The "X-Ray" Rabbi – Rabbi Yaakov Israel Ifargan
An International Phenomenon
In 2002, when the American weekly magazine TIME decided to print an in-depth article on the pursuit of spirituality in modern Israel, it sent its then-Jerusalem bureau chief, Matt Rees and photographer David Rubinger to Netivot in the South of Israel so that they could spend time in the company of Rabbi Yaakov Israel Ifargan, who is known to all in Israel by his nickname, Rav ha-Rentgen (the X-Ray) Rabbi.
The team arrived in Netivot and accompanied Rabbi Ifargan to a public reception, where a large crowd waited for him to perform his special, characteristic “Tikkun” ceremony. He has been performing this ceremony for years on the eve of the new month at the foot of the grave of his father, the late Rabbi Shalom Ifargan of blessed memory. During the ceremony, he throws thousands of packages of candles into a bonfire while praying to the righteous dead and to the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Trailing after the rabbi is a long and amazing chain of stories of wonders and miracles which fascinate all who hear them, both secular and Haredi, Jew and non-Jew, young and old, wealthy businessmen and simple people. His special qualities are many but the most unique of all, the one which led to the bestowal of the name “X-ray,” is his ability to see and precisely diagnose things. Simply casting an eye on someone enables him to discern everything: the state of his health, his soul, and his business as well as his mission in life.
It appears Rabbi Ifargan was born to his spiritual role as an advisor and savior to thousands of Jewish people, ever since his birth to his parents, Rebbetzin Esther and Rabbi Shalom Ifargan of blessed memory. Rabbi Shalom was a well-known mystical figure in the south of Israel as well as in the yeshivas of Bnei Brak, Safed and Jerusalem. He was also the one thousands of people turned to in times of trouble, asking for his blessing. He was known to be a friend of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, the Baba Sali of blessed memory, and the tales of his miracles spread throughout the country.
Rabbi Yaakov Ifargan studied in the Ashkenazi Haredi yeshivas of Bnei Brak, and later in a Sephardic Haredi yeshiva in Jerusalem, but mainly he studied with his father, who taught him the secrets of the Kabbala and with him delved deeply into the Zohar. In 1994, while he sat shiva for his righteous father, a visitor entered the house and Rabbi Ifargan discerned a severe form of cancer in the man’s kidneys. He called to the man and revealed what he had seen. From that moment word got out that Rabbi Ifargan would follow in the path of his father.
Since then, the court of Rabbi Ifargan has become a huge empire including yeshiva students who study Torah, nursery schools and Talmud Torah schools which provide a education to children in the south and center of the country, and benevolence centers that aid thousands of families in distress, providing them with food products, hot meals, and basic supplies.
Over the years, the name of Rabbi Ifargan has become very well-known, particularly among the community of business people in Israel, as the principal personal advisor of the tycoons in the world of Israeli business. One of the most notable of these is Nochi Dankner, the chairman of the board of IDB Israel, and other leaders in the Israeli economy. In 2003 the economics magazine The Marker crowned Rabbi Ifargan with the title “Spiritual Advisor of the Year,” and named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the Israeli economy.
As written in The Marker, “Of all of the rabbis who offer spiritual advice and guidance to Israel’s business people, this year Rabbi Ifargan stands out. The rabbi, who specializes in matters of health and consultation, is known by the nickname the X-ray. People who have consulted with him tell that the rabbi provided them with such a precise diagnosis that many were impressed and adopted him as their rabbi and as the first person with whom they would consult in every aspect of their lives.”
Along with that, the thing that most characterizes the personality of Rabbi Ifargan is his great love for the Jewish people, his ability to find and devote time to each and every one of the thousands who come to him in Netivot, dedicating to them some of his time and his marvelous abilities. Many people come from the south and the center of Israel, but there are also those who arrive from far-away Safed in the north and even from abroad: the United States, France, Canada and South America. Rabbi Ifargan welcomes them all warmly, with patience and great love.
In 2008, Rabbi Ifargan, seeing the extreme distress of under privileged people in Israel's periphery, established Yad Yehudit. Yad Yehudit, (Hand of Yehudit), is a non-profit organization that creates a safety net for vulnerable families and individuals and gives them hope for a better future.
Yad Yehudit, with the assistance of dedicated volunteers, provides comprehensive assistance to families in distress that includes: weekly food packages, holiday food baskets, small appliances, essential medications not covered by medical insurance, immediate assistance in cases of household emergencies, pediatric dental care and mentoring for at-risk youth.
The organization works closely with local municipalities, welfare services and social workers to ensure that its services complement existing efforts. Support is given discreetly to protect the dignity and privacy of all.