I heard late last night that Israel's elder kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri zt"l, had passed away. I could not help but feel sad, even the though the rabbi was well over 100 years old. Our nation had lost a great and special man.
Many years ago I wanted to receive a blessing from the rabbi. After the morning prayers I took a bus to the Bucharian neighborhood in Jerusalem. Rabbi Kaduri had not completed the morning prayers, even though he had started them well before dawn. That is because the rabbi's prayers were said using special kabbalistic "kavanot". I waited for the rabbi to finish his prayers. After he was finished many who were there requested his blessing. Finally my turn came and he placed his hand upon my head. I did not understand what the rabbi said. That is probably because I did not know Hebrew well enough back then. Those who were there told me to say "Amen" so I did.
I saw Rabbi Kaduri on many occasions. People always requested his blessing, and he never refused. He would smile and place his hand upon the head of all those who wanted to be blessed. Such was the way of this great man, a man whose heart was filled with Ahavat Yisrael and sought neither material gain nor honor.
After bringing my son back home from kindergarten, I ate lunch. I fell a little guilty about this. How can I eat while the funeral of the great kabbalist is now underway? The radio announced that the funeral procession would make its way from the Bucharian neighborhood to the Givat Shaul cemetery. I decided that I would join the procession in Givat Shaul, not too far away from my home. This would surely be a huge event, with myriads of Jews taking part. My past experience had taught me that I would need emotional and physical strength if I wanted to be in the midst of such a massive crowd. I ate well because I knew what was ahead of me.
When I arrived on Givat Shaul Street I saw the crowds of people arrive from the Romema neighborhood, filling the entrance to Jerusalem. The crowd was mostly made up of black-hatted ultra-Orthodox Jews, but there were many kippot serugot as well. I had expected the procession to pass on Givat Shaul Street, but it continued on the much wider Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. Making my way through some narrow alleyways, I succeeded in joining the procession. I was able to get within a few meters of the car that carried the rabbi's body. The car itself was surrounded by policemen, which in turn were surrounded by the thousands who had come to pay the rabbi their last respects. The mourners chanted "Yoshev Besetter Elyon" as the procession turned left at Ginot Sakharov. The crowd was dense to the point of being unbearable. I felt like a lone water molecule being driven forward by a vast wave in the ocean. Falling down at this point would probably mean getting trampled to death.
As the procession had reached the Herzog Hospital I decided that it was time for me to leave. I made my way to the sidewalk and started walking back towards Givat Shaul Street. I meet a few friends along the way. I hope the next time I meet them will be at a happier occasion. All of a sudden a commotion: Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak passes by surrounded by a bunch of boys that form a ring about him. I did not see his face, but it was him. His traditional Yemenite dress and hat are unmistakable. I remember seeing him for the first time about 13 years ago in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, when he wasn't so famous. Since then he has distributed millions of cassettes and helped thousands of Jews become closer to their Father in heaven. He also has some miracles to his credit, as is known to anyone who has seen his videos.
I returned home and the radio announced that the police estimate that there were over 200,000 people who took part in the funeral procession, over 200,000 people who took time off from whatever they were doing to pay last respects to Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri. The people whom Rabbi Kaduri loved showed that the feeling was mutual. May his memory be a blessing.