Wednesday, November 28, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Hayim Palachi (1788-1869)

Rabbi Ḥayim Palachi (also Palaggi or Palacci) was born in Smyrna, Turkey in 1788.  He was the grandson of Rabbi Yosef Ḥazan, the author of Ḥiqre Leb, and the disciple of Joseph Gatenio, author of Bet Yiṣḥaq. 

In 1847 he became the ab bet din of Smyrna and of another six neighboring communities. In 1855 he was appointed Ḥakham Bashi of Izmir by the Ottoman authorities .

During his Rabbinate period he gave importance to social welfare; and as an important mission he thought of founding a Jewish hospital. He requested assistance from the wealthy Jews in town. With the help of respected Senior Leon Adut they contacted Baron Rothschild in Vienna and received the necessary support. He was also able to receive the support from Sir Moses Montefiore. The Jewish hospital was established. At the time, the population of Izmir was 220,000, with the Jewish population consisting of about 16,000 souls.

Rabbi Palachi's set a goal to maintain mandatory education to all Jewish children. He adopted a community law which required every Jewish father to give Talmud Tora education to his children. Children would continue their education until they were able to read and write properly, and could grasp the fundamentals of Tefila. Only the instructor was allowed to decide when the students had achieved the required educational goals. Rabbi Palachi made sure that all the poor children also received education.

Rabbi Ḥayim Palachi was very sensitive to events that affected Jews outside Izmir as well. During the blood libel in Damascus in 1840, he called for the support of his Egyptian Jewish friend Don Abraham Kamando, Baron de Rothschild and Sir Moses Montefiore. Through their intercession, the innocent Jewish victims in Damascus were exonerated. 

(Adapted from Rabbi Naftali Haleva, present day Rabbi in Istanbul, Turkey)  

This is a picture of the Izmir community in 1896. In the center, one can see rabbi Abraham Palachi (rabbi Ḥayim Palachi's son)


Rabbi Ḥayim Palachi was an extraordinarily  prolific writer. He  authored more than 70 works, most of them have been published. Many of his manuscripts were burned and a great number were not published. Most of his books contain in their titles his name, "Ḥayim"  or "Ḥay"

*Darke Ḥayim  on Pirqe Abot.

*Leb Ḥayim a, responsa, interpretations, and comments on the Shulḥan 'arukh.

*Nishmat Kol Ḥai , rabbinical responsa.

*Ḥiqeqe Leb , homilies and eulogies.

Other books: Nefesh ḤayimTora ve-ḤayimKaf ha-ḤayimMo'ed le-Khol ḤaiḤayim ve-ShalomSefer ḤayimGinze Ḥayim, etc. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TEFILA: Elo-hay! Neshama... the blessing of a new day.

א' נְשָמָה שֶנָתַתָ בִי טְהוֹרָה, אַתָה בְרָאתָהּ, אַתָה יְצַרְתָהּ, אַתָה נְפַחְתָה בִי, וְאַתָה מְשַמְרָהּ בְקִרְבִי...

"My God! The soul You gave within me is pure. You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me, and You guard it while it is within me. One day You will take it from me, and restore it to me in the time to come. As long as the soul is within me, I will thank You, HaShem my God and God of my ancestors, Master of all works, Lord of all souls. Blessed are You, HaShem, who restores souls to lifeless bodies".

"Elo-hay! Neshama..." is the first blessing of Birkot haShaḥar, the morning benedictions that we say upon waking up in the morning. The Talmud  (Berakhot 60b) explains that when we wake up--before we even open our eyes-- upon realizing that we are alive, we praise God for having restored our souls to our inert bodies.  The Rabbis explain that every morning we witness in our own bodies a virtual act of resurrection (teḥyiat hametim), the beginning of a new life, since when we sleep, the soul--a fraction of it-- departs the body.  

This berakha also states an extremely important idea that differentiates Judaism from many other religions. We do not posses an unclean soul. Our God-given souls are originally pure. The task ahead of us is not reparation but preservation: each new day we must apply ourselves to keep our souls pure. We are beginning each morning anew, clean and pure as a newborn individual.

In this blessing we also acknowledge that our soul does not really belong to us.  God insufflated it within us; He did not give it to us. We know (and we say) that in the same way God gave us (= lentus) our soul, one day He will take it back... In the meantime, while the divine soul is within us, we will praise Him and thank Him for the most generous gift of all: life.

"A Cantor's tears" Dudu Fisher sings  Elokay! Neshama... at a Synagogue in Krakow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

THE KETUBA: "Her clothing" (kesutah) in Jewish Marriage Law.

As we have seen in previous weeks, the Ketuba establishes the duties of the husband toward his wife. Following a Biblical commandment (Exodus 21:10) the obligations of the husband are basically three:  

1. she-erah: to provide his wife with sustenance or maintenance (see here)

2. kesutah:  to supply her clothing and lodging

3. 'onatah:  to cohabit with her.

The second obligation, kesutah, which literally means "her clothing" states that the Jewish husband is obligated to provide his wife with appropriate clothing, bedding, furniture and a place of residence.   


Clothes: The husband has to supply his wife with appropriate clothing for each season of the year. Regarding the quality of this provision, the rule is that the husband must provide his wife with a level of clothing according to (a) what the husband can afford (b) the local custom, e.g., the social needs of a woman who lives in a farm are not the same as a woman who lives in a city (Maimonides, MT ishut 13:2). This category also includes the husband's obligation to provide his wife with luxury items (13:4) such as jewelry, cosmetics, etc. Again, at a level which results as the balance between the husband's financial possibilities and the wife's social needs ( or local custom).   

Place of residence:   The place of residence is determined by the husband. It is presumed that husband and wife agreed upon it in advance.  If the husband wishes to change his usual place of residence the wife is expected to move with him. Some exceptions are: 1. A disreputable neighborhood (13:15). The wife can refuse to move to a violent or corrupt place. 2. Israel: if the couple lives in Israel the wife can refuse to move out of Israel or if they live in Jerusalem, she can refuse to leave Jerusalem. (13:19-20).