In 5529, Rav Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, known as the Ben Ish Chai whose aura radiated throughout the world, sought to visit Eretz Yisroel. That year he left on Tuesday, the 25th of Nissan in a convoy accompanied by the most prominent and wealthiest Jews of Baghdad. They traveled by camel across deserts, and a hired Arab served as their guide. It was early spring, and many of the days were very hot.
The entire trip, Rav Yosef Chaim reviewed his studies by heart, and barely closed his eyes. Every night, he would conduct a tikun chatzos and study the Idra Kadisha from the Zohar until daybreak.
At the beginning of the journey, Rav Yosef Chaim stipulated with the guide that on Shabbos they would stop wherever they were, and not continue to travel. However, on the first Shabbos, the Arab broke his word and tried to frighten the travelers into thinking that it was a danger to stop in the middle of the desert, where bandits lurked.
However, Rebbe Yosef Chaim did not heed the Arab’s threats and before sunset, got off his camel and put up a tent for himself and his entourage. Then he lit Shabbos candles and proceeded to daven mincha and kabbolas Shabbos in a pleasant voice.
The Arab guide, called a “galat,” left them and hid in one of the crevices of a rock, far from the tent. He thought that if bandits indeed accosted the tent in order to plunder the Jews, he would be saved.
He watched them from his hiding place, and was amazed to see how the Jews headed by the Ben Ish Chai, prayed in a calm and pleasant manner. Afterward they sat on the ground, and placed the food they had brought with them on crates, and ate and sang the Shabbos zemiros without fear.
The hours passed, and after the meal, the members of the entourage went to sleep. The Arab was also very tired, but struggled to keep his eyes open because he wanted to see how the night would pass in the middle of the dessert. From a distance, he saw the impressive Rav seated in the middle of the tent, studying from a book, while only one person sat beside him.
In the middle of the night of Shabbos Kodesh the Arab saw that bandits were approaching the tent and planned to attack those inside it and plunder them. However when they neared the tent and saw the striking and angelic figure of Rav Yosef Chaim who was studying from a holy sefer, and the “shomer” seated beside him to make sure that he would not tilt the candle, they were awed. In fear they then retreated.
Seeing this wonder with his own eyes, the Arab left his hiding place and entered the tent. Then he bowed before the Ben Ish Chai and begged forgiveness for having dared to break his promise. “You are truly a man of G-d,” the Arab then said. “The angels are guarding you so that no harm will befall you.”