Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor

A Short Tribute

Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor, son of Reuven, was born in 1848 in Baghdad, Iraq. He studied Torah in the Beit Zilcah study house with Hacham Abdallah Somech. When he was only 10 years old, his father died, and it was he who prepared and gave the customary sermons in memory of the deceased during the year of mourning.

Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor married in 1866. As a rule, married students at Beit Zilcah received a stipend to support their families, but Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor refused the stipend; he studied half the day and dealt in commerce during the other half. He also served as a mohel and shochet, and wrote out contracts [marriage, divorce, rabbinic writs etc.]. Between 1880 and 1886, he held a formal appointment as contract writer.

Towards 1892, Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor lost his wealth and business, and was forced to begin to make a living as a rabbi. He was invited to serve in the Baghdadi community in Rangoon [today called Yangon] in Burma, where he served for two years before returning to Baghdad.

In 1897, Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor began to manage the Great Synagogue of Baghdad as a volunteer. He obtained a license to open a publishing house in Baghdad from the Turkish sultan in 1903, where he and his sons printed close to 140 books, the first being a siddur prayer book that follows the Baghdadi Jewish rite. The publishing house operated until 1921.

In 1917, as a result of a libel propagated by the Turkish authorities, 17 Jews were tortured and murdered. Hacham Yehezkel Baruch Dangoor, Hacham Ezra Sasson’s brother, was among them.

Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor was appointed Hacham Bashi [Chief Rabbi] of the Baghdad Jewish community in 1923. His role was to conduct religious matters and to mediate between the community and the authorities. He left the position in 1928 because of conflicts within the community.

Hacham Ezra Sasson Dangoor passed away on 13 Tevet, 5690 (1930) and was buried in Baghdad.

His writings include Imrei Kohelet – a commentary and translation to Arabic of Ecclesiastes, Minha Belula – laws, customs and piyutim [liturgical poetry], a book of Responsa, a history of Baghdad, a translation of the Torah to Arabic with a commentary, innovations and essays on derech eretz, diverse sermons, and Adei Zahav – a commentary on the Torah. Some of his writings have yet to be printed and remain in manuscript form.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Traditions of the Fathers' in which he teaches that honoring parents is a national imperative and a source of social order
"Honor your father and your mother that you may long endure on the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you." Love and respect of parents is the source of all mercy, compassion and goodness, as is the respect of a nation’s elders, judges and teachers, without which it is impossible to sustain order in a state for very long.
For one who does not love his parents and abandons them in their times of distress, and has no pity on them, is but a cruel individual with a heart of stone. What mercy has such a person for the poor, for orphans or for widows? If a person has no respect for his parents and does not obey their bidding, how can he be expected to respect his elders, or a judge’s verdict?
Note that the Ten Commandments are written in singular form. God speaks to the People of Israel as to a single individual. God commands you – the entire nation, to sustain and protect the love and honor of parents, for they are the source of mercy and compassion. Respect elders, Cohanim and judges, so that they may endure, for the benefit of the society of Israel and for order in the state, so that their land be protected for a long time.
Adei Zahav, On the Torah, Part I, Exodus, Yitro weekly reading portion, chapter 20, verse 12; pp. 302-303, Jerusalem Institute Publishing, Jerusalem, 1987