The Conversion of AbdAllah Yakub (1880e)

The conversion of Abd Allah Yakub

El Hi Ani © All Rights Reserved

“How shall I open my mouth to tell the suffering of my dearest?” said Rabbi Shoshan the priest. “My grief is so great, my heart and limbs are torn! Rabbi Toviyah, the judge,” referring to my father by his occupation before immigration to Israel, “was a just, the son of justs. For Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe, may his soul rest in peace, bought his share in heaven on earth. It happened a long time ago, around the turn of the century.”

“Those were the days when Rabbi Abraham, may his memory be blessed, was a student at the Avi Hatsira Academy, a single man, free of obligations and family duties. It was a time when the living lived in anguish. And the land was so dry – it opened its mouth wide as if to swallow every human on earth, sparing not even children, who did not sin. Those were the days when rivers hid from the face of the earth and a time when creeks nourished the underworld rather than feed the children of Adam and Eve. And no one could explain the wrath of heaven upon the Maghreb. Those were the days when the living bowed before the heavens and kissed the land praying to be spared. For the dearest amongst them – parents, husbands, wives and children submitted their souls to their Creator in the dark of long and painful nights rather than see the sun shine bright, as if its sole purpose was to scorch all that existed on earth.

Those were years of misery, a time when fire ascended from the depth of hell to burn the bare feet. And the already barren olive trees dried. And the poor met their Maker and the wealthy, who spent their riches to save their children, were not spared. And the just stood like spectators, powerless to change the course of things, wondering if the days of Last Judgment had arrived or if it was only a warning.

It was a time of turmoil. And people could not explain the reason for their suffering. And even Lilith and Shamharoush, the King and Queen of jnuns , said:

“Beware,
Oh children of Eve,
I had enough of your souls!
Your misery is not of my doing!
I need no more of your offerings!
Lift your eyes to the Heavens,
Maybe
A remembrance of mercy
Is left there!”

It was a time when broken and naked ghost-like living, old and young, wandered from place to place, descending like locust on towns and villages but oats could not be found anywhere!

Those were the days when earthly creatures could preach to the Holy of Holies what was right and what was wrong! And those who could still speak, said:

“Thou deprived us of our offerings
Our prayers,
Our sacrifices.

Thou took away
Rain from our rivers and streams.

Thou withheld
Grass from our land
And denied flowers from our trees.

Thou took away
The joy that came with the newborn,
Along with our gold
And the remains of our precious stones.

Isn’t all we shed enough
To appease Your wrath?
If not,
Tell us
What is the price of Your plainest oat?

Maybe then,
We would not loose faith in You,
Creator in Heaven,
Mighty of all!”

Those were the days when hungry assailants raided the home of Rabbi YomTov, the father of Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe, thinking the Children of Israel were spared of the wrath of God, leaving simmering blood and raging silence behind. Records in the annals of the Children of Israel in Maghreb reported that the land of mercy had lost its senses. For when the raiders left, they were sure no living soul remained behind. But under the pile of lifeless corpses, three miraculously survived: Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe, his brother Yacov and their sister Simha!

It is said that the Fquih of the village, himself, buried the Ben Moshe’s according to Jewish customs. And that neighbors amongst the Mohammedans provided the little food they had as bereavement offering all through the seven days of mourning. And shortly thereafter, Yacov wandered to Erfoud, where he became known as Abd Allah Yakub while Simha, went to Casablanca to become a sister of charity. But Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe went to Rabbi Avi Hatsira and sank himself deep into the study of the Book of Splendor. Those were the days when his vow of silence was broken only to murmur a phrase that expressed his unshaken faith in the Holy of Holies: “May the Merciful have Mercy!”

Many years passed. The land of Maghreb found renewed grace in the eyes of Allah. But nothing was heard from Abd Allah Yakub. And when Rabbi Abraham could wait no longer, he packed his talith and tefilin (philatelic) and took the road to Erfoud.

