RAV SALMAN MUTZAFI ZT"L
By D. Sofer
Rav Salman Mutzafi fled twice in his life, and though the circumstances were
very different, the reason was the same.
The first time was when Salman was just 9 years old. Baghdad's chief rabbi
and other prominent officials were coming to visit his Talmud Torah, and the
principal wanted them to test Salman - the school's top student.
A teary-eyed Salman refused.
"I don't want to be tested in front of the guests," he told the principal.
"My friends will be jealous of me and, besides, I might become conceited if
the guests praise me."
When the principal insisted that Salman appear before the guests, he
replied, "When they come, I'll leave the building."
The principal placed a guard beside the school's gate to make sure that
Salman wouldn't leave the premises. When the guests arrived, Salman headed
outside. He quickly saw that the gate to the school was locked and that a
guard had been stationed in front of it. Believing he had no alternative, he
hid in the washroom for two hours.
Years later he related, "I suffered for two full hours, but was happy that I
hadn't aroused the envy of my friends."
The second time Rav Salman fled was many years later, when he became a
prominent personality in Baghdad. He feared that the community was giving
him too much honor, so he fled to Eretz Yisroel.
But all of his attempts to flee honor proved futile. He was truly great, and
honor pursued him.
Salman Mutzafi was born in Baghdad on 27 Shevat, 5660, at a time when Torah
flourished in Persia.
His father, Rav Tzion Meir, descended from an illustrious family of Torah
scholars who first arrived in Baghdad during the Spanish expulsion. Rav
Tzion Meir was outstanding talmid chacham. He rose every night at Chatzos
and studied until dawn. After reciting Shacharis, he would attend a shiur in
Shas delivered by the Ben Ish Chai.
Although Rav Tzion Meir earned a meager living by running a small jewelry
and silver shop, his main occupation was Torah study. He was meticulous in
his mitzva observance, and he gave his children a pure Torah education.
Rav Salman once described the kind of chinuch he received: "When I was
young, my father took me to shul every day, so that I could absorb its
sacred atmosphere and be in the presence of tzaddikim.
"Once, my father had to attend to business at a certain courtyard where a
wedding was being held. When we reached the courtyard, my father picked me
up and placed me inside his robe, so that I wouldn't see impure things."
The person who had the greatest influence on Rav Salman during his
childhood, and whom he aspired to emulate, was the Ben Ish Chai.
Every Shabbos, the young Salman accompanied his father to Baghdad's main
shul to hear the Ben Ish Chai's drasha, which lasted for two hours and was
attended by over 2,000 people. After the drasha, Salman would kiss the
tzaddik's hand, while the tzaddik would bless him that he should become a
This blessing inspired him to study more diligently. During his final years,
Rav Salman would longingly recall that weekly bracha he had received from
the Ben Ish Chai.
The petira of the Ben Ish Chai, on Shabbos, the 13th of Elul 5669, had a
profound affect on Rav Salman, who was only 9 years old at the time. The
levaya took place on motzaei Shabbos, close to Chatzos.
Although Rav Salman's parents had sent him to bed several hours earlier, he
awoke after they had left for the levaya. He quickly joined the large throng
that accompanied the tzaddik to his final resting place. As the casket was
being placed in the grave, Rav Salman resolved to study Torah with even
greater diligence, and to make every effort to help fill the void created by
the tzaddik's passing.
Rav Salman also became determined to wake up every night at Chatzos and
study Torah until dawn like his father. His parents, however, felt that such
behavior was detrimental to his health and unsuited for a child his age, and
they tried to dissuade him.
But even they couldn't stop him.
Since his father wouldn't wake him at Chatzos, Rav Salman devised an
original plan to rise at that hour. Every night, he would wind one edge of a
rope around his hand and the other around the latch to the front door. When
his father opened the latch, the rope would tug Rav Salman's hand and he
would wake up.
That method worked for two weeks - until his father discovered the rope. But
Rav Salman couldn't be deterred. He tried a second plan, this time tying one
end of a rope around his hand and then dangling it out of the window. Every
night, his friend would pass by the house and tug at the rope to awaken him.
After Rav Salman's father left the house, the two boys would go to the beis
medrash and study until dawn. During those nighttime sessions, they studied
mussar and Gemara. Although Rav Salman's father studied in the same beis
medrash, he didn't see them because they hid behind a curtain.
