Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano

A Short Tribute

Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano was born to Hannah Soudri and Hacham Yaacov Toledano in 1890, in Meknes, Morocco. He married Rachel, Hacham Shalom Amar's daughter, and the couple had two sons, Joseph and Yaacov. His main teachers were Hacham Haim Birdugo – his primary teacher, Hacham Haim Messas – with whom he studied ethics, and Hacham Joseph Elkobi – who taught him Kabbala.

In 1908, at the age of 18, he was appointed as a dayan in the city of Meknes. In 1917, following his father's decease, he was appointed President of the Rabbinic Court and Chief Rabbi of Meknes. While in this role he was granted the Wissam 'Allaiot award by King Hassan II of Morocco and decorated by the French government with the Legion of Honor.

Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano founded many charitable and community institutions in Meknes, including Bikur Holim – that provided free health services to the poor, Dovev Siftei Yesheinim – a publishing house for books by Morocco's sages, Shuvu Banim – a movement for spiritual development, Malbish 'Arumim – that supplied clothing for the needy, and Mohar HaBetulot, to provide assistance to brides and grooms.

Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano established a yeshiva for boys from the villages and towns surrounding Meknes, and cared for his students' needs, from clothing and food to health care, on his own. He taught daily Torah classes in his Beit Midrash in Meknes to 150 participants, and on Fridays would distribute the funds he collected from the townspeople to the needy.

In 1963, he immigrated to Israel and settled in Bnei Brak; noting the distress of the Moroccan immigrants, he would travel to various towns and preach sermons of encouragement. In 1964 he gave a speech that has since become famous, in which he lamented the situation of Israel's Sephardi immigrant youth and their having abandoned their family traditions. He placed the responsibility on Israel's Ultra-Orthodox community, quoting Genesis in his powerful lament, "For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me?"

Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano passed away on 18 Cheshvan 5731 (1971) and was buried in Bnei Brak. His descendants founded Torah institutions in his name: the Hazon Baruch Yeshiva in France, the Or Baruch Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and the Ateret Baruch community in Bnei Brak. His biography appears in several books, including Meknes – Jerusalem of Morocco, and in the introduction to Ohel Yaacov.

Hacham Raphael Baruch Toledano wrote Kitsur Shulchan 'Aruch HaShalem according to Moroccan customs. The book also contains piyuttim that he composed, including the famous Ashorer Shira Lichvod HaTorah.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel' in which he instructs us to pray with a congregation, despite that it may include transgressors

A person should always strive to pray in synagogue with the congregation, for the prayer of a congregation is always accepted. Even if it may include transgressors, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not tire of public praying. One should therefore participate in the congregation, and not pray in private when it is possible to pray with the congregation. Left without a choice, when one cannot go to the synagogue, one should aim to pray at the time the congregation is reciting the Eighteen Blessings.

Kitzur Shulchan 'Aruch HaShalem, Part A, section 80, paragraphs 13 – 14, Ahavat Shalom Institute, Jerusalem, 2006