Baba Sali, Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira

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Baba Sali, Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira

The name Abuchatzeira has become legendary in fact, story and song among wide circles of modern-day Jews. This is due in no small measure to the impact on the Jewish consciousness of the life of the Baba Sali, the Praying Father of the Moroccan Jewish Community, who made Aliya to Eretz Yisrael in the middle of the twentieth century.

Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira was the scion of a family of great Talmidei Chachamim (Torah Scholars) and Baalei Mofes (individuals who have the ability through prayer of performing miracles). Rav Shmuel Abuchatzeira, who was described by the Chida as an Ish Elokim Kadosh, a holy man of G-d, was the first to start the Abuhatzeira lineage. Shmuel’s son, Masud (Moshe in Arabic), became the Rav in the Moroccan City of Tafelatlech, and was followed in this position by his son, Yaakov, known as the Abir Yaakov, Prince of Yaakov. His eldest son, named Masud after his grandfather, was the father of Rav Yisrael, the Baba Sali, who soon distinguished himself by his devotion to the study of Torah and service of G-d. His father recognized his potential for greatness, who encouraged him in his studies and where he realized that his son would be given the ability to have his blessings fulfilled.

Preceding the instruction of Pirkei Avot (5:24), which advocates marriage by the age of eighteen by two years, Rav Yisrael was married at the age of sixteen to Precha Amsalem, who served as a worthy Eishet Chayil, a woman of valor, throughout their long marriage.
Rav Yisrael was one of the leaders of the Aliyah of Moroccan Jewry to Eretz Yisrael, which saw the transfer of nearly the entire population of that community to the Holy Land.

The Baba Sali settled in Netivot, adjacent to the Yeshivat HaNegev. Because of his great influence, the Negev began to blossom spiritually, and thousands of Jews returned to their roots. The influence of this great Tzaddik extended far beyond Netivot, the Moroccan Jewish Community and Eretz Yisrael.

He became a cherished leader of the World Jewish Community. He passed away in the month of Shevat in 1984/5744, and was mourned by thousands of Jews, throughout Israel and throughout the world.

Mikhail ChapiroBorn in 1938 in Belorussia, he was captivated by painting since his early childhood. Thanks to his teachers, Peter Chernyshevsky and Boris Zvenigorodsky, the artists of great experience and talent, this endowment became his predilection, the raison d’être of his life. After 6 years of studies, he graduated from the Mukhina Institute of Arts and Industrial Design. He worked as a stylist for 7 years in the capital of Siberia, city of Novosibirsk.

He moved to Moscow in 1974 and since 1977 till 1987 he regularly exhibited in the Russia’s famous underground avant-garde centre at Malaya Gruzinskaya 28, which in 1981 became the home of his solo exhibition. Only with Perestroyka he was widely recognized in Russia. From 1988 to 1990 his paintings were exhibited at the Muscovite Modern Art Gallery MARS.

He was recognized by the intellectual elite. Great Russian ballerina Maya Plesetskaya, 3-times Olympic Champion in figure ice-skating Irina Rodnina, Nobel Prize Laureates Academicians Sakharov, Frank, Prokhorov – those are just few of the most prominent people who knew Chapiro and whose portraits he did.

In 1990 Mikhail Chapiro immigrated to Canada. He settled in Toronto and immediately joined the city’s artistic life. The “Hittite Gallery” held his solo exhibition in 1992. In 1993, he moved to Montreal, being fascinated by the singular charm of this metropolis and its people. Being highly productive, Chapiro has constantly enriched his collection with fresh subjects. In 1996 he had a solo exhibition at the Elgar community center in Verdun (a Montreal district).

While Chapiro’s themes always remained portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, animals, and flowers, his style has gradually evolved from a merely realistic formalist expression towards an unique painting technique allowing to express at best the softness and subtlety that forms the bottom line of the artist’s philosophy. Mikhail Chapiro is, by his substance, perception of the world, and even training, is a figurative, objective, realistic painter. What characterizes his painting is softness, subtlety, implicitly.

However, in some works from different periods, he had come close- and still does so today- to abstraction: mostly with his nudes and flowers, sometimes in portraiture and landscapes. Abstract painting has always fascinated him: during his Moscovite period in the Eighties, he created series of abstract compositions, which he continued once in Canada, in both Toronto and Montreal.

The rationale behind his work, what triggered him is as it has always been, asking the “What?” question-that is, he needs unequivocally an idea fuelling his creativity.
What he tells with one or another abstract work may be philosophical reflections about life, death, the good, the bad, the passage of our soul from the material world (the life on Earth) into the thin world (the soul’s life in the Cosmos); the return of our soul into material world- a sort of an infinite transfiguration-, and so on. It’s only then that he would care about the composition, texture, color, etc.

Abstract painting is for him the most interesting experiment, one of his art’s facets. Whether his paintings are realistic or abstract, his approach is equally sincere.