A number of years later, Rav Salman's mother said: "My son Salman has a pure
soul. When he was ten, every Shabbos night he would go out to the yard and
recite the entire Tehillim standing up. My pleas that he come inside and
recite Tehillim in the warm house were in vain. He refused to come inside
because he didn't want to disturb his younger brothers, who were sleeping."
For Rav Salman, going to a shul where 50 to 60 elderly sages studied was
an uplifting experience, and every day he would go there just to gaze at
them. The behavior and demeanor of these great sages made an everlasting
impression on him, and helped him develop the trait of kedusha.
When he was 10, Rav Salman copied a series of prayers into a special
notebook that he took with him wherever he went. These prayers related to
many of the daily activities one performs.
Whenever he walked into shul, he would recite the following prayer: "I
entreat you, Malachei Hashares, to stand before He who listens to all
requests, and to beg Him to listen to my prayer and supplication, and to
forgive all of my sins!"
After completing Talmud Torah, Rav Salman entered Midrash Beit Zilka.
Although he was the youngest student in the yeshiva, he surpassed all of the
others in his knowledge, and quickly advanced from shiur to shiur until he
reached the highest one. In that shiur he met Rav Yehuda Patia, who had a
profound influence on his spiritual development.
One time, Rav Patia told Rav Salman: "You will one day become great and
famous, and many will ask you to assume leadership positions or positions in
the rabbinate. But don't accept them, because they will cause you to waste
your time. Regard every moment of your life as precious, and be humble and
unassuming. I am warning you now, because I want you to know that you have a
sacred and lofty soul, which you must safeguard."
Rav Salman and Rav Patia remained very close throughout their lives,
studying together for many years. They also moved to Eretz Yisroel at the
same time, and wrote Beit Lechem Yehuda on the entire Etz Chaim in a joint
KIDDUSH HASHEM IN BUSINESS
When Rav Salman was 20, his father fell ill and could no longer support his
family nor the adopted one raised in the Mutzafi home. Wanting to help his
father, Rav Salman began to look for a part-time job.
His uncle soon found him a job as a secretary for Menachem Daniel, a wealthy
Jew who was a member of the Iraqi Senate and was influential in Baghdad's
Jewish and Moslem communities.
Mr. Daniel, who had received a Torah education, regularly hosted visiting
princes and rulers in his home, and was the king's official guide during all
royal visits to Jewish institutions in Baghdad. He was also the pillar of
the Jewish community of Baghdad, spearheading many of its tzedaka campaigns
and championing the rights of its citizens.
Mr. Daniel had a flourishing real estate business, selling land both in Iraq
and abroad. He hired Rav Salman to sign business transactions and to collect
payments. Before long, he recognized Rav Salman's abilities and promoted him
from one position to the next.
At one point, he wanted to entrust Rav Salman with management of his
business overseas, so he sent him to learn a number of foreign languages.
Rav Salman studied with a private teacher, and was soon appointed director
and chief accountant of Mr. Daniel's offices. Eventually, when Mr. Daniel
became to old to run the business, he placed Rav Salman in charge of all his
Mr. Daniel's high regard for Rav Salman was a result of a disagreement they
had one year during Sefira. Since his childhood, Rav Salman had observed the
Arizal's custom of not cutting one's hair during the entire Sefira. Although
any government worker who did not take periodic haircuts was subject to
immediate dismissal, Rav Salman maintained this custom even while he worked
for Mr. Daniel.
One year during Sefira, however, Mr. Daniel wanted Rav Salman to attend an
important meeting with the governor, and told him to take a haircut. Rav
Salman refused, and even when Daniel said that he would fire him if he didn'
t follow his orders, he remained firm. Rav Salman, who supported his entire
family, had consulted Rav Yehuda Patia on the matter, and Rav Yehuda told
him, "Don't yield, even if he fires you."
Seeing Rav Salman's determination, Mr. Daniel told him, "I've decided to
send you to the meeting anyway. However, the results of the meeting will
determine whether you continue to serve as manager of my business."
Rav Salman met with the governor, who was very impressed by him. At the end
of the meeting, the governor handed him a letter for Mr. Daniel, which read,
"Your manager is honest, industrious and truly G-d fearing. In all your
business dealings with me, please send only him."
