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A “Holy Man” is Born: from a Security Guard to a "Miracle Worker"

Until two years ago, he was a security guard in an Eilat hotel, but today, for a small fortune, he "removes spells" and “brings up the spirits of the dead"— or so he says. When will we stop believing that there are shortcuts to becoming a holy person?

| 23.08.16 | 05:51
A “Holy Man” is Born: from a Security Guard to a Miracle Worker
We’re living in an era in which the term “holy man” and: “miracle worker” (in Israel, the term used is "baba") has become anathema because of the numerous charlatans who have arrogated for themselves this title. Now the Israeli television program “The Real Face” hosted by Amnon Levy has given the phenomenon important exposure.
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Levy asked a former security guard from Eilat whether he is a “baba”. The man replied, "Baba? I am not yet a ‘baba.’" 
Levy queries him, "Are you on the way to becoming a baba?" The guard raises his hand and responds with mock-humility: "G-d willing."
I am watching the program and see the believers of the young baba (who for obvious reasons we will not mention his name here), and don’t understand how people can be so blind. How do people believe all those who promise salvation, and follow them as if they are bewitched? What is it in our sense of judgment that allows all those babas to exploit the naive and the unlucky and to dispense “spiritual remedies” all the way to the bank?

After all, every serious rabbi in Israel and around the world has gone out against the phenomena of babas and kabbalists who are not established, well known Torah scholars. (We are of course not referring to true Torah scholars like the Baba Sali, may his memory be a blessing.) 
So how come people still don’t realize that these people are charlatans of the most contemptible kind? Just by watching the body language of this “baba”, I wouldn’t buy from him a used carton of eggs. So how can one fall in and believe so blindly in such a man, who merely found a living that was nicer and easier than his previous work?

I admit with some embarrassment: I also passed through the court of one baba at the beginning of my process of returning to Judaism. There were things going on in his court that made me leery but also convinced me: On the one hand, that rabbi maintained an academy of married Torah scholars. On the other hand, he took part in a television program that was inappropriate of his status. On the one hand, his aides made sure to make videotapes detailing all his miracles and salvations. On the other hand, when I asked him about it, he innocently claimed that he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and he never watched those tapes. 

I came to that Baba privately, but within a short time his astute assistants heard that I was a journalist, and concocted with my help a fawning article in the Weekend Ma'ariv supplement (which was not published in the end because the editor felt it wasn’t informative enough, maybe he be blessed).

As a journalist, I attained VIP status in the reception room that led to the Baba's room. I saw more than a few red lights there: Everything seemed too commercialized with “guaranteed” salvations. I particularly couldn’t figure out how the Baba's assistant (who told me that he wasn’t earning a cent, and does everything on a voluntary basis) had an expensive and sophisticated (for those times) GPS device. But when you convince yourself that “the righteous man commands and G-d fulfills” and that only if you believe will you achieve a salvation, and one can’t deny incontrovertible evidence like "the rabbi said I would have an easy birth and that’s what happened"— your perception disables most of your natural suspicions that still remain, and turns you into a mindless zombie unable to see things for what they are.

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To my credit, I sobered up in a short time, and didn’t lose my money. As mentioned, the characteristics of that baba were not conclusive — after all, he also supported married Torah students. But in the general market of babas, most charlatans are much more transparent and unequivocal. So why do people go to babas and fortune-tellers of all kinds? How do they believe that a man who was a secular security guard in Eilat two years ago suddenly scavenged the peak of holiness and now declares with confidence and generosity, "If Bibi will come to me, I’ll be happy to give him my advice?”
The answer is simple: We live in the ‘instant’ generation. Instead of dealing with adversity, people prefer to think that they were just 'bewitched' and it is beyond their capabilities to deal with a problem. Instead of working on their character, there are those who think that they can solve everything with a generous contribution to someone with a yarmulkeh and a long beard. Instead of going for medical or psychological treatment, they prefer a third kind of treatment. Or as that baba-in-training told Amnon Levi: "What do you mean, to go to a psychologist? A psychologist can’t see if a person is bewitched."

So what should we do? It’s a little hard to find a solution to this phenomenon, that doesn’t include giving an shot of common sense to the general population. However, readers should speak up about how they feel when they know of an acquaintance or family member who is undergoing “treatment” by some baba.  Bring up all the questions, try to help them see the red lights, try to stimulate their logic. 

Remind them what common sense tells them: There is no magic, there are no shortcuts, there is no hocus-pocus. To get results, one has to strengthen his observance of Judaism, and work to become a better person. G-d does not want singles to pay 350 shekels to a 'Baba' who will send them to throw their keys into the sea or wash their floor at home with salt water. 

G-d wants our heart, our faith, our observance of Jewish law. And as long as we try to evade it — we will fall for those fakers that are supposedly removing a spell from us, but are in actuality just bewitching us.