A Plate of Rice and Flower
The Jewish Spiritual leader who made Malta Home
The Jewish Spiritual leader who made Malta home
In the 13th Century the Jewish Kabbalist and mystic Rabbi Abraham ben Shmuel Abulafia was known for his eccentricity. He dreamt amongst other things, to eradicate the differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He therefore, decided to travel to Rome, to meet Pope Nicholas III to present his idea to him. The Pope was outside Rome at the time, however, on hearing that Abulafia was approaching the eternal city, he decided to have him burned alive. However, the head of the Church had a stroke and died suddenly before his plan was put into action and Abulafia proceeded to Sicily. He was exiled from Sicily and he came to Malta where he lived in a cave on Comino till the end of his days. It is said that here he wrote the book Sefer ha – Ot (the book of The Signal) as well as his last book, and probably the one which is easiest to understand, Iner Shafer (Words of Beauty). According to Maltese legend the hermit San Kerrew, who had to leave the cave he was living in, in Wied l-Ghasel, in Mosta because of the wicked ways of the people, would often cross the sea from the mainland to the island of Comino, where he made friends with Abulafia.
Six years ago, an old Jewish spiritual leader who is also a Kabbalist, who is a descendant of the Prophet Aron, Moses’s brother, came to Malta. The story of Abulafia is close to his heart, both because of Kabbalah and also because of the link to Malta. He was born in Jerusalem and he has studied Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. Admor, Dov Beer Riger Ha Cohen, who is known as the ‘Admor of Malta’, is a very charismatic leader and has light blue eyes which connect intensely to you. In Hebrew, the honorific title Admor is an abbreviation of the phrase, Adoneinu (our master), Moreinu (our teacher) VeRabbeinu (and our Rabbi), and it is passed on from one generation to the next. The Admor of Malta, also has the title of ‘The High Priest of God’ and he has set up The United Order of Light, of which he is grandmaster. This Order is an international organization, made up of individuals from different religions and different professions: Science, Academia, Economy and finance amongst others. The declared aim of the Order is for people of different faiths to unite together in the knowledge of the existence of God and to be witnesses of the light of the presence of God, instead of wasting their energy in wars and on the destruction of mankind, when we should be brothers.
If you see the Admor pass by, you cannot help but notice him, as he will be dressed in beautiful ceremonial clothes. His apartment is tastefully designed and is testament to the inheritance his ancestors left him. However, he also uses his money to travel the world to listen to people and bless them in God’s name. Many say that he has cured them of an illness or helped them to change their life for the better. When he is in Malta, he constantly meets up with people. Moreover, one can ask him for a blessing through his internet site (www.admorofmalta.org) however, if you approach Admor for a blessing do not offer to pay him as this would be offensive to him as everything he does is done unconditionally and he will refuse payment for the work he does.
Malta: a Holy Land
The Admor strongly believes that Malta was and is ‘a holy land’ which is full of positive energy. “I feel at home in Malta. If I wish to I can live in any country in the world, but as soon as I spend more than a day away from Malta, I begin to miss it,” Admor told ‘It-Torca’. He told us the strange story of how he ended up amongst us without having planned it, and then decided to stay here. He was visiting Andalusia in Spain, and he had to fly to Jerusalem from there, for the Passover feast. He took a car to the airport. “The flight was at six, and I got to the airport at four “, he remembers. “But the terminal was practically empty. When I asked, they told me, that the flight had left at six o’clock that morning. I had thought the flight was at 6:00pm!” So he headed to Gibraltar, where there is a holy Jewish community which could welcome him. After a few days there, he went back to Spain, and then flew to Frankfurt, planning to get another flight to Jerusalem. When he was at the airport, however, Malta’s name kept on coming up on the screen repeatedly and this left an impression on Admor. He decided that once the Passover had passed after all, he was in no hurry to return to Jerusalem so he bought a flight ticket to Malta and that was the start of the Malta Chapter in his life.
After Jerusalem, Malta is the best place to serve as a “triangle of faith “
“I did not choose Malta, Malta chose me”, the Admor says. “It attracted me to it like a magnet. Malta is a receptacle of energy, and this was already felt even seven thousand years ago or more, when they built the megalithic temples, even before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids. Malta is a holy land. Yet, its holiness comes from the energy which the land gives and not the people. However, because the land is so special, the Maltese have taken energy from it. That is why despite their defects, which after all, all people have, the Maltese are so kind-hearted and generous with people in need”.
In this context, the Admor is convinced, that after Jerusalem, with our Christian, Muslim, and Jewish history, and with our geographical position, in the crossroads between Continental Europe (Christianity), North Africa (Islam) and Israel (Judaism), Malta is the ideal place to serve as a “triangle of faith ” for the three monotheistic religions. The Admor said that discussions have begun, through Richard England, with the Ministry for Gozo, about the possibility of a building in Gozo being used for this aim. He also wishes to encourage discussion on Comino becoming a pilgrimage site for Jews who would like to follow in the steps of Abulafia.