Upon reading the letter, Mr. Daniel smiled. "I see that they love you in
Shamayim," he said. "Today I have a meeting with the interior minister and
have decided to send you in my place."
When Rav Salman arrived at that meeting, the minister greeted him warmly. "I
've heard a much about you," he said, "and I am happy to have the
opportunity to meet you personally."
>From that day on, Mr. Daniel placed Rav Salman in charge of all of his
assets and dealings. He then handed him a thick envelope. "This contains all
my wealth - two and a half million sterling," he told him. "You are
responsible for it."
In his work for Mr. Daniel, Rav Salman also made a Kiddush Hashem on many
other occasions. Once, a Moslem sheikh came to the office to repay a debt,
but overpaid by 30 dinars. When the mistake was later discovered, Rav Salman
personally went to the marketplace where the sheikh conducted his business
and returned the money. The sheikh was so amazed by Rav Salman's honesty
that he cried, "There is none like the G-d of Israel and His Torah!"
Mr. Daniel greatly appreciated Rav Salman's loyalty, and wanting to show his
appreciation, he ordered two Ford cars from the United States. He gave one
to the king as a gift, and the other was designated for Rav Salman's use.
Whenever Rav Salman rode by in his car, the Moslems on the street would
salute it, assuming that the king was seated inside.
Rav Salman feared that these displays of honor might adversely affect his
character, so the moment he entered his car he would begin reciting
Before long, however, he felt that too much honor was being accorded to him,
and that he had no choice but to leave Baghdad. He decided to move to Eretz
Yisroel, where he could devote himself fully to Torah study.
SETTLING IN ERETZ HAKODESH
In 5694, Rav Salman moved to Eretz Yisroel together with Rav Yehuda Patia.
After a short while, he returned to Baghdad to bring his brother, mother and
wife to Eretz Yisroel. He also parted from Menachem Daniel, with whom he
had worked for 18 years.
Upon his arrival in Eretz Yisroel, he bought a one-and-a-half room apartment
under a stairwell in Geula. Every night, he would rise at Chatzos and go to
the Emes V'Shalom Yeshiva where he would recite Tikkun Chatzos and study
until dawn. After Shacharis, he studied the kabalistic work Etz Chaim until
noon in Yeshivas Hamekubalim in the Bucharian neighborhood. Then he reviewed
his studies in the nearby Avramoff shul until evening.
For two full years, he studied the nine volumes of Siddur Harashash, with
all of its kabbalistic kavanos. His mother, however, feared that this study
was detrimental, and she ordered him to discontinue it. For a while, he
obeyed her. However, when he felt that he could no longer do so, he took her
to Yerushalayim's chief kabbalists, Rav Salman Eliyahu and Rav Ephraim
Hakohen, and explained his manner of studying the siddur and its kavanos.
The sages spoke with him in Torah, and in the end told his mother: "Your son
is thoroughly well versed in Siddur Harashash and will be a gadol b'Torah
who will save the entire world with his prayers. We promise that he won't be
harmed by such study."
These special kavanos involved much study and exertion. On a regular day, it
took Rav Salman two hours to recite Birchos Hashachar.
His kabbalistic studies, though, didn't hamper his diligent study of Shas
and poskim, and he completed the entire Shas every few years.
In Eretz Yisroel, he didn't assume a rabbinical position or found
institutions. Nonetheless, he was one of its spiritual pillars.
THE HOLOCAUST YEARS
When the Jews of Eretz Yisroel learned of the extent of the horrors of the
Holocaust, Rav Salman convened special rallies at Kever Rochel. At these
rallies, he would conduct a study session for half the night, and a prayer
rally for the sake of his brethren in Europe for the other half.
He was particularly upset by the fact that the British did not permit
Holocaust refugees to enter Eretz Yisroel, and he would conduct prayer
rallies beside Kever Rochel, from midnight until dawn, hoping to thwart this
evil decree. The wailing and weeping of the people at those rallies was so
heartrending and stirring that a Holocaust survivor who once participated in
a rally said, "If we had conducted such a tefilla rally in Europe, the
Germans would not have succeeded."
When German field marshal Erwin Rommel's troops were at the gates of Eretz
Yisroel, Rav Salman decreed a fast day. He then assembled a large group of
people. They donned sackcloth and spent the entire night at Kever Rochel,
sitting on the ground and studying Torah. Standing alongside Rochel's grave,
Rav Salman pleaded with her to entreat Hashem to spare His children.
