Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the Death of Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira

I am greatly perturbed by the murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira, the grandson of the famed 20th century Kabbalist Baba Sali, even more so when I learned of the motive behind the murder. As it is, a lot of controversy has been surrounding the Rabbi over the last year, and I have been reflecting on the role this might have played in his murder. He was basically accused of charging exhorbitant fees for spiritual services rendered. Now, I am perfectly aware that there is a powerful religious faction out there who condemns anyone receiving any reward for segulot, etc. This simply does not make sense to me in a world where you have to "earn your keep," and where you need cold hard cash to keep body and soul together. Personally speaking, my only objection is against those who are fleecing their clients, and in this regard it was said that the Rabbi was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a very gullible public, who were buying into his "supersitious promises." Critics called it "a hair raising tale," and accused the Rabbi of being a swindler.
Having been on the most beneficial receiving end of Segulot and Kameot, I am disinclined to glibly dismiss such items as being superstitious nonsense. This notwithstanding, I certainly would not condone robbing the poor of their hard earned money, and this would seem to be the major issue at play here. One ultra-Orthodox resident of Brooklyn, Menachem Ellowich, maintained his daughter died because Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira "cursed" her, and he stated "the day my daughter died, I decided to bury him," and that since "he cannot get the rabbi convicted of manslaughter, at least he wants to get back the $100,000 he paid for the blessing that would end his daughter's barrenness." The subsequent tale of the excursion(s) of Menachem Ellowich and others to the Rabbi is a convoluted one, in which accusations and counter accusations have been flying in all directions. As it is, believing with every fibre of my being in the process of "self creation," i.e. that all humans are constantly creating their own personal life circumstances, it appears to me that the "reality" which the Rabbi had been "living" in recent years, and was seemingly unable to recognize or change, had turned into a roller coaster ride leading to a tragic inevitability.
Now, "realities" do have a tendency of being "reinterpreted" with hindsight. Subsequent to the funeral of Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira, a headline read "Rabbi Abuhatzeira Bore the Burden of Evil Decrees," and the subheading continued "Rabbi Abuhatzeira saved the people of Israel from evil decrees through his brutal death, leading rabbis say." The brother of the deceased affirmed that "harsh punishments were decreed on the people of Israel, and he wanted to nullify them," and continued "as he nullified many harsh decrees for us.....We ask you, Rabbi Elazar: go before the Throne of Glory and pray there for the people of Israel. Pray for the entire family. Pray for your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren and wife." How very curious! According to all reliable sources, he was slayed by a frequent visitor, Asher Dahan, a 42 year old resident of the Haredi city of Elad, who was constantly seeking blessings and advise from the Rabbi, and whose motive is reported to have been solely "that Abuhatzeira had failed to solve his marital problems." Now, did we not hear similar sentiments expressed by his every growing list of detractors around the globe?
Underlying this situation is a most serious matter. Firstly, whilst one may employ special spiritual techniques and practices in support of ones aim to solve problematic situations, i.e. a failing marriage, I believe the fundamental failure here is recognition, or at least the instruction of the "disappointed killer," of the necessity to change the "obstacles" within himself which lead to the failing of his marriage in the first place. It is no good to simply lay the blame squarely at the feet of your life partner. The witty May West was perfectly right in claiming that "it takes two to get one into trouble"! Secondly, I believe the major dilemma are in fact these "Tzadikim" who set themselves up on a pedestal of self-aggrandisement. Their perceived "infallibility" is placing them so way beyond criticism and the recognition of their fallibility as beings of flesh and blood, that they are being viewed by their compatiots as being virtually the "mouthpiece" of the Divine One on earth, if not the very incarnations of the Almighty in person.....God forbid!
It is always "I will heal you"! "I will solve your marriage problems"! When will they realise that you can no more live anyone else’s life for them than you can eat or defecate for them? Again, don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the traditions of "Practical Kabbalah," however, what I find fundamentally flawed is the cultivation of total reliance on the person of the Tzadik to solve all life problems. Most people are unable, or even unwilling, to work changes within their own beings, i.e. establishing the right mindset which would afford at least the possibility for a lasting implementation of the new "reality" they seek. Instead they would expect a Tzadik, especially one who is a "mini-Messiah," to "do it" for them. This is extremely dangerous, and all would-be "Tzadikim" should take careful note that if they dare allow this to continue, there is bound to be more incidents akin to this sorry saga of the now "martyred" Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira!


chaya zaetz said...

