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Jewish pilgrimage in Morocco #5 : David Ben Barroukh, the legacy of Taroudant’s saint

David Ben Barroukh is the beloved saint of Taroudant, in the Souss Valley. The name of this Jewish saint, visited yearly by Jewish pilgrims, is associated with several legends and accounts.

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The tomb of Rabbi David Ben Barroukh in Taroudant. / Ph. DR

Many Jewish saints are buried in the Taroudant region, a city that lies in the Souss Valley in southern Morocco. The tomb of Rabbi David Ben Barroukh, also known as ‘Rabbi David Barukh Cohen Azogh’ is located near the city of Taroudant. The date of his birth and the origins of his family remain unknown. But several accounts link his family to Jerusalem, Taroudant or Tiznit.

Thus, according to the book «Le David Barroukh» by Rabbi Shimone Bensoussan, the saint’s ancestors were buried in Iraq and more precisely in Babel. Quoted by a website that bears the name of the saint, the same book recalls that Ben Barroukh’s family «migrated to Egypt, then to Sudan, to finally settle down in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco».

However, another account gives a different version of the story, stressing that Ben Barroukh is originally from a village called Oufran (near Tiznit), that he left when he was young for Mentaga, a village near Taroudant. Meanwhile, others suggest that he came from Jerusalem «to raise money for Yeshivot (Jewish schools)», the same source said.

All these accounts agree on the fact that Rabbi David Ben Barroukh first settled down in Mentaga before leaving his village to live in Aghzo N’Bahamou, a small village located near Taroudant. The village hosts the tomb of the Jewish saint.

A Jewish saint with a mark on the forehead

The legend says that the Jewish saint was born with a mark on his forehead. His father used to forbid him from leaving the house, «without covering his forehead». His father predicted that looking at the mark on his son’s forehead would make people go blind. This was the reason why his family chose to live in small and isolated villages.

According to the blog «David Ben Barroukh», the family moved from Mentaga to Aghzo N’Bahamou because of an incident. «As a kid, he played with other children, one of whom was the son of the village’s Sheikh. The latter, while playing, threw a stone on Rabbi David Ben Barroukh who was wounded and annoyed by the gesture», the same source wrote.

Angered by that, Ben Barroukh «removed the veil covering his forehead and looked in the kid’s eyes», who would have «immediately lost his sight and turned blind».

The Sheikh eventually asked the family to leave the village, offering to cover the costs of the trip. Growing up, Ben Barroukh married the sister of Rabbi Khalifa Ben Malka, the saint buried in Agadir’s old cemetery.

A «legendary» merchant

During his lifetime, the saint of Taroudant lived off his commercial activities which were mainly about selling beeswax to candle makers. «One day, he brought these famous loaves of wax, to sell them, but unfortunately, the sale was not made. He had a moment of anger and exclaimed : «If it is so, I do not want this wax anymore».

But he found himself with a large amount of unsold merchandise that finally pushed him to go to Marrakech to sell it.

«When he reached his destination, he went to the market and went directly to weigh his loaves of wax. Once on the scale, the latter did not indicate the weight. He used another scale, the result was the same, the wax had no weight ...»

This second legend tells that after a merchant recognized the Jewish saint following this incident, he kept calling his name. As Rabbi David Ben Barroukh's identity was recognized, the problem would have been solved : «the scale worked and indicated the exact weight the merchandise had».

The saint, nicknamed «Baba Doudou», died circa 1785. «Upon his death, a shrine was built to honor him», L’Economiste wrote. Annually and for two weeks in December, hundreds of Jews of Moroccan origin travel to Taroudant to celebrate David Ben Barroukh Cohen Azogh's hiloula and thus honor his memory.

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