Good Fortune and a Blessing
Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv
Curator: Carmit Blumenson
Good Fortune and a Blessing
The light blue living room wall in Yosef-Joseph Dadoune's childhood home in Ofakim was adorned with pictures of rabbis, spiritual figures, and religious leaders from throughout the Jewish world, as they were hung by his late mother, Rachel Denise Dadoune. The original couch on which she used to sit stands against the wall, covered with a tapestry decorated with a deer and snow-clad European scenery, articulating yearnings for unobtainable classical worlds. The word "baba" means father. According to Prof. Avshalom Mizrahi, in his book The Joyous Believer (Tel Aviv: Opus, 2010), it indicates a "respectable, spiritual father, who teaches, supports, strengthens, and assists those turning to him in times of need, usually in times of trouble and distress." The pictures hung on the wall feature the images of rabbis and babas from North Africa and Eastern Europe, among them the Baba Sali, the Hafetz Haim, the Baal Shem Tov, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe—a variety which further accentuates the cultural complexity in present-day Israel as well as the belief in the Kabbalist power to furnish a blessing for good health and personal, familial, and economic prosperity. In the past, the adoration of sacred figures and the belief in their mystic powers were reserved mainly to immigrants who hailed from Morocco, who left the tombs of these sacred men behind when they came to Israel, and tried to fill the hole in their traditional-collective identity and the absent social reality by visiting tombs of sacred figures to whom they attribute mystical powers. This phenomenon, however, has become widespread and adopted by large sectors for decades; tens of thousands visit the graves of the righteous, purchasing their picture and other souvenirs as remedies and blessings.
Among the Hassids of Eastern European origin as well as among the immigrants from North Africa, who had already gained confidence in their Israeliess, visits to the Kabbalistic courts and the connection to mysticism have become a legitimate means of personal expression and an integral part of their cultural identity, just as pop artist Andy Warhol used the faces of American movie stars and cultural heroes (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley), which he painted, reproduced, exhibited, disseminated, and sold, thereby perpetuating these cultural icons of America and the West for generations to come. Similarly, rabbis, the objects of adoration and cultural heroes, have become icons whose pictures could be photographed, painted, printed, reproduced, disseminated, and sold following the invention of print.