We all come from the same tree
The Admor insists that every religion is good, and the religion one follows often, mainly depends on the place and family one is born in. “One is born in a culture and raised in the traditional religion of the culture. Yet we all come from the same tree. God is one and he is above individual religions. When we pray, all of us communicate with the light of the same God. Naturally in all religions, there are people who follow the teachings of their religion and others who only give lip service to their religion, if they don’t actually go against the teaching of their religion.”
The creation of something beautiful is praise to God
The Admor insists that even though he is Jewish, he welcomes everyone. He says that his mission is to show light and heal people in the name of God. “When someone approaches me I see and feel what there is inside him. There are sick people who have been healed while others ask for my advice. Often people want to pay me, however God does not allow us to accept money for that which cannot be bought with money. A priest who does not bless others will not be blessed by God. Spiritual work must be performed only through conditional love, which does not accept anything in return. I work all the time, I see people all the time and I find satisfaction in seeing that people are happy. Whether people are rich or poor does not make a difference to God and neither to me.”
Poverty and Spirituality
We had a discussion about how, often, our culture associates spiritually with poverty, and whether therefore, the fact that the Admor comes across as being rich and loving comfort, conflicts with his spiritual mission: “Do the Maltese see me as a good man, an eccentric man, a rich man? I don’t bother about what people say. In the end, it is what God thinks that counts. I am not in Malta to ‘market’ myself or to look good, I just want to help people “.
“I do this both on an individual level, but also in a wider sphere, by organizing events, where I give people the opportunity to meet each other. I hold these events in beautiful places and I love to see people getting to know each other and establishing respect towards each other. I do not make a difference between people of different religions and between the well established people and the not so well established people “.
The Admor believes that he shouldn’t be fake and act as if he is poor to convince people that he is a spiritual man. At the same time he is a firm believer in the value of beauty as a way to praise God and attract people towards Him. That is why he remarked, our ancestors decorated the churches, synagogues and mosques with the most beautiful art, gold and precious stones, even if to do so they had to make sacrifices and do without other things themselves. Moreover, it is for the same reason that spiritual leaders, such as Cardinals and bishops dress in fine ceremonial clothes. They do not do this to look beautiful themselves, but so that through their clothes they will praise God, as it is God that they represent on this earth.
We are forgetting life is a gift. We are forgetting to be grateful for this gift
“Are Catholic Cardinals bad people because they wear beautifully colored clothes as required by tradition?” the Admor asks. “Will they only be good people if they go to live in a cave and eat bread and water? My Spirituality (holiness/sanctity) comes from within “.
“It is important to appreciate beauty and not associate it with evil. When a person creates beautiful things – art, buildings, clothes, and others – he will be using the talent God gave him well. The creation of something beautiful is praise to God”.
He explains the above through a parable about a young Japanese girl, who, a long time ago, from the window of her home, would daily see a man who worked very hard all day long. At the end of the day he was paid for his day’s labour and would use half of it to buy a plate of rice and the other half to buy a flower. This went on for a long time, until the girl gave into curiosity, and she went up to the man and asked him: “My father, wouldn’t it be wiser to buy two plates of rice with your wages instead of one?” The man replied immediately: “My daughter I buy the plate of rice to live… and I buy the flower to have a reason to live”.
Two of the themes that the Admor loves preaching about the most are the beauty of the miracle of life and unconditional love: “People do not love enough. We need to love and we also need to love, love. True love does not impose any conditions. I see a beautiful flower in the garden and I love it. Will that flower love me back? I don’t know. Does that mean that I cannot love it? The flower opens to light, to the sun. Man must do the same, he must open him to light, to love. We forget that life is a present. We forget to be grateful for this present. We love ourselves in the past or worry about the future, and forget to live the beauty of the present moment. We are relying less on providence and are putting all responsibility on ourselves. How can one explain how in the recent past, when there was so much poverty, a mother would have ten children, yet in some way she would manage to feed them and raise them as men and women, while today, with money, technology, and all the opportunities we have, ironically we hardly manage to raise one child?”
The Admor believes that loving each other is the cure for more love to reign in the world and for there to be less hatred, suffering and pain: “There are many children in the world who are dying of hunger every day or who have to do without and who live without hope. In this atmosphere, they grow up with hatred and disdain in their heart towards the world and towards those who they feel could have helped them yet ignored them. These negative feelings can then lead to these children committing violent acts once they grow up.”
Translated from “Platt Ross u Fjura” in It-Torca 5 April 2015, by Sandro Mangion