to appeal to his heart? There is nothing there but a black stone, and that is something he takes pride in. So, if you are wise, you will listen closely to me. Your only chance at burying your dead is paying up, and as soon as possible. My teacher has no qualms about upping the game, perhaps turning the deceased into a pile of dirt, or directing one of his powerful curses and harming—”

“Stop, stop! We’ve heard enough already. We will pay the sum.”

It was not easy getting the requested sum of money for the greedy sorcerer. It was also time consuming, and to the pain of all gathered, the deceased was forced to wait for a very long period, rooted to the ground, as everyone rushed back home to collect whatever funds they could afford.

Eventually, the full amount was collected, the sorcerer was paid, and the burial procession was able to proceed again. But the events of that day gave birth to a new game which the sorcerer was all too eager to play, over and over again. Each time someone was taken to be buried, the body would suddenly be frozen in place outside the house of the sorcerer, and only after a heavy fee was paid, would the sorcerer release his spell.

The Jews needed a miracle. They prayed that someone, somewhere, would be a great enough tzaddik and mekubal to take on the sorcerer and end their suffering.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 890)

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