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Jewish pilgrimage in Morocco #28 : Yehudah Jabali, the father of miracles

Rabbi Yehudah Jabali is a saint venerated by both Muslims and Jews. His tomb in the city of Ksar el-Kebir is linked to many miracles and legends shared by the Moroccan Jewish community.

Rabbi Yehudah Jabali. / DR
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For the Muslims of Ksar el-Kebir, a city in northwest Morocco, he is Sidi Bel-Abbas, a Muslim saint. But for the Jews, who recall that the city had, like many other Moroccan cities, a Jewish quarter and cemetery, he is a Jewish saint who died around 1780.

The story of Rabbi Yehudah Jabali (or Yehudah Zabali according to other accounts) is associated to the history of Alcazarquivir, built by the Almohad caliphs and known for the famous Three Kings battle that took place in it in August 1578.

History has little to say about the birth, life and death of Yehudah Jabali. Only his mausoleum, located in the middle of the city, says a lot about this almost mythical character.

Several legends linked to the tomb of Rabbi Yehudah Jabali

According to «Saint Veneration Among the Jews in Morocco» (Wayne State University Press, 1998), by historian Issachar Ben-Ami, Yehudah Jabali «is buried in a courtyard and over him [his tomb] is a yeshiva», a Jewish school.

Legend has it that Rabbi Yehudah Jabali comes out «on the night of hillulah» and «his image appears in the fire», Ben-Ami wrote.

«My mother of blessed memory, before the hillulah, used to go with another Jewish woman to whitewash the room. People dreamed that R. meir Ba’al Ha-Nes was buried near the tomb of R. Yehudah Zabali. There are little stones there, and on these stones they light candles».

Issachar Ben-Ami

Another account suggests that «a man dreamt that near the wall R.Amram Ben Diwan was buried». According to the same book, «they showed him the spot [in the dream]. They dug there and found a sapling, which had grown and grown until it became a large tree that covered the place».

Visited by the Jews of Morocco and elsewhere for several decades, other legends were linked to the courtyard of the mausoleum. It is said that the courtyard had a nail on which Rabbi Yehudah Jabali «hung a chicken there that laid an egg every day».

«People lived in this courtyard but there was a niche which no one would come close to. Only on Fridays a certain Jew would collect candles and light them there», the legend says.

«Anyone who does not want to go to the tomb of R. Yehudah Jabali goes to the courtyard», especially those who want their prayers to be heard.

However, the legend says, «if a woman was unclean, she was forbidden to enter». «If she did enter, her children or her husband would die because the place is sacred», Ben-Ami wrote.

Rabbi Yehudah Jabali is also known for «assisting women who are about to give birth». «My mother says that she dreamed of him the day before she gave birth to my older brother. He said to her: do not be afraid, you are going to have a handsome boy. Thus, she named him David Yehudah, like the saint», a woman said on Dafina forum.

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