With great effort and perseverance, while sanctifying and purifying himself and abstaining absolutely from the pleasures of the world, the holy tzadik, Chacham Rabbeinu Yaakov Abuchatzeira zt”l, became so immersed in the revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah, that “no secret was hidden from him.” (Daniel 4-6) With great purity and depth, he studied Kabbalah until he was as familiar with the paths of the hidden Torah as he was with the streets of his hometown, Tafilalet, Morocco. He developed many disciples, both his very close students in his renowned yeshivah, as well as the masses who flocked to hear the word of Hashem, receive blessings and advice, and to have their cases judged before him.
His blessings contained a unique power, and the Heavenly pathways were always open to him. One of the most famous stories about the great “Abir Yaakov” has been handed down for generations by a Tunisian Jew from the island of Djerba, whose very existence was testimony to the story: On one of his journeys, Chacham Yaakov arrived in Tunis. Naturally, all the residents of the island of Djerba came out to greet their distinguished guest and to accord him the honor he deserved. To many Jews, this was their great moment of hope. The announcement of his arrival heralded the mercy and salvation that they so desperately needed, as the great Moroccan miracle worker was famed for bringing an end to people’s suffering.
Among the many who made their way to Chacham Yaakov for his blessing was a childless Tunisian Jew. The man sat before the Chacham and poured out his pain, suffering and intense yearning for a child who will follow in the ways of Hashem. Upon hearing his request, Chacham Yaakov handed him a special kemaya (amulet) and informed him that in one year’s time, his wife would give birth to a baby boy. However, as Heaven destined, the child will be weak, and as a protection, the boy would need to wear this amulet around his neck his entire life so that no harm could befall him.
The tzadik took the man’s hand and looked at him deeply. He warned him never to take off the amulet, for if he were to remove it for more than a certain amount of time, his son would die almost immediately. The man returned home to his wife with the news of the holy man’s blessing and the happy anticipation of future events, telling her the details of the amulet.
The following year, the blessing was realized with the birth of a son. The joyous parents took great care to supervise and ensure that their son wore the amulet at all times. When the child grew older and became more independent, his father took him aside to explain the significance of the amulet that he wore around his neck from the time of his birth. It would only be a matter of time before the parents would learn, to their sorrow, that although their son did heed this warning, he was not strict enough in its observance. Perhaps he did not place enough importance on Chacham Yaakov’s words, or possibly he did not value life itself sufficiently. In the end, the difference between the two was not great. The boy had scarcely reached the age of 13 when he was suddenly discovered sprawled on his bed with no signs of life. It emerged that the lad had gone swimming in the river with his friends and had taken off the amulet. He came home and forgot the amulet by the river. When he lay down upon his bed, the angel of death quickly came and snuffed out his life, which had been “insured” by the amulet.
When they learned of the great tragedy that had befallen them, the parents were in a terrible state of shock and mourning. The miracle that they had experienced was a rare event, and at their advancing age, they could not hope for another. While still mourning the loss of their only son, the father announced confidently to his wife, “I am sure that Chacham Yaakov’s blessing was not for naught. Even though his blessing was fulfilled and bore fruit, the fact remains that our child did not merit building a home of his own. What purpose was there to this blessing? I have great faith in the power of the tzadik’s prayer, which brought us salvation, and I am sure that this salvation was not for no reason.”
At the end of that year, those Jews of simple faith merited holding in their arms a newborn baby boy once again. This miracle, which occurred in their old age, was a combination of Chacham Yaakov’s blessing as well as the special power inherent in their rock-solid faith in the word of the holy sages. This incident was related by none other than the second son, who fastidiously followed the instructions of the tzadik as told to his parents, and who himself merited seeing generations of righteous descendants.