Hundreds of thousands, in shock and deep mourning, were on hand in Beer Sheva and Jerusalem to lay to rest HaRav Elazar Abuchatzeira zt"l, who was murdered at the age of 64 in a terrible tragedy during the nightly visiting hours.
The son of HaRav Meir Abuchatzeira and the grandson of HaRav Yisrael Abuchatzeira, the Baba Sali, his life was cut short Thursday night after midnight. He was stabbed by a religious man who was a regular visitor. The man is now under psychiatric observation. The Jewish world was stunned by the histalkus of a rov who lived a holy life, was a light to thousands and spent his entire life immersed in Torah and avodoh.
Elazar Abuchatzeira was born in Menachem Av 5707 (1947) in Morocco, the eldest son in the family, to HaRav Meir Abuchatzeira, the Baba Sali's eldest son, who served as rov of Fez and later of Midelt. HaRav Meir was born after his sister, Rabbanit Ruchama Abuchatzeira, who passed away on the night of Simchas Torah 5771 (2010).
His birth, after midnight, brought great joy to the kehilloh. The name Elazar was chosen by his grandfather, HaRav Yisrael, who said the letters are the first letters of the verse, "Ayin lo ro'asoh Elokim zulosecho" ("only your eye has seen Elokim").
The Baba Sali — known worldwide for his asceticism, righteousness and the power of his brochos — made aliya in 5711 (1951), settling in the town of Netivot, after consulting with HaRav Yissochor Meir zt"l, the rosh yeshiva of Netivot Yeshiva, regarding the borders of Eretz Yisroel.
HaRav Meir at that time returned to the family's hometown of Arpud, Morocco, where he took over his father's post of rov and av beis din of the Tafilalt District. When Elazar was 18 his mother passed away on Tisha B'Av 5725 (1965). His father then moved to Eretz Hakodesh, where the family settled in Ashdod, then a development town that was home to many Jews from North Africa.
For the first three years following his arrival, HaRav Meir maintained a taanis dibbur. His sister Ruchama took over the care of his young children in her home in nearby Yavneh, where her husband was the local rov.
Elazar studied at Yeshivat HaRambam and Yeshivat Beit Yosef in Tel Aviv, later transferring to Yeshivat Porat Yosef, where his brother, HaRav David ylct"a, of Nahariya, was enrolled. At the time the yeshiva was located in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon, before relocating to the Old City.
The Baba Sali sent the two brothers, still in yeshiva, to provide chizuk at moshavim. They would spend Shabbos at three different moshavim located in close proximity — Shabbos night at one, Shabbos morning at dawn they would set out for a second moshav and Shabbos afternoon they spent at a third. Over the course of one and a half years they visited most of the moshavim in Israel, giving extended shiurim and drashos.
After marrying the Rabbanit tlct"a, HaRav Elazar continued his studies at Yeshivat Porat Yosef for a time, until his grandfather instructed him to settle in Beer Sheva, and even sent people to him for brochos. On one occasion an avreich asked HaRav Meir about the mysterious young man sitting next to him. "That's my son, Rabi Elazar," he replied. "He conducts himself piously and his words are beginning to make a mark in Shamayim."
HaRav Elazar started a yeshiva, which he had connected by a special tunnel to his home. Always careful to guard his eyes, he took pains to avoid having to venture out into the streets. Jews from around the country began streaming to his home for brochos and advice.
At his beis medrash he set up a kollel with nearly 100 students, which at the time was unheard of in Beer Sheva, the capital of the Negev. In addition to his remarkable Torah study and tefilloh, he also gained renown for his acts of chessed. In a hall adjacent to the beis medrash, tables were set up for hundreds of needy Jews. The kitchen churned out 600-800 meals per day, some of which were served to people in the hall and others were sent to needy people at home.
According to HaRav David Abuchatzeira, he had mastered all of Shas. He spent more than 15 years of his life in taaniyos. He was so careful in guarding his eyes that he would not go out into the street or appear in public, even at family occasions. During his visiting hours he wore a hood that hung down over part of his face, as his holy forefathers did. Because of his great piousness and asceticism, he would not allow any photographs taken of him, therefore only a handful exist.
Whenever baalei battim and merchants came to him for brochos or advice he would ask where their children study, often instructing them to enroll their sons and daughters in Torah-based schools. He also urged them to set time for Torah study and to attend shiurim.
Last Thursday night, like every night, he received visitors in his home. Nobody imagined those would be his last hours on earth. After the bizarre attack he was rushed in critical condition to Soroka Medical Center, but returned his soul to his Maker en route.
Despite the late hour, many of his local followers gathered around his home and yeshiva, unable to come to terms with the terrible tragedy. On Friday morning at nine, an enormous levaya set out from the yeshiva, Kollel Yagel Yaakov Yismach Yisrael on Rechov Kafrisin in Beer Sheva.
The first eulogy was delivered by the deceased's uncle, HaRav Baruch Abuchatzeira of Netivot, the son of Baba Sali, followed by the deceased's son, HaRav Pinchas Abuchatzeira. He told that just a week ago his father had called his children together and told them that he did not know how to deal with the pain of yissurim. HaRav Pinchas also described his father's holy life, saying that he fasted most days, never ate meat or chicken, stayed within his own daled amos and dedicated his nights and days to learning Torah. He limited the times that he accepted visitors.
Following his hesped, all of his brothers stepped up to ask their father's forgiveness and pledged to uphold his legacy. They made a public announcement that HaRav Pinchas would take over their father's post, a decision backed by all of the rabbonim of the Abuchatzeira family as well as HaRav Elazar's gabbai.
On the way to Jerusalem police cleared the road to allow the ambulance to pass, and blocked off junctions along the roadside. Thousands gathered at Latrun Junction, Shaar Hagai and other spots en route. Riding in the ambulance were the deceased's brothers, HaRav David Chai, HaRav Rafael, HaRav Yekutiel and HaRav Yehoshua Rachamim.
At Yeshivat Porat Yosef, a eulogy was given by HaRav Ovadia Yosef, followed by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and HaRav Yosef Chaim Kopshitz, one of the roshei yeshiva and one of the rabbeim of the niftar. After the levaya, which drew hundreds of thousands from all streams and backgrounds, led by roshei yeshivas, admorim, dayanim, rabbonim and public figures, he was buried on Har Hazeisim near the graves of the Or Hachaim HaKodosh and the Rashash.
HaRav Elazar Abuchatzeira zt"l is survived by his five sons and two daughters — including three children who have not yet married — and grandchildren, all of them following in his lofty ways.