Those were the days when Abd Allah Yakub exchanged oats, regardless of their price, for blessings. And in all of the market, he was known for saying:

“Be generous with the distant,
Oh, my friends, be generous,
For charity drives away
The Angels of Death
Along with
The Cherubs of Misery.”

When the two brothers found one another, not one word was said, for the tears were quick to come and their hearts were too filled to speak. Many market-goers shed tears with the two brothers in Erfoud that day. For according to the law of the land, Abd Allah Yakub could not return to his old faith, unless he valued life no more. But the gates of heaven opened in Erfoud that day. And rain poured down to earth and overfilled every barren river and creek. And elders who could still remember said that it was a sign from heaven that something had to be done to appease Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe, the marabout of the Jews. And they loaded his mule with provisions and urged Abd Allah Yakub to accompany his brother to the nearby crossing.

And when the two brothers arrived at the crossing where caravans met, the Ziz River swelled. And its current became so powerful, it had the might to sweep the strongest among men in the land. Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe walked behind his mule into the ruthless water. Abdallah Yakub followed. But the current was stronger than the mule could bear. And the mule drifted, pulling the two brothers behind. In despair, Abd Allah Yakub looked at his brother and said:

“It was the will of God that I be saved to live among the Mohammedans but you came to take me to die among the Children of Israel!”

When Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe heard his brother’s words of repentance, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and said:

“I adjure thee,
O water of Ziz,
Gather all the swimming creatures within thee,
Let them not grieve over me
And take my soul
For I alone have sinned.”

Very soon after, all the swimming creatures gathered around Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe, his brother Abd Allah Yakub and the mule that was to carry them across the ancient river. But the river did not stand still and the water did not cease from flowing.

Rabbi Abraham Ben Moshe stood in the midst of the river Ziz, recalling Adam in the Jordan waters and Eve in the middle of the Tigris. But the penance, which Rabbi Abraham and his brother Yakub laid upon themselves did not awaken Lilith’s misgivings, nor Samharoush’s

Then Rabbi Abraham said:
“Merciful,
I came to save one soul and you want to take three.
O Merciful,
Show your mercy!”

And when Lilith and Samharoush heard Rabbi Abraham’s plea, they feared God might forgive Abd Allah Yakub’s sin.

Now mules were created on the sixth day of Creation to carry mankind’s burden. The first mule served Adam and Eve. Its offspring served the patriarchs and its descendents spared the Children of Israel from hardship. Unlike humankind, mules recognize angels when they appear on earth. Mules could even speak in ancient times. A mule spoke for the first time to save Israel from Balaam’s curse and a mule saved Rabbi Abraham and Abd Allah Yakub from certain death in the Ziz River. For when the Angel of Death appeared to collect their souls, Archangel Gabriel told him: “Step out of the river. God has heard Rabbi Abraham’s plea.”

And when the mule heard the angel’s plea, its ears trembled. And with unseen courage, it pulled itself, along with the two brothers, out of the river.

And when on safe ground, Abd Allah Yakub said:
“O, Merciful, remove this adversary who seeks to take my soul and I will consecrate the rest of my days to praise thee.”

And to avert his doom, Abd Allah Yakub spent the rest of his days in prayer and fasting. And Lilith and Samharoush feared the Merciful and did not approach him for the duration of the life prescribed to him. And nothing was said of this tale ever after until this day.

Yaacov, the son of Yom Tov Ben Moshe was buried by his father’s grave, at Sidna Yakub. And it became a custom for Children of Israel and the Children of Ishmael to go on pilgrimage to his tomb. And offerings were given to the needy. And peace reigned in the land ever since. And Rabbi Toviyah carried the name of Rabbi Yom Tov till this day. May they rest in peace.

Illustration

A rough river, two men holding on to a donkey who is pulling them out of the river. Both men are with beards. Both men wear a head cover. One man looking up to the sky as if praying to God.

 

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