Its not right to justify the murder of a man based on rumors I have been to rabbi elazar e few times I know for a fact that he always has a person with him in the room to witness what he said and the people said some of the people make up stories he always tried to keep his side of the bargain by constantly praying and learning Torah and being a role model to others not all his blessings materialized it doe not take away his superhuman efforts to help everyone it's going to be impossible to replace him
Nobody was under any duress to go to him it's was all by choice to justify the murderer is inconceivable

Jacobus G. Swart said...

Nowhere in my missive is their any "justification of the murderer," and your suggestion that I have done so is quite absurd!

The plain facts of the matter are:

1. The Rabbi lived in luxury, had a run-in with the tax authorities over the millions he earned from his spiritual activities. Eventually "Under the settlement, Rabbi Abuhatzera is paying NIS 15 million in taxes on payments received for blessings and talismans." - [full communique "Globes, Israel business news" - March 16, 2005]

2. "I decided to bury him,” said Menachem Ellowich.....A few weeks ago, a man armed with a knife tried to do just that.....

Ellowich is trolling the Internet to find others hurt by Abuhatzeira..... Meanwhile, his pile of papers is growing: printouts from charitable associations, taped conversations with the rabbi's representatives in the United States and with other victims.....

Ellowich began a private war against Abuhatzeira, exploring and documenting the rabbi's modus operandi..... Ellowich said he has dozens of testimonies from people who say that within a few minutes, they were writing a check. He began taking a small tape recorder to his meetings with Abuhatzeira's agents. He also demanded his money back, to no avail.

He approached a Jewish newspaper, a local Jewish politician and finally, the police, who opened a case against Abuhatzeira.

This year, for the first time, Abuhatzeira did not come on his annual December visit to Brooklyn.

Ellowich's story recalls the pattern of behavior by Abuhatzeira that Haaretz detailed in a series of articles in 1997: He tries to impress people, persuades them to write a check in exchange for a blessing, obtains more money and threatens a curse if necessary.

Another man said his father paid Abuhatzeira for a blessing, but the rabbi threatened that if he married the woman he loved, he would have defective children. 'That man and his gangsters have to be stopped,' the man said.

Meir G., from New Jersey, said he heard the rabbi could perform miracles. "When I met him for the first time, he described passionately how my life would change for the better. I was filled with joy and optimism. In summing up, the rabbi said these things would only come true if I paid him $100,000. At that point, it was impossible to refuse. That same day, I started sending him the money. At some point I couldn’t go on, and Mr. Harman [Abuhatzeira's aide] threatened that if I stopped, "your son will die." I am a religious man and I took the threats very seriously. Since I met him, my life has been a disaster.'

M.V., 38, from Brooklyn, never filed a police complaint. But he did supply an affidavit stating that he had given more than $500,000 to Abuhatzeira in exchange for the promise of a baby that was never born. M.V., who has since gone into bankruptcy, said his wife and father will not let him complain because they are afraid of a curse. 'But I don’t believe in the curse,' he said. 'If his blessings were a fraud, so are the curses'." -[complete article "Vos iz Neias: The Voice of the Orthodox Jewish Community" - 26/2/2010; related articles in Ha'areta (Ha' - 26/2/2010]

Further complaints regarding the Rabbi's actions and details on the charges being filed with the Brooklyn DA are available online.

So, you wish to tell me that the many online articles on this matter; the ultra religious, "very frum" folk who complained in the first instance; and the Israeli taxman who investigated the undeclared millions, were all LYING?

Surely lies of that nature are libellous, and so are filling false charges, and reprisals to such actions are obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense will tell you in the USA. So nu?