Jerusalem – In what may be the first published interview with the Chalban, Israeli Maayanei Hayeshua weekly bulletin published little known details about his past and how he became one of Israel’s most famous mekubalim today.
A first glance at Rav Chaim Ezra Hakohen Fatchia doesn’t reveal the illustrious mekubal behind the simple facade. Without a beard and long peyos, and wearing only a simple cap, one wouldn’t know that the Chalban has been deeply involved in kabbalah since he was 9.
“I have yichus going back many generations. My teachers were mekubalim who opened the door to me to this world. At the age of 9, I began to read the kabbalah seforim of my father, mori v’rabbi Rav Ezra Hakohen Fatchia, that were in our house. Without asking my parents, I went up to the roof and learned myself. At a young age, I went to the mikvah and maintained taharas haguf. I came to the mekubalim Rav Shmuel Ervatz and Rav Hillel Simchon, and asked them to teach me. I told them, “It says in seforim that whoever immerses himself in the mikvah, it is permitted to teach him.” So they taught me.
“When I was 13, the Lelover rebbe asked me to come and complete a minyan for him. I was his kohen and we hit it off. I saw by him amazing things, things which if I would say them, no one would comprehend it.”
At a young age, the Chalban discovered he had special powers. “When I was 10, I went on the street with my brother and a man passed by. I sensed that he was a thief. I told my brother, let’s see where he’s going to steal. He stretched out his hand to a kiosk and took a bag with money in it. I wanted to shout “thief!” but my brother covered my mouth with his hand because he was afraid the thief would hit us. After the thief went on his way, we yelled to the kiosk owner, “Eizik! Eizik! They stole your money!” He ran after the money and recovered it. Already at that age, I could sense what was going on inside people.”
The Chalban is the last of a group of 4 mekubalim who were called after their jobs: the Shoemaker — Rav Moshe Yaakov Ravikov (from Lithuania), the Painter — Rav Yehuda Patilon, and the Street Cleaner – Rav Yosef Voltoch.
“Heaven arranged that we met. When Yehuda Patilon came from abroad, I began to learn with him. I brought the others to join us. We met in Rokach street in Tel Aviv and learned together. We also had Rav Yehuda Segal, Rav Meir Sabato, Rav Yoshua Sharbani, and Rav Avrohom Cohen in our group.
“I told Rav Yosef Voltuch, ‘you’re one of the lamed vov tzadikim’ and he talked me down, ‘What are you talking about, that’s nonsense.’ I told him, ‘Rebbe, you can tell that story to anyone else, but you can’t fool me.’
“I know who the lamed vov tzadikim are in our generation, but I have no permission to say. I can only tell you that one of them is a very old Jew who flees from people. Rav Aaron Hakohen ben Batya. He is a Yerushalmi and he doesn’t want anyone to know who he is, so he is always on the move.”
“I didn’t want to reveal myself. But I saw that the Jewish people is under great pressure during the period of the Gulf War. I saw that if we don’t begin to pray, the situation wouldn’t be good. All the sages of that generation had already passed away, like Chachom Menachem Menashe, who knew how to make tikunim. So I began to tell people — let’s get the rest of us together, and heaven arranged that Rav David Batzri (who had known my father) founded Rav Sharabi’s Nahar Sholom yeshiva for kabbalah.
When I was 12-21, I went around with Rav Avraham Hakohen to all the shuls to collect contributions so we could give the learners money for food. We saw miracles. We would go through the market street to Nachlas Yitzchak and experience kefitzas haderech. Another amazing thing was whenever we entered a shul, we always came just when they finished shacharis before taking out the Sefer Torah. It would happen to one shul after another, it was all beyond nature.
“Rav Yoshua Sharabani had gilui Eliyahu Hanavi. Once he told me he learns all Shabbos together with the Ben Ish Chai.
When my brother died of typhus, no school would take us kids in. The only school that would was the Alliance school. My father saw he had no choice, and he sent us, saying he relied on the education at home. They insisted we take off our hat during studies, but I refused despite their shouts and insults. After school, I went to learn with Rav Patilon and other friends.
“Sometimes I see things in a dream, which is one sixtieth of prophecy, which prevents many tzoros from the Jewish people. I see that we have to be worried about Iran. It’s not simple and I encourage others to pray. During the Gulf War, I gathered 2000 people with lulavs to the kever of Rav Yochanan Sandler before the war. We prayed that Saddam Hussein should leave this world and missiles shouldn’t cause harm, and that Hakodesh Baruch Hu should put in Bush’s head to fight and let us just sit back and watch it.
“I’ve already given exact intelligence which resulted in an army operation. Of my own initiative, I called a senior official in the Defense Ministry and gave him details. When he mentioned it to his higher-ups, they were in shock. They were still checking the information out, and here I was confirming it for them.
“Concerning preventing Iran from getting nuclear bombs, I told the authorized people that they should tell the prime minister not to wait, not for Obama or anyone else. We have to keep praying and not giving up on our prayers. Hakodesh Baruch Hu wants tefillos of the Jewish people. We have to pray for each thing.
“Concerning Shalit, I pray that Hakodesh Baruch Hu should bring him back alive. That’s the only thing I can tell. I don’t want to say anything else. I pray that Hashem will return him alive and not as a corpse.
“Every minute is the beginning of Geula. The beginning of Geula will be Kibbutz Galuyos. If all the exiles will come, all of them, to Eretz Yisroel, and they won’t remain in the Golah, that will be the beginning of Geula. As long as they are living there, it’s not good.
“First we say ‘Hatzilenu min hagoyim’ and then we say ‘Kabtzeinu mi hagoyim’, and then the Geula comes. The Shechina is still in Golus, Do you ever see anyone praying over the Shechina in Golus? We have to pray that the Shechina should return to its place, and I don’t see that people are doing this. Each one is sitting under his vine. But where is the Shechina?
“How does one pray for the Shechina? There is Tikkun Chatzos, there are siddurim with prayers, there is a special Yehi Rotzon for the Shechina. Are we lacking prayers? In the Shemoneh Esreh, do we daven es tzemach David avdecha with the same kavanah as when davening for a refua?
“Who should go into kabbalah today? We have a kabbalah from our rabbis and Rav Chaim Vital writes it too, that whoever wants to study Sod, must be careful with the bris. Without mikvah, he shouldn’t go near this study. If a person doesn’t behave properly, it will all go to the Sitra Achra. Today, it has nothing to do with the age. Today, we are promised by the Baal Shem Tov that Moshiach will come when “his wellsprings will overflow”. Today we see there is a sea of wisdom that everyone can enter if he has the proper conditions. If not, it will only harm him.”
Today, the Chalban teaches in the Hasholem Kolel in Givatayim, which is parallel to the Yeshivas Hasholom of Rav David Batzri in Yerushalayim. He teaches shiurim there, guides the avreichim, and serves as a mashgiach to the students. He is a disciplinarian, from the time he was a drill sergeant in the army.
“The avreichim get a high stipend, but we have very high demands from them. They have to wear tefillin all day long, they have to take difficult exams, must immerse themselves in the mikvah frequently, and be very careful about bitul zman and learning Torah without hesech daas,” he says in satisfaction.