Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
They walked up a tree-lined path through stony hills to a square, white building — men in black hats, beards and frock coats; in T-shirts and jeans; in sweaters, slacks and velvet kippas.
They came by the hundreds — 19-year-olds looking for a match, 40-year-olds losing hope that they would ever find one, boys of 15 praying for the unmarried.
They had come for a special ceremony: They would blow 1,000 shofars, encircle the building seven times and recite penitential prayers led by a master of Jewish mysticism. They would scream and they would sing.
They had come to harness the power of a dead rabbi, Yonatan ben Uziel, a man they believed would intercede on their behalf in heaven, granting any Jew a match within the year — as long as they prayed at his tomb or paid a fee.
“This is the bringing-together of all the strengths in the world,” said Meir Levy, a 40-year-old bachelor who had come to join the prayer service on Jan. 27. “This is a very holy place.”
A man in a light blue robe, red velvet hat and paisley sash approached the building’s courtyard. Volunteers distributed standard-issue shofars to anyone who thought he could blow. The cardboard boxes full of rams’ horns emptied as the men stood at the ready, waiting for the robed man — the kabbalah master Rabbi Yechiel Abuhatzeira — to begin the prayers.
“The Abuhatzeira family is a family with many miracles,” said Eliyahu Hazan, 32, as he waited for the rabbi. “Their reputation speaks for itself. Everyone who goes to them gets results.”
Cryptic ceremonies like these are especially appropriate at the graves of rabbis because the souls of the rabbis help transmit the worshipers’ requests to God,” explained Andre Levy, an anthropologist at Ben-Gurion University.
“In Judaism and Islam, there’s no mediator between you and God. You are totally exposed to God, which is a difficult thought, and you need a go-between. People find solutions in the character of a righteous person.”
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