Hacham Ben Zion Meir Chai Uziel

A Short Tribute

Hacham Ben Zion Meir Chai Uziel was born in Jerusalem to a distinguished rabbinic family in 1880. His father hired private tutors to complement his son's yeshiva studies with language, grammar and literature.

Hacham Meir Ben Zion Chai Uziel lost his father during his youth, but had the opportunity to appreciate his father's devotion to the needs of the public.

In 1900, at the age of twenty, he began to serve as rabbi in the Jerusalem's Yeshiva Gedola and established the Jerusalem Orphans School for the Sephardic community. He also established a yeshiva to train young Sephardim for the rabbinate.

In 1911 he was elected Chief Rabbi of the Jaffa community.

In 1921 he was asked to serve in the Salonika community, which numbered seventy-thousand Jews. He remained there for two years' time and, upon his return to Israel, was chosen to fill the positon of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv – Jaffa.

In 1939 he was elected Rishon LeZion and moved to Jerusalem. In addition to his rabbinic activity, Hacham Ben Zion Chai Uziel was a member of the National Committee, participated in the establishment of the Jewish Agency, and was the Yishuv's representative for the British regime as well as a delegate to the Zionist Congress. He was party to all public affairs in Israel, as a public figure as well as a statesman, and was essentially the Jewish nation's representative for spiritual matters.

Hacham Ben Zion Chai Uziel passed away on 24 Elul, 5713 (1953).

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel' in which he interprets brotherly love as respecting every individual's opinions and feelings
Let us place this upon our hearts, and remove the impediment of accusation and divisiveness, and of hatred towards Torah and its laws from within us, and let us don the attribute of supreme and faithful love as we were commanded by Torah towards all our brethren among us, as was said: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself, I am the LORD', and through this attribute let us love also the sojourner among us, as it says: ' The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'
Although this is not the place to clarify this statute in depth, let us realize and know that we were sojourners of the sky's four winds, and therefore additional laws of love have been imposed upon us, beyond 'Love thy neighbor as thyself', that oblige us to accept all immigrants, from all communities and places of exile, in the true love of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself, I am the LORD', and out of this love to act in peace and truthfulness between ourselves by respecting the opinions and feelings of every individual and community among us.
Machmanei Uziel, Part B, Chapter 3, Article 10, paragraph c. A triple love – Love ye truth and peace
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he interprets redemption to mean the dissolution of regimes of enslavement and violent conquest
It is Judaism's designation to call on all people for peace – from all nations, peoples, kingdoms and countries. The redemption of Israel is not self-redemption, but rather a redemption of all persons, each from his numerous and bereaving wars, from his enslavement to pagan ideas, superstition and to tyrannical realms, or to falsified religious hypocrisy. Judaism seeks not to transform the world order or life's values, its great aspiration is to annul oppressive and crushing state rule that governs and conquers by sword and force: 'The only difference between this world and the days of the Messiah is but [with regard to] servitude to kingdoms' (Berachot 34b), and the one that is to be annulled in the days of the Messiah concerns not only Israel but humanity in its entirety.
Hageula Vete'udata, Hegionei Uziel, Chapter 28, part A
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he interprets 'one God created us' as obligating generosity
Exploitation and oppression draw their existence from the attribute of voracious selfishness in Man that knows no satiation or mercy, but favors exaggerated pride and much vanity, saying: Do all that is within your might – oppress the weak, abuse the poor, enslave under your rule those weaker than you by force and sword. This worldview justifies itself by the fig leaf of racist doctrine or by a misled philosophy that states that the weak were born only to be subordinated to those tougher than they… Judaism, on the other hand, institutes its worldview on the basis of the world's unity and the unity of Man, who is the pinnacle of creation and is responsible for the world's unity, flourishing and wellbeing; coming from of this worldview it declares: "Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?" (Malachi 2, 10). And the Torah of Israel commands and states, 'For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying: 'Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto thy poor and needy brother, in thy land.'
The poor person is not a lowly or superfluous creature in the world that you are permitted to abuse, torment and destroy or even to ignore, but is part of it all that will not cease to be. And you are commanded to sustain him, and not only at a wretched level of existence but with a generous heart and open hand, for poverty was created only to oblige generosity, just as evil was created only for mankind to transform it for the better.
Machmanei Uziel, Part B, Chapter 2 – Contemplation, Article 15 Oppression and Charity
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Traditions of the Fathers' in which he clarifies the reason for the law that assigns Jewish identity according to the mother
Children and all living things created in their mother's wombs, and especially those living things that nurse and who grow in their bodily structure from mother's milk, are bound to their mothers from whom they receive, beginning with their conception within the womb's walls and shaping, and in milk that nourishes them, especially humans, in whom speech is an expression of the mind's representations, also received from the mother by her conversation and compassionate caresses, through which she molds and mends his moral character in keeping with her understanding and the education received from her father's house and its surroundings.
Therefore the child follows and respects her, for she persuades him with words, more than he respects his father (Kiddushin 30b). Therefore, were we to determine that a child of mixed [origin] be assigned according to the father, this son would, from the start, be a converted son for his parents, who would waver between two convictions and end up without either, and not only could he not become a person of religion but would be neither humane and moral, for which reason G-d's guidance in this case is to attribute the child to his mother.
Mishpatei Uziel Responsa, Chapter 2, paragraph 6
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Customs of Israel' in which he responds to the question of women participating in elections for public institutions
It is reasonable to say that in all serious gatherings and useful discussion there is no breach [of modesty] and men meet with women on a daily basis for commercial exchange and negotiate, and there is nevertheless no breach and no outcry. And even those of more breached carnality will not contemplate carnality while dealing seriously in commerce. And our masters said 'do not increase conversation with the woman' (Avot 1, 5) only concerning unnecessary idle conversation, and such conversation leads to sin, but a conversation of debate concerning important and public issues does not. Sitting together in one place for the sake of public work, which is saintly work, does not accustom one to transgression or lead to negligence, and all the men and woman of Israel are saintly, and not suspect of breaching the boundaries of modesty and morality.
Mishpatei Uziel Responsa, Chapter 2, paragraph 6