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Jewish pilgrimage in Morocco #32 : Pinhas Ha-Cohen, the holy savior of Pasha El Glaoui

Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen was born in Souss and lived in Marrakech. In the city, he saved the Pasha’s life twice and brought about many miracles in his lifetime.

The tomb of Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen in Marrakech. / DR
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Venerated by Jews and respected by Muslims, Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen is a saint like no other. Son of Rabbi Banyamine Ha-Cohen Azogh and grandson of Rabbi David Ben Baroukh, Pinhas Ha-Cohen was born in the Souss region, where he grew up and studied Torah.

There, he used to visit villages and towns to collect alms for Moroccans schools and Jews. The Rabbi later moved to Marrakech, where he made history.

According to Issachar Ben-Ami, the author of «Saint Veneration Among The Jews In Morocco» (Wayne State University, 1998), Rabbi Pinhas «arrived on his mare in Marrakech with his servant».

«Pinhas came to collect alms in Marrakech and wanted to spend the Sabbath with the rich man Yeshu’ah Corcos», Ben-Ami recalled. However, his stay in Marrakech was marked by an incident that involved the city’s Pasha Thami El Glaoui. «The Pasha’s policemen told him that a Jew had a beautiful mare, which he [the Pasha] should take [for himself]», wrote the historian.

The Pasha ordered his men to go bring the Rabbi’s mare. They went to Corcos’ house and asked Pinhas for the mare but he replied saying that «it was not for sale» and that they could go «fetch it».

The Pasha sent his men to fetch the mare but once they entered the stable they were surprised by the number of snakes there. «They were afraid because the snakes wanted to swallow the messengers and they came back», the same book added.

Unconvinced by their story, the Pasha went to the stable by himself to fetch the mare and «saw the snakes everywhere», recalled the historian. After this incident, the Pasha of Marrakech invited Pinhas to live in Marrakech and asked him to choose whatever house he likes.

«The Rabbi went to look for a house. He went back to the Pasha and told him which house he liked the best. It was the house he lived in until his dying day», Ben-Ami wrote.

Rabbi Pinhas, the man who saved El Glaoui

The relationship between the two men changed over time. «Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen, of Marrakech, who brought about many miracles in his lifetime, saved the Pasha of Marrakech several times», wrote «Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review, Volumes 12 to 15» (Simon Bronner, 1990).

The book tells how Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen would have warned the Pasha of Marrakech against the people who wanted to kill him. «Once he told the Pasha not to drink the coffee his maidservant had brought him; the saint gave the coffee to a cat which dropped dead at his feet».

The same account was confirmed by a Moroccan-Jewish woman who worked for the daughter of Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen in Marrakech. 90-year-old Yamna Maxwell, who currently lives in the United States, told Yabiladi that she heard her talking to the Rabbi about the Pasha and the people who were trying to kill him.

«He told his daughter that he had a dream that somebody inside the Pasha’s house was trying to kill him and he told his daughter that he had to save him», Yamna recalled.

Rabbi Pinhas saved the Pasha’s life a second time, according to the same book. «On another occasion, the Pasha was to go to pray on a Friday with the king of Morocco in the Kutubiya Mosque», it recalled.

Rabbi Pinhas then visited El Glaoui the day before to tell him of his dream. «The Pasha sent his copusing who looked like him as a replacement. When a man came and tried to stab him in the back, the Pasha’s men seized him», the same source added.

Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen died in Marrakech on January 12, 1952. On the day of his funeral, it is said that the whole city was mobilized on an extremely rainy Sunday. He is buried in the Israelite cemetery in Marrakech and his grave continues to attract Jewish pilgrims from around the world.

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