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

works.

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

great level.

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

me asking”.

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

much!”.


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

formed government!

May we get inspiration from the great Zaken HaMekubalim in

our divine service and follow his path in Avodat Hashem, with

simplicity and patience.



Breslov tradition can be divided into two main groups. There

are those who believe Rebbe Nachman is the one and only Tzaddik

for all generations and those that believe other Rabbis in between are

also Tzaddikim.

Rabbi Yisrael Ber Odesser is certainly one of the figures loved

and respected by most of the people from both sides of the equation.

He’s always been a mystery and became known as the Saba

(grandfather) for his outstanding wisdom and refusal to be called a

Rabbi.

Throughout his life, he faced great povery and opposition by

many leading rabbis. Yet, Hashem in his great mercy made many

miracles for him, since the day he was born. His mother Rivka had

entered sudden labor when she was in the outskirts of the city. No

one was nearby and the baby fell in a pit of mud. Suddenly

mysterious man came and saved young Yisrael from the pit. It was an

even greater miracle because that location was reserved for women

and no one expected a man to come.

Named after the holy Ba’al Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer)

and Rabbi Dov Ber (the Maggid of Mezritch), the Saba actually

became a follower of Rebbe Nachman “by chance”. Young Yisrael

used to study at a Hasidic Yeshiva near Rabbi Meir Ba’al HaNes’

gravesite and once found a worn-out book called Hishtapchut

HaNefesh (the overgrowing of the soul). He didn’t know it was a

Breslov book but it guided him in developing his Avodat Hashem and,

later, he found out about its origins.


Though the movement didn’t start until later, the NaNach

revelation came when he was 24 years old. At that time, he claimed

to have received a letter from Heaven from Rebbe Nachman himself.

The letter, called “The Petek” (literally, “note”) taught the widespread

niggun “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman”, which he disseminated

among Jews of all stripes.

Obviously, there were some controversy to the authenticity of

the letter, as evidenced from opposition of many rabbis at the time.

Rabbi Odesser deflected all attacks against it and even received the

approval of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein when they met early in 1980. The

Petek’s niggun, according to Saba contained the last song of the

Redemption, which the sages said was going to be revealed at the end

of days. It also contained many Kabbalistic secrets alluded in its

letters.

It also happened that Breslov was a much rejected Hasidic

group back at that time. Rabbi Odesser had to face great challenges

with the Tiberias community, where he lived. Even his father, Shlomo

Isaac Odesser tried to persuade him to abandon the Breslov path but

gave up on his own son. This happened when, for the first time in life

young Yisrael disobeyed his father’s orders to choose any Hasidic

path except for Breslov, and kicked him out of his house during

Shabbat.

Rabbi Odesser, together with his mentor the great Rabbi

Yisrael Karduner used to visit Kivrei Tzaddikim a lot and many

miracles were performed on their behalf. He stressed the path of

simplicity during personal prayer and screaming loudly like the

Hasidim of Karlin. He also made great efforts to nullify himself to the

teachings of Rebbe Nachman as much as possible.


It was known that Rabbi Odesser became a close friend with

Rav Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri (known as the Saba Kadisha, literally

“The Holy Grandfather”), the chief rabbi of Tzfat and a huge Kabbalist

in his own right. Rabbi Odesser was young, but he already displayed

great potential, and asked Rav Alfandri to become his servant. Yet,

this servitude didn’t last long because, as soon as Rav Alfandri saw

the young Yisrael saying Tikkun Chatzot (the Rectification of

Midnight) with incredible power, he turned him into a colleague and

refused to be served by him. In one occasion, Rav Alfandri asked

Rabbi Odesser what he thought about a certain book he received to

give his Haskamah (approbation). Rabbi Odesser claimed it

contradicted some of the teachings of the Arizal and Rav Alfandri was

thankful for being saved from giving his signature.

Rabbi Odesser’s wisdom was astounding not least because

people didn’t see him studying so much. Surprisingly, he was not

known as prodigious child in his youth, but displayed a deep

commitment to searching for the truth. He was known to already at

the age of six engage in the practice of Sigufim (self-affliction) in

order to distance himself from physicality.

Many relate that his main Avodah (service) was in prayer and

that was very accurate. Once a student asked him “Rebbe, how do

you know so much? We barely see you studying!”. The Saba replied

“You are right, but when I pray I can see all the knowledge opening

up before me during the little time I study.”

He is buried in Har HaMenuchot and his Hilula is on the 18 th of

Cheshvan where he is constantly visited by admirers and followers.

One peculiar mark of his humility was the fact that he instructed the


Chevra Kadisha to not state that he was a Breslover in his tombstone

since he missed a few of the nights from reciting Tikkun Chatzot.



​As we pass Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av, we head on to the high holidays, but first we must prepare ourselves to make the most out of it. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot is one full spiritual system that depends on all its parts to change our lives.

​But, before that entering these very auspicious times, we go through the holy month of Elul. The month of Elul holds tremendous potential for transformation in our spiritual and physical lives. In his incredible compassion, Hashem shines his 13 Attributes of Mercy on all Creation, as a way of helping us “score high”.

​We also have the custom of blowing the Shofar and saying the Psalm 27 in order to beseech Hashem to help us do Teshuva. It’s interesting to note that this Psalm has 13 times the name YHVH, corresponding to each one of the 13 Attributes of Mercy. The powerful “divine unification of the beard” can also be done during the day and not only on times of grace like Shabbat and after midnight on weekdays.

​The Sephardim have a custom to pray the Selichot (penitential prayers) every day until Yom Kippur, while Ashkenazim recite them only the week before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. It is known that the Arizal followed both customs in different regards, but when it comes to Selichot, he goes according to the Sephardim as Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in Sha’ar HaKavanot (Gates of Mystical Intentions).

​If you want to change your life for the better, there isn’t a more auspicious time than these 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur.This is because our sages teach us “everything follows the beginning” and this is a very powerful period.

​While it’s still possible to change our year after Rosh Hashana, it’s more difficult (but doable) since on this day, the Judgment is written. After Yom Kippur it requires even more effort as that is when the Judgment is sealed. Finally, after the night of Hoshanah Rabbah from Sukkot, it’s almost impossible to change what will happen since the notes of Judgment are delivered to the Heavenly angels to carry it through. And, as the Ramchal writes, “their minds don’t settle until they fulfil their mission”.

​As the Pasuk in Tehilim says: “Seek Hashem when he is to be found”. Our prophets reveal to us that this is the month of Elul and the Zohar says that this period is like when the King is in the fields. While usually secluded in his castle overseeing His kingship, during Elul Hashem goes out to meet everyone and hear their needs.Elul also stands for the phrase from Song of Songs אני לדודי ודודי לי (whose initial letters for Elul), meaning “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me”.

​It’s noteworthy that Rebbe Nachaman teaches us in Likutey Moharan (II : Torah 73) that whoever wants to merit returning to God should recite Tehillim regularly, and that just as we go back to Hashem, He comes back to us on the 50th Gate of Repentance.

​To explain: There are 50 Gates of Repentance, corresponding to the 50 Gates of Understanding emanating from Olam HaBa. A person can’t reach the 50th level by himself. He can do all his work of perfecting himself but the last one is reserved for Hashem to lift him up, as it is written, “Return to Me and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7).

​Rebbe Nachman also teaches that each of the forty-nine gates of repentance correspond to the forty-nine letters in the names of the Twelve Tribes of God and also the 49 Days of the Omer where we purify ourselves. Sometimes people can’t find their letter and gate, in order to enter the state of Teshuva. Nevertheless, Tehilim have the immense power to arouse a person to it.

​As we know, our sages teach us that Teshuva was created before the physical world, because Creation could not endure without it. It follows that it literally transcends our mode of understanding, because logically, there wouldn’t be any reason to allow a person to continue his normal life after sinning. Hashem knew this and paved the way for us to receive the greatest good in this life and the next through Teshuva.

​Therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to make the most out of these special 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur to rectify everything we’ve done and ask for forgiveness.Many have the tradition to do Cheshbon Nefesh (self-accounting) for all they did during the year because when we go out to meet Hashem by confessing our sins, all accusations are dropped.

​May we all be blessed to have a wonderful preparation for the high holidays!

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