In the morning, the group traveled to Chevron, where they davened at Me'aras
Hamachpeila. From there, they proceeded to the Kosel, where they continued
The British often disrupted the prayers and studies Rav Salman held at Kever
Rochel, under the pretext that they were searching for members of the
underground. Rav Salman, who knew English, protested their behavior, and
the British replied that if he registered his yeshiva as an official
institution, they would stop harassing it. Although Rav Salman generally
objected to founding public institutions, this time he had no choice. He
eventually registered his yeshiva as an official institution called Bnei
This yeshiva remained active until 5708. When it became too dangerous to
visit Kever Rochel, the yeshiva transferred to the city. The day the yeshiva
left Kever Rochel, Rav Salman stood before the grave and cried, "Rochel,
Rochel, they are about to banish us and to bring the children of Yishmael
here in our stead. Know that we will never forget you. But please don't
forget us either, and pray that we return to you soon."
STORMING HEAVEN'S GATES
During the siege of Yerushalayim, Rav Salman also conducted many prayer
rallies. One Chol Hamoed Pesach, as the city was being bombarded, he asked
Rav Ezra Attia to accompany him to shul and recite Chapter 20,
"Lamenatzeiach mizmor leDovid, ya'ancha Hashem beyom tzara." They recited it
several times, and the bombardment stopped.
Remarkable events often occurred after Rav Salman prayed. Once, during the
period of the illegal immigration, he fervently prayed that the enemy's
plans be thwarted. The following morning, the United Nations representative
in the Middle East, who was particularly opposed to permitting refugees to
enter the land, was murdered by Arabs at the gates of Yerushalayim. All
regarded this as a sign of disapproval from Heaven of the representative's
opposition to the immigrations.
Using prayer as his weapon, Rav Salman fought on other battlefronts as well.
He davened against the secular education the Zionists were forcing on local
children, saying "They are burning Jewish children by means of their
On another occasion, he pleaded with Hashem to help the Jews in a number of
ways: "Thwart the thoughts and plans of the missionaries. Destroy all of
those non-Jews who desecrate Jewish graves on Har Hazeisim. Save our fellow
Jews in Russia and Iraq. Cancel the plots of those who seek to pass a civil
Throughout his life, Rav Salman was careful not to derive benefit from his
fellow Jew in any manner whatsoever.
When his youngest daughter was born, a close acquaintance registered him for
a National Insurance grant without his knowledge. When the check arrived, he
returned it to the National Insurance office. After the clerk told him that
it couldn't be returned, he donated the money to a needy Torah scholar.
A number of years after Rav Salman arrived in Eretz Yisroel, Menachem Daniel
's son and son-in-law visited him in Yerushalayim. Because the apartment was
so crowded, his wife received them in the courtyard. At the end of their
visit, they offered Rav Salman 2,000 dinar in appreciation for his service
to their father.
But Rav Salman refused to accept the gift. "How long can I live on those
two-thousand dinar?" he asked them. "Two years? In the end, I'll spend them.
So let's pretend that I received them two years ago, and that they have
already been spent!"
Another of his outstanding traits was his chessed, which he routinely
performed in secret. Often, he gave his own meals to the needy.
Once, upon learning that a certain talmid chacham was living in substandard
conditions, he personally raised a very large sum for the man, enabling him
to move to a larger apartment. The talmid chacham never knew who had
provided him with the money.
Rav Salman also drew many people closer to Torah. He would approach simple
Jews and influence them to strengthen their mitzva observance.
On Rosh Chodesh Teves, 5735, Rav Salman fell ill in the middle of Shacharis.
When he returned home, his family told him that a doctor had been summoned,
but he waved his hand to indicate that nothing could be done.
A week later he lost consciousness, and prayer rallies were held all over
the country for his recovery, while minyanim of talmidei chachamim visited
the kivrei tzaddikim.
On Friday night, the 17th of Teves, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.
His levaya was held on motzaei Shabbos. Yerushalayim's greatest rabbanim
eulogized him, bemoaning the loss of a holy Jew who had protected all of Am
Yisroel with his fervent prayers and pious deeds.
Rav Salman was buried on Har Hazeisim. His illustrious family continues to
preserve his legacy.
Re-Printed with permission from Yated Ne'eman. All rights reserved.