Please light a candle on the Evening of January 9
Rabbi Israel Abouhassira was born on the day of Rosh Hashanah in the year 5650. His father was the Tsaddik Rabbi Massoud, the Rabbi of Rissani, a village near Tafilalet.``
From his youth, Rabbi Israel was accustomed to getting up before dawn, and after having immersed in the mikveh of purification, he hurried to the synagogue for the morning service at Netz HaChama (sunrise). He prayed with immense fervor and concentration. After the service he would study with great tenacity.
In the year 5724, Rabbi Israel decided to complete his most cherished plan – to move to the Holy Land.
From Morocco, Rabbi Israel brought with him all the books and manuscripts that he possessed. This immense library comprised all sorts of books: Simple commentaries, secret commentaries, ancient books, new books, etc. He also possessed books of great worth, and manuscripts of great Rabbis and of Rabbis in his family. Just Rabbi Israel’s books themselves contained more than 3,000 pages of commentary on the Torah.
Rabbi Israel, a genius on both the revealed and secret aspects of the Torah, was a very modest man. Despite his great scholarship, he never considered himself worthy of all the honors that were bestowed upon him. He spoke of the great Sages of the generation with enormous deference, as if he were a dwarf standing before giants. Each time that a Talmid Chacham came to visit him, he rose in his honor and took the habit of excusing himself by saying, “Pardon me if I did not receive you with all the respect that I owe you.”
One day, his son-in-law found him seated on the floor lamenting. Rabbi Israel said, “People think that I have something, or I have a special trait, but I know myself well and I have none of these. I’m afraid that in this world, I’ll be awarded everything that is owed to me in the world to come, and that’s why I’m lamenting.”
All his life, Rabbi Israel was infused with the terrible pain caused by the suffering that followed the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Shechinah. He would always bring it to the fore by saying, “And the Shechinah, what does it say? ‘They have dishonored me.’’’
In the heart of the night, when all of creation was enveloped in deep silence, Rabbi Israel would sit on the floor, and from the deepest part of his being he would lament over the exile of the Shechinah and the Jewish people who were ridiculed and oppressed.
On Sunday, the 20th of Tevet 5744, Rabbi Israel fell sick from what would turn out to be his last illness. He lay dying for two weeks, during which time all of Israel implored Him who resides in the heavens to completely heal him. However the doors of heaven remained shut, and on Sunday, the 4th of Shevat 5744, Rabbi Israel was called before the Celestial Court.
May his merit protect us. Amen.