The world of Kabbalah is shrouded in secrecy. Those that seek
to climb the rungs of divine service and perfect it know that the more
one reveals, the more one loses. That’s why it’s often difficult to write
about big Kabbalists (Mekubalim). They barely reveal anything about
themselves and our limited eyes cannot comprehend the depth of
their thoughts and devotions. Nevertheless, they are the ones making
open miracles and bringing salvations.
Few Kabbalists can compare to Rav Yitzchak Kaduri.
Nicknamed the Zaken HaMekubalim (The Elder of the Kabbalists) for
his wisdom and piety, Rav Kaduri was one of the last few, well-versed
in the arts of miracles and amulets.
As customary of all Sephardi Mekubalim, Rav Kaduri practiced
the Kavanot of the Rashash. He was known for curing ilnesses and
infertility through his blessings and amulets which were very sought
after. While he published no books, a single edition of his writings
were published after his passing, which some estimate happened
when he was over 110 years old.
Born in Baghdad around 1902, he received a blessing for long
life from the Ben Ish Chai himself and even kept one of his belts
throughout his life. His funeral hosted over half a million followers
one of the largest in the history of modern Israel.
While young he studied under the Ben Ish Chai and Rav Yehuda
Fetayah, and many already perceived he was destined for greatness.
He posessed incredible photographic memory and worked as a
bookbinder, making sure to memorise the book he was binding
before returning it to the owner.
Rav Kaduri moved to the old city with his family around 1934
and began his bookbinding job for the Yeshivat Porat Yosef. This gave
him the opportunity to study the books and amass a large knowledge
of all the Talmud, including Rashi and Tosfot, as well as Kabbalistic
The custom of the Mekubalim have always been to live a life of
poverty and simplicity. This was done in order to minimize the
weight of physicality in order to receive the spiritual flow. Rav Kaduri
was known to fast frequently, speak very little, and also to visit the
graves of tzaddikim.
It’s often amazing to see the degree of detachment to reality
many Mekubalim have. To their credit, their lack of knowledge in
mundane things we often consider basic are a testament of their
In a few occasions, Rav Kaduri travelled to give shiurim
(classes) on Kabbalah. Once he was going to Tzfat in a car driven by
one of his attendents. The class was scheduled to start in about 15
minutes, but the car at that time couldn’t go faster. There was still a
long way to go and Rav Kaduri asked him “Can’t we go faster? We are
going to be late!”. The attendant replied “Believe me Rabbi, I’m going
as fast as I can! Can’t you teleport us there?”. As we know, Rav Chaim
Vital wrote in Sefer HaChezionot (Book of Visions), he once saved his
own life using one of the divine names and teleported himself from
Jerusalem to Damascus. These techniques were known to only a few
select individuals and carried great risks for using.
“I don’t make use of that for these occasions”, came the reply.
Without thinking twice, Rav Kaduri took the attendant’s hand, put it
on the gear stick and cried “quick, let’s mix the gas more!”. To
everyone’s astonishment, the car actually began going faster!
Someone once asked him after this episode whether Rav
Kaduri used to “bind angels by oaths”. This is also one of the very
dangerous Kabbalistic techniques to have them do one’s bidding. The
problem is that while they may end up doing a person’s will, they
inevitably come back for revenge for having used them for petty
purposes. One needs to be on a really high level to bind an angel by
an oath and even so do it entirely L’Shem Shamayim (for Divine
purposes). To this question, Rav Kaduri replied “I don’t, but the
angels see that I’m an old man and just end up helping me without
The following story can give us a glimpse of his legendary
Tzaddikut (righteousness). Once Rav Kaduri was engaged in writing
an amulet. For those that don’t know, real amulets are also incredibly
risky for the writer, and demand tremendous Fear of Heaven and
fasting to atone for making them. Not only that, but they require a
few days of fasting while writing to complete them.
While engaged in it, his wife Dorit called him for lunch, which
mostly consisted of the Bamba snack. Rav Kaduri was so
concentrated that he didn’t respond, making his wife call him again a
few times. When she came close to him, she accidentally tripped the
ink container on his table, and the amulet was completely sullied
with black ink. Days of prayer and fasting supposedly went to waste.
Instead of getting angry at her, Rav Kaduri simply smiled and said
“Ah, my dear wife, you always know what’s best. Thank you very
Rav Kaduri has also been closely monitoring the Geulah
(Redemption) process unfold. Once a student asked him for a signal
that Mashiach was close to revealing himself. The answered
surprised everyone: “When there will be elections, but after the
elections they won’t be able to form a government. This is the clear
sign of the time of the Geula!”
No one knew how to explain that cryptic statement, but
nowadays we see that we had 3 elections in 2 years and still have no
May we get inspiration from the great Zaken HaMekubalim in
our divine service and follow his path in Avodat Hashem, with
simplicity and patience.