Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban

A Short Tribute

Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban was born to Amima and Yaacov in Djerba, in 1910. As a youth he learned Torah from Rabbi Mekiketz Shelli (author of Midrasho Shel Shem) and with Hacham Rachamim Chai Hayuta HaCohen (author of Simchat Cohen), who was to be his main teacher. His boyhood friend was Hacham Matzliakh Mazouz (author of Ish Matzliakh).

He married Aiusha, daughter of Aziza, in 1930; they had to overcome much suffering to have their four children.

In 1932, Hacham Kadir Tzaban was appointed Rosh Metivta (head of the yeshiva). In 1939, he became a member of the Beit Din. In 1948, he took on the position of editor of the Hayare'akh Torah studies journal, for which Tunisia's greatest sages wrote. Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban was subsequently appointed Chief Rabbi of the city of Medenine, where he headed the community's religious institutions and public charities, including Or Torah, Bikur Holim, Matan Be'Seter, and the Synagogues Committee, to name a few.

In 1957, Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban immigrated to Israel, where he served as rabbi of the town of Netivot for thirty-eight years. He founded religious institutions and taught throughout the region's settlements. His home was open to all, and he would receive people immediately. Hundreds of letters were delivered to him on a weekly basis, and hundreds of people sought him out; the rabbi received them all with infinite patience.

In 1972, he was appointed President of the Kiseh Rachamim Yeshiva, where hundreds of students trained as teachers. In 1973, he was elected member of the Chief Rabbinate.

Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban was the eldest of the Tunisian sages and considered the supreme authority on religious matters by Israel's Tunisian community. His contribution to the development of Tunisia's religious institutions was beyond measure, and he went to great lengths to have the works of Tunisia's sages from the generations preceding him published.

Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban authored four books, which he dedicated to the memories of his parents and wife: Magid Devrav le'Yaakov – on the Passover Haggadah, Zera' Yaacov (in three volumes) – on the Talmud, and containing renewed Halakhic interpretations of the Shulchan 'Aruch, Nefesh Haya – in memory of his wife – customs and laws in the Shulchan 'Aruch, and Shayarei HaNefesh – a complement of his book Nefesh Haya.

On 4 Kislev, 5755 (1995), following a year of great weakness, Hacham Raphael Kadir Tzaban passed away.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he interprets 'from every person whose heart so moves him' as soothing the poor - for those who cannot afford to give charity

"…to bring Me gifts. You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him". One can say that this suggests that a truly penniless person who cannot afford to give charity to the poor is therefore to soothe him with words, comfort him and appeal to his heart, by saying "See, my brother, I am like you, and it is written that "His mercy is upon all His works, His wrath is momentary and His mercy eternal", and similarly pleasing words that can provide the poor person requesting alms with encouragement. Such things have important value, for it says in the Talmud that whoever consoles [a poor person] with words receives eleven blessings, whereas whoever gives receives only six blessings. This is what is implied by "Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts" – material gifts, while an individual "whose heart so moves him", shares in the distress of the poor person's plea and soothes him with words only, is also considered as giving charity and as though his gift was "accepted for Me."

Nefesh Haya, part B, p.125, Harav Matzliakh Institute, Beni Brak, Neta' Sha'ashu'im Netivot Institute, 2007