Remembering Babba Shalom
By Ami Farkas, Jerusalem Staffer

June 29, 2010

Recently I had the honor of attending a memorial service for a righteous man who served God and his community with every breath of his life. Rabbi Shalom Ifergan, also known as Babba Shalom, a prominent mystic who migrated to the Holy Land from Morocco, is buried in the Southern city of Netivot. There, together with thousands of others, I shared in the memory of this holy man.

One of the most important legacies Babba Shalom left is his children, each of whom serves Israel in their own way. The Fellowship enjoys a special relationship with one of them, Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan. Together with the Rabbi, The Fellowship reaches out to the poor people in the southern city of Netivot. This partnership helps run soup kitchens and distribute food baskets with fruits, vegetables, and dry food products to the poor people of Netivot on a weekly basis.

As I traveled the desert road to reach the town of Netivot for the memorial, I could not stop thinking that what we do in our lifetimes leaves an eternal imprint on the world. Rabbi Ifergan has taken to heart his father's lessons and, with his wisdom and devotion to God, nourished an impoverished world through his teachings, prayers, and community service.

People from every sector of Israeli society were at the event. Music, dance, and prayer filled the night and lit up the dark skies. Everyone was awaiting the ceremony when Rabbi Ifergan tosses thousands of candles into a bonfire burning next to the grave of Babba Shalom. Some time before midnight, we saw Rabbi Ifergan praying and meditating nearby. After a time of uninterrupted prayer, he came out and began the candle ceremony. As he threw the candles into the flames, his eyes were shut tight as he beseeched God for the sake of his nation, Israel.

The candle ceremony is called the tikun—the "fixing." In Judaism we are taught that every action and every thought could potentially lead toward tikun olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning "fixing" or "repairing" the world. We believe that God created this world in order for us, His children, to improve and illuminate it. Whether we do this or do not do it is a matter of our free choice. When we choose good over evil or light over darkness we are engaging in tikun olam. Through prayer and acts of kindness, forgiveness, and charity we shower the world with goodness and purity.

Seeing Rabbi Ifergan honoring his father's memory made me think of my mother, who passed away years ago. She was a very humble person who understood the value of prayer and charity. I was powerfully reminded that we honor God, as well as the memory of our ancestors, through all the good we do here on earth. May we all be blessed to walk in the path of the righteous and to lead joyful and meaningful lives!

— Ami Farkas


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