Monday, August 27, 2007

Yarzheit - Ben Ish Chai

Today, Monday 13th Elul is the Yarzheit of R' Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, one of the most prolific and influential recent Rabbis of the Sefardi world. He wrote books on almost every topic, from Talmud to Kabbalah to Halacha to Chumash.

Wikipedia writes about him:

The Ben Ish Chai (בן איש חי) is a standard reference in Sephardi homes (functioning as "a Sephardi Kitzur Shulchan Arukh") and is widely studied in Sephardi yeshivot. Due to the popularity of this book, Hakham Yosef Chaim came to be known as "Ben Ish Chai", by which he is referred to by many today. The book is a collection of homilies he gave over two years discussing the weekly Torah portion. Each chapter begins with a mystical discussion, usually explaining how a Kabbalistic interpretation of a certain verse relates to a particular halakha, and then continuing to expound on that halakha with definitive rulings.

Hakham Yosef Chaim authored over thirty other works, and there are many published Iraqi rite siddurim (prayer books) based on his rulings, which are widely used by Sephardi Jews. Amongst the best known of his works are:

* Me-Kabtziel: an esoteric exposition of Jewish law - which he refers to often in Ben Ish Chai - providing a more detailed explanation of the reasoning underlying certain decisions. It has been speculated that Hakham Yosef Chaim's insistence on having all his works printed in Israel prevented this essential work from being published.

* Ben Yehoyada, his commentary on the Talmud, considered a basic resource in understanding the Aggada (narrative sections of the Talmud).

* The Responsa (Hebrew: Sheelot U-Teshuvot) Rav Pe'alim (Rab Pəʕalim) and Torah Lishmah.

The names Ben Ish Chai, Me-Kabtziel , Rav Pe'alim and Ben Yehoyada derive from 2 Samuel 23:20

There is a long article about him on, including a biography of one of his last pupils, R' Yitzchak Kadouri.

Rabbeinu Yosef Chayim of Baghdad, author of Ben Ish Chai, Od Yosef Chai, Rav Pe’alim, Ben Yehoyada, Aderet Eliyahu, and Imrei Bina, and many other works (1832-1904). Both his grandfather, Reb Moshe Chaim, and his father, Reb Eliyahu, served as Rov of Baghdad. Reb Eliyahu and his wife were childless for many years. Finally, 10 years after their marriage, his wife made the long journey from Baghdad to Morocco torequest a blessing from the renowned Reb Yaakov Buchatzeira, the Abir Yaakov. The tzaddik blessed her that she would give birth to a child who would one day illuminate the eyes of Jews everywhere. Less than a year later, she gave birth to a boy, who was named Yosef Chaim. As a child, he spent most of his time studying in his father's large library. At the age of 10, he left the Sephardic cheder in which he learned and began to study with his uncle, the tzaddik Reb Dovid Chai Nissim. Reb Dovid later founded the famed Shoshanim LeDavid Yeshiva located in the Beis Yisroel section of Yerushalayim. When his father passed away, Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim was only 25 years old. Nevertheless, the Jews of Baghdad accepted him to fill his fathers position as Rov of Baghdad. His opinion on halachic issues was sought throughout the Sephardi world and is still followed by thousands of people from these communities, and even outside these communities. Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim's son, Reb Yaakov, succeeded him as rav and maggid of Baghdad. His main disciple was the kabbalist and tzaddik Reb Yehuda Moshe Petaya.

Those who have read his works are inspired by them. Those who have not done so, should! Ben Ish Chai (son of the living man), even after his death is still living (see Brachos 3b)

May His Soul Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

No comments:

Post a Comment