Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan

A Short Tribute

Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan, son of Rabbi Eliezer, was born in 1808 in Izmir, Turkey. In 1811, at the age of three, he immigrated with his father to Jerusalem where he began to study Torah with his grandfather, Chief Rabbi Rishon LeZion Yoseph Raphael Hazzan.

Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan was recognized as a Torah scholar while still a young man and would preach to the public. He was blessed with a lovely voice, and would compose and sing songs in the Sephardic style. He was proficient in Arabic, Spaniolit (Judeo-Spanish), Turkish and Italian.

In 1842 he was appointed to the Great Beit Din of Jerusalem. This appointment would remain in effect even when he left Jerusalem.

In 1843 he was sent by the Sephardi Rosh Kollel to North Africa's Jewish communities to raise funds for the construction of a hospital in Jerusalem. While in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, he learned from their sages and was influenced by their study methods.

In 1844 he travelled to England as the representative of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi sages of Jerusalem to resist the Reform movement, where he wrote his book, Divrei Emet VeShalom. In 1845 he travelled to Amsterdam, where he wrote Kin'at Zion – a harsh polemic against the Reform movement. He went from London to Portugal, and from there to Livorno, Italy.

In 1846 he was chosen to officiate as Rabbi of the city of Rome. His influence was evident in all domains of Jewish life in Rome, and he gained a powerful reputation among all its residents. It was in Rome that he authored Kerech Shel Romi, Netzach Israel and Nachala LeIsrael.

In 1852 Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan left his position and set out for the Land of Israel. He passed Corfu on his way, where the Jewish community insisted that he replace Hacham Yehuda Bibas, who had moved to Hebron; he agreed to stay. He wrote Kedushat Yom Tov in Corfu. In 1856 he moved to Alexandria to officiate as its rabbi.

In 1861, Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan returned to the Land of Israel and settled in the city of Jaffa. He became ill and moved to Beirut in the autumn of 1863 for a change of air, but his days were numbered. Hacham Israel Moshe Hazzan passed away in the winter of 1863 and was buried near Sidon.

The exact date of his death remains unknown, and is commemorated as 10 Tevet, 5623 (1863).

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations' in which he declares that Christian savants of our time cherish wisdom and science

The rabbis of Israel have been aware, and this is not in any sense a marginal thing that I say, with no intent to flatter, as I have often written and published: Christian savants are sincere in their love of truth and science. They judge people favorably, respect the religions and those born to them, and always seek out the truth, going to the root of issues. They are as fearless as lions in clarifying the truth.

Harav Israel Hazzan, Nachala Le'Israel, Vienna Printing, p. 61, 1851
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he instructs that it be established that all Jewish children learn to speak Hebrew

If you truly seek to increase love and unity within the People of Israel, you must decide that all the children of all Jewish men and women be raised to know the language of their people – the holy tongue. It is common knowledge that national unity depends on three things: food and drink, marriage within the nation, and understanding each other's language. The first two have come to be, what about the third? The problem of language causes havoc between us. Because of our lowly deeds the LORD has had our languages dispersed…If you would only make an effort in this domain, and open schools to teach the holy tongue and the original language (referring to Aramaic, in order to learn rabbinic literature) as required, we would greatly benefit from faith, love, truth and peace.

Yoseph Pauer, Rabbi Israel Moshe Hazzan – The Man and His Thought, p.99, Ma'arav Publishing, Jerusalem 1977