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R. Yehudah Fetayah
Lion from Bavel

Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya (1859-1942) was a kabalist and foremost disciple of Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (the Ben Ish Chai) who was considered by many to be the greatest kabalist of his generation.

R.Fetayah was ordained as a rabbi and teacher of Jewish law already at the age of 17. He later moved to Jerusalem and became one of the leading kabalists of the city.

During his life, he tried to hide his greatness in Kabala. But when he arrived in Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Adas came to him and said: "you wrote a commentary on the Adrah Rabba. Why do you not publish it yet?"

Rabbi Fetayah replied: "from where does your honor know this secret? It has been almost twenty years and I have not told any human being except my father". Rabbi Adas avoided to answer him but after being pressed by R.Fetayah he replied: "the holy Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai came to me in a dream and told me: a great Rabbi and immense kabalist is coming from Bavel (Iraq). He wrote a commentary on the Adrah Rabba and out of great humility, did not publish it. Tell him that I want him to publish it and press him to publish it."

Once while visiting Rachel's tomb in Bethlehem, Rabbi Fetayah said that he saw Rachel and that she is actually buried near the tomb not under it. Her body is completely intact as one who is sleeping and she is very beautiful. He added also that she is not buried along the tomb but rather at a diagonal direction to it (from the book "Toldot Menachem" pg.29).

Rabbi Fetaya was also famous in Baghdad and later Jerusalem for being the uncontested master in the science of kosher Kameot (amulets) and their writing, in exorcism and communicating with spirits and departed souls. Many of these incredible experiences are documented in his book Minchat Yehuda (Hebrew).

He had said regarding himself that he was the reincarnation of Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau, a great Ashkenazi halachist, author of the Responsa, "Noda B'Yehuda". Rabbi Fetayah said that he had to come back to the earth for although in his last lifetime, he was a tzaddik and pious man, but he did not fulfill his Torah obligation to study Kabbalah. So in this life, the study of Kabbalah was his main focus and tikkun (rectification). He also authored a number of other works on Kabbalah including commentaries to the Zohar and Etz Chaim of the Arizal.

R.Yehudah Fetaya was a master at detecting the presence of spirits and demons and an expert in the art of exorcism. He also knew how to test a person to see if he was deluded and imagining things that are not true or really was having an other-worldly experience.

In his works Minchat Yehudah, Rabbi Fetayah relates tens of his experiences with souls of the dead, exorcisms, demons and other supernatural phenomena. He was very much in contact with the spirit world.

Rabbi Ariel Tzadok writes: my own teacher, HaRav Meir Levi zt'l told me that when he was a child he had met Rabbi Yehuda, and when Rabbi Yehuda cast his eyes upon him, he ran out of the room. I asked Rabbi Meir why he had run; he responded that he was afraid, because Rabbi Yehuda's eyes were so intense.

(note: contact with the spirit world was more common in previous generations. The Chafetz Chaim reportedly dealt with exorcism of a dybuk (earth-bound soul) in the 1930s. His student Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman would relate his eyewitness account of this every Purim. Modern psychiatrists are trained to diagnose things like voices in the head automatically as mental illness and sweep it under the rug though a growing number of psychiatrists believe that certain rare cases can only be explained by spirit possession)

R.Fetaya also became famous for the depth of his knowledge of invocations and amulets. He would heal the sick, using both mystical and known methods. These amulets were also used for protection, peace in the home, fertility, wisdom, and many other things.

The famous kabalist and miracle man, Rabbi Yitchak Kaduri studied this art under Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya. According to Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, a young Jerusalem-based kabbalist and grandson of R.Fetaya, R. Fetaya refused to teach anyone who could not read foreheads.
(i.e. to be able to see the Hebrew letters and lights appearing on a person's forehead. This requires a very high spiritual level. The explanation is that every person's soul is like a sefer torah and he can rectify or damage "letters" which then appear on his forehead.)

R.Kaduri once said: "it took me over 12 years to find the name of the angel over cancer". R.Kaduri said that in making amulets, he never used "hashbaot" (binding angels under oaths as this is very dangerous) but rather only requests and prayers [to G-d]. Rabbi Kaduri reportedly taught this art to R.Beniyahu Shmueli, current head of the Nahar Shalom yeshiva in Jerusalem. Very few people (if any) are qualified to write kosher amulets today.

Rabbi Kaduri also learned with Rabbi Efraim Kohen, who headed a group of Sephardi kabbalists who learned at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Both were likewise disciples of Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad. Regarding R.Efraim Kohen, I heard from R.Yoram Maimon (a rosh yeshiva and disciple of his son R.Shalom Kohen, former rosh yeshiva of Porat Yosef) that on his bar mitzvah he took upon himself 18 resolutions. Two of them were to never speak useless words (devarim betalim) and to never remove his thoughts from torah.

Circle of Blood

Probably, the most important and famous episode regarding Rabbi Yehuda was his involvement with the infamous Circle of Blood. According to the August 14, 1987 issue of the Jerusalem Post Magazine, during WWII (while the German army was preparing to invade Israel from Egypt) Rabbi Yehuda persuaded the British Command in Israel to give him and two others the use of a plane and a pilot. He instructed the pilot to fly a large circle completely around Israel (including parts of Egypt) while Rabbi Yehuda performed "kaparot" - the traditional slaughtering of a chicken performed prior to Yom Kippur for atonement, the blood of the chickens being thrown out of the plane. Rabbi Yehuda thus made a Circle of Blood surrounding Israel (there was also recited a special form of the Tikun Haketoret (incense of the temple) with Biblical verses, etc. which R.Yehuda composed).

While some might think this the act of a desperate man, it seemed to have served its purpose. The author of the articles quotes the pilot of this plane as saying:

"Shortly afterwards, Rommel (the German commander of WWII) attacked and the lads in the mess used to kid to us: 'Fat lot of good those chickens of yours have done', they said.. but they were wrong. It was Rommel's last fling. Three weeks later came Monty's advance from El Alamein. The rest is history... Mind you, I wouldn't have believed it had I not flown the mission myself".

Do not underestimate the power of a Kabbalist, especially one of the caliber of Rabbi Yehuda Fetayah zt'l (R.Ariel Tzadok).

Further Reading:

Rabbi Fetayah (overview of R.Fetayah on dreams)

Rabbi Fetayah by R.Ariel Tzadok. includes translated excerpts from Minchat Yehudah.

Ruchot Mesaperot (Hebrew). quite amazing and sometimes very scary accounts R.Yehuda heard first hand from souls of the dead of their happenings in the hereafter.

Blessings on Food

by the grandson of R.Yehuda Fetaya, famous kabalist Rabbi Yitzchak Batzri

Many lofty things happen through eating and drinking. One of them was revealed to us by Rabeinu, the Arizal in [the book] "Shaar Hamitzvot".

Some souls need to return to the world and reincarnate in order to complete their tikun (rectification). These souls can reincarnate in four forms: inanimate, plants, animals, or human.

The lowest level is to reincarnate in inanimate objects (ex. minerals, soil). After the soul is rectified there, it may grow from the ground and incarnate as a plant, and afterwards in an animal through the plant being eaten by the animal. Then through ritual slaughter (shechita) according to halacha and being eaten by a human it will be rectified.

Sometimes, the reincarnated soul merits to shorten its path. For while reincarnated in a plant, a Jew will recite a blessing on it and eat it. This will jump its level from plant to human thus completing its rectification. This is especially so when the soul of one of a person's relatives is reincarnated in the food. Through the proper blessing and eating, one merits to redeem the soul and return it to its Father in Heaven.

But when the food is eaten without a blessing, then it causes tremendous suffering to that reincarnated soul. For it was in that plant or animal for a long time and in that one fateful moment it could have been rectified. But if the person did not bless, then it remains in its previous lacking.

My grandfather, the Kabalist, Rabbi Yehuda Fetayah zt'l would be very careful of not throwing out food. When he was asked on his carefulness in this, he would often answer: "halo there is a soul reincarnated in that food. How can we throw out the food and not have pity and mercy on that poor soul which is screaming out to be saved?"

When the time came for him to take the food, he would recite a blessing with the kavanot (kabalistic intents) of the Arizal and through this, he would ascend that soul to its place on high.

One should know that through the blessings our sages instituted before eating various foods, supernal yichudim (unifications) are done in the upper worlds. Likewise, great shefah (divine flow) of good and blessing come down to our world. Rabeinu the Rashash ordered special intents on each blessings, awesome and lofty kabalistic intents on rectifications and yichudim done in the upper worlds, using holy names and their permutations..

But we must know that the primary intent in the blessing is the plain meaning (pshat). Through uttering the blessing with our mouths combined with intent of the plain meaning, G-d in His great mercy ordained that these words do their lofty effects above. From here we can understand the great importance of every blessing and its proper reciting. (excerpt from R.Batzri's book "Siach Yitzchak")

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