Rabbi Yeshua Bessis
Rabbi Yeshua Bessis occupies a special place among the great men of Tunis. Numerous extraordinary stories have circulated about him that reveal the miracles and wonders that he performed. He knew Torah perfectly and had also mastered Kabbalah. With tremendous kindness and great purity, he brought healing to all ills and helped his people when they found themselves in difficulty. In the year 5533 (1773), he became famous in the Jewish world.
The Jews of Tunis had the custom of covering their Sukkahs with fragrant myrtle leaves that filled the air with their sweet scent. Each year the non-Jewish merchants took note of the festival of Sukkot and filled their carts with myrtle leaves for sale. However, one year they decided to teach a lesson to the Jews, whom they hated. In the course of a meeting, they agreed to increase the price of the myrtle, deciding to boost the price of a single branch by seven times and up.
The morning of the festival, the Jews of the city arrived very early at the market to purchase the myrtle in order to finish their Sukkahs. Imagine their surprise when the merchants displayed their prices. They went from one merchant to another, but everywhere the price had been increased by at least seven times. The Jews were not ready to accept this outlandish price increase, and so they began to confer with one another. However the merchants had all agreed among themselves on the new prices, and none was willing to lower it. After discussing the matter at length, the Jews decided to go to see Rabbi Yeshua Bessis. They immediately chose representatives who hurried towards the home of the Rav.
When Rabbi Yeshua Bessis was told of the exorbitant price increase, he left for the market. When he himself approached one of the merchants, he chose a branch and paid the required price. He asked the merchant to deliver the branch to his home and to bring it up to the loft. The Arab gladly agreed to the Rav’s request. While the Arab was approaching his home, Rabbi Yeshua was softly reciting the words of a prayer. His lips were still whispering its words when the Arab brought the myrtle branch up to the loft. When he delayed in coming down, everyone wondered as to the reason why, and to their great surprise they saw in the sky the silhouette of a man carrying a branch on his shoulder, a silhouette that was getting further and further away from them, to the point that it became as small as a bird.
The news of the silhouette in the sky spread in a few minutes to the king’s palace. King Albai, who recognized the power of the Jews’ Rav, immediately sent his most important ministers to the him, as well as a horse-drawn coach so that the Rav could come to the palace.
Out of respect for the royalty, Rabbi Yeshua accepted the invitation without delay. The king told him, “My friend, I know that all this commotion has come from you. Tell me why you have so wronged that man.” The Rav replied that he had simply asked the man to go up and bring his merchandise to the loft, and that this merchant did go up … and up into the air.
“Don’t hide anything from me,” the king declared. “No harm will come to you.”
Rabbi Yeshua saw that the king was sincere and that he wanted to help him. He began by recounting the Jews’ misfortune in the city because the merchants had decided to increase their prices, and that no member of the community could afford it.
“Here is that man who is coming down towards you,” the Rav added. “He will confirm what I have said.”
And thus the myrtle merchant, with the branch still on his shoulder, began descending little by little each of the rungs of the heavenly ladder. Completely terrified, the court attendants fell face down to the ground.
Thus the king ordered all his servants to reset the price of myrtle, that it should be the same as in the previous year.
This was the deliverance wrought by Rabbi Yeshua Bessis, the worker of miracles.