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The Holy Defender: Chapter 3

“Come now, you must be quite clever if you managed to ensnare me like this — why do something so foolish as simply killing me?"


Before we continue with our story, we must relate a story pertaining to the last name of this great tzaddik. A story within a story, you might say, one that will help us understand the background of one of the greatest mekubalim, Rav Shmuel Abuchatzeira.

There are two possibilities which explain the name Abuchatzeira and how this great family of tzaddikim and mekubalim came to carry it. One story involves a terrible, old witch who used to dwell in the desert near Damascus, waiting for people to fall into her nasty traps so that she could kidnap them. Her powers were known far and wide, and few could escape her grasp once she had ensnared them, usually for the purpose of advancing her crooked spells and evil shenanigans.

It once happened that this witch used her powerful spells to draw the great tzaddik Rav Shmuel into her house, where she planned to kill him.  He tried to reason with her, convincing her with his great wisdom and grasp of all humans, even those as depraved as this witch, that she could make a far greater profit from pursuing an alternative plan to her murderous one.

“Come now, you must be quite clever if you managed to ensnare me like this — why do something so foolish as simply killing me? If you are really smart, you will hear me out first and listen to what I have to offer you. I think you will be very interested.”

“Fine! Speak!”

“Thank you. So I happen to be a phenomenal weaver — I can make things for you to sell in the marketplace. But of course, there’s more to my offer than just that. You see, the holiday of Succos is approaching, when the Jews sit outside in their huts and decorate their huts with all sorts of nice things. I know exactly the kind of decorations and mats the Jews would love to purchase for their holiday to enhance their huts and bring honor to the Master of the World. Instead of doing away with me, allow me to net you an enormous profit by creating these mats for the Jews, and of course, you will get all the money.”

And so it was. The great tzaddik got to work weaving a marvelous mat for the witch, creating it with extra special attention and care, and ultimately producing quite a masterpiece. All through the night he toiled over it, until the morning came and the witch took it to the marketplace to make a good sale.

Once the beautiful mat hit the marketplace, it immediately became the talk among all the Jews. How strange that this spooky old lady had suddenly appeared with the most marvelous Succos mat they had ever seen in their entire lives… One wealthy Jew decided he could not keep such a gorgeous mat for himself and instead bought it for a high price and presented it as a gift to the local talmid chacham in the area.

The talmid chacham was overjoyed with the gift. As he scanned the unique design, he suddenly deciphered a message carefully woven into the mat. “Shmuel is in the house of the witch —rescue me!”

And of course they did rescue Rav Shmuel, in the process acquiring him the unique name, Abuchatzeira (father of the mat).

But perhaps the name was borne from an even more well-known story, this involving the time Rav Shmuel needed to travel out of Eretz Yisrael. He had no money to his name and could not afford to pay for the ship’s fare when he arrived at the Jaffa port. After being refused entry by the captain, Rav Shmuel sat down on a torn mat, and in front of the astonished eyes of all the ship’s passengers, Rav Shmuel was carried across the waves, riding alongside the ship, as it traveled through the ocean.

The Chida writes that the name came to be because the name Abuchatzeira contains the root word “chatzer,” which means courtyard, alluding to the fact that Rav Shmuel was known for learning in serenity and secrecy all day in his courtyard.

These are only a few of the stories behind the reason for the family name, but the Baba Sali said the story of Rav Shmuel flying on the mat was the source for the family name.

At any rate, it should now be obvious to you, dear reader, that Rav Shmuel was a remarkably holy man. This battle-to-come with the sorcerer would be yet another opportunity for the tzaddik to help the world see that Hashem bestows great power on those who fear His Name and to those who act for the sake of Heaven.

And now, back to our original story…

The sorcerer fell at the feet of the nobleman, groveling pitifully.

“I cannot leave my house, do you know what that means? Everyone, men, women and children, have heard of my disgrace! I must have a chance to redeem myself!”

“But you never leave your house anyhow.” The nobleman scratched his chin. “What has changed?”

“What’s changed is that I always teach my disciples that those who stay far away from the dark arts have zero power, and then this old sage comes along a-a-and —well, you know already what he did! I have to battle him! I assure you I have spells which will turn him into something other than a human! I’ll humiliate him, this I swear to you! Just give me a chance!”

“This family is powerful, Sorcerer, I don’t think you’ve heard of the other legends… He flies on carpets, he can see a man’s thoughts, he can—“

“I can do things too, just with different techniques, don’t be so impressed by him.”

“Fine.” The nobleman smiled. “You know what? I’m actually looking forward to this. I’ll leave now and summon the Rabbi to confront you. We’ll make a whole public spectacle out of this, crowds on either side, the duel fought right here outside your house, the place where you suffered your first humiliation…”

The sorcerer grinned.


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 892)

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