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Baba Saleh's Unconditional Love for Every Jew

Published on Tuesday November 13th, 2018

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu once recounted the following story: "One day, I attended a Seudat Mitzvah with Baba Saleh in Netivot. Among the participants was a man named Elbaz, a member of the city council for the city of Beer Sheva, representing the Meretz party (far left Israeli political party).

Some participants thought that it was inappropriate for a man such as Elbaz, a non-observant and left-wing Jew, to participate in a Seudat Mitzvah in the company of a holy and pure man like Baba Saleh. As I sat next to Baba Saleh at the head of the table, I was requested to ask Baba Saleh whether this man ought to be present.

But I did not want to enact the story of Kamtza Bar Kamtza, and less yet shame a man who attended this meal. His presence at the meal of such a holy man as Baba Saleh seemed to indicate that a spark of holiness had been awakened in his soul and that (probably by now) he was already transformed into a different and much more laudable man.

I pretended not to understand the requests of these "self-righteous" men. Realizing they could not count on me, they spoke directly to Baba Saleh, but he also pretended not to understand their request. They gave up and went back to their places around the table, lamenting the profanation of the Divine Name which was transpiring right in front of their eyes.

In the meantime, Baba Saleh pulled a bottle of Arak and asked the congregation: "who is pouring us a drink to honor this joyful occasion? The people looked around, curious to find out who would win this merit. Baba Saleh would certainly choose a most virtuous man or an individual who had accomplished a very important Mitzvah.

After a few minutes, Baba Saleh asked, "Is there a man named Elbaz here? They searched and found no Elbaz, except for the one they had been wanting to evict, but he was ashamed to approach the Tzaddik.

While Baba Saleh repeated his request several times over, some people, who had interpreted things differently, urged the member of the city council to go to Baba Saleh. Shily, he approached the Rav and declared: "My name is Elbaz. "

Baba Saleh bowed his head to Elbaz and said to him in a whisper: "Do you know that our family name was Elbaz before being Abuchatzeira? You are one of us! "

The man was very moved by the words of the Rav. He took the bottle of Arak from the Rav's holy hands, and trembling with emotion, he served all the participants, including the "self-righteous" Jews who were on his case. Everyone was amazed to witness Baba Saleh's conduct.

On the Shabbat following this incident, everyone was surprised to see this man rushing to the synagogue holding a pouch containing his Tallit. Everyone witnessed how it was possible to reach out to a Jew with love". (From the source: Ohavam Shel Israel).

To Love Every Jew-Ahavat Israel!

Baba Saleh's attitude differed from that of some of the meal's participants, who out of extra zeal, thought it was permissible to shame a Jew because he did not observe the Torah and the Mitzvot.

Baba Saleh and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu recount this anecdote to teach us the proper path to choose. Moreover, precisely because this man was defined as a secular and non-observant Jew, it was possible to discover the extent of the Tzaddik love for every Jew. Loving the righteous is not very difficult. The success of a test in Ahavat Israel is assessed by the love we profess on distant or difficult people, keeping in mind that every Jew, whoever he is, is still the beloved son of God, praised be He.

As Rabbi Meir puts it: "A Jew, whoever he is, is called a son. Whether or not he obeys the will of God”.

In this spirit, not only did Baba Saleh and Mordechai Eliyahu avoids shaming, humiliating and expelling Elbaz in a dreadful manner. Quite the contrary, they welcomed him and brought him close to Hashem, with love and kindness.

As the Baal Shem Tov reports: "A perfect and harmless Tzaddik does not see the evil in others. In his eyes, everyone is virtuous and pious, which is why he loves Jews very much… "(Baal Shem Tov on the Torah, Kedoshim).

As Rabbi Avraham Chaim Zagdoun says: "He who wants to love Hashem must love the Jewish people first. Failing to love the Jewish People, makes our love of God worthless." (Beerot Avraham Chaim).

The lofty level of the great sages of Israel, is their unconditional love for every Jew, an aptitude that can surely bring the Jewish people closer to their heavenly Father.

"The actions of the fathers are an example to the sons," may we be guided by the light of Baba Saleh and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, and all the holy tzaddikim to sincerely love all the members of the Jewish people, Amen.

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