Hacham Yehuda Aiash

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yehuda Aiash, son of Rabbi Yitzhak Aiash, was born in 1700, in  Medea, Algeria. At the age of 20, he moved to the city of Algiers to study Torah with Hacham Shlomo Yedidya Tzror. After a few years, he was appointed to his teacher's rabbinic court. When Hacham Shlomo Yedidya Tzror died, Hacham Yehuda Aiash was appointed president of the rabbinic court; he then established a yeshiva and stood at its helm.

Hacham Yehuda Aiash led the Algiers community for 28 years, during which he taught Torah to hundreds of students, excelled as a halakhic adjudicator and became famous beyond Algeria's borders, issuing responsa to questions sent to him from all over the world.

Rabbinic emissaries, arriving to Algiers from Israel to collect donations, would encounter customs which appeared unfounded in their view. Hacham Yehuda Aiash proved the sound halakhic basis of these customs, firmly establishing the halakhic rulings and customs specific to Algeria in his book entitled Sefer HaMinhagim.

Hacham Yehuda Aiash longed his entire life to immigrate to the Land of Israel. He encountered many obstacles in his youth that prevented his doing so, and only late in life was he able to leave for the Land of Israel. During his journey, he stopped in Livorno, where he met Maran HaHID"A, Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azoulay, the greatest sage of his day. Hacham Yehuda Aiash remained in Livorno for two years' time, where he had some of his books published. When he reached the Land of Israel, he was received with great honor, appointed president of the Land of Israel and head of the Knesset Israel yeshiva.

Hacham Yehuda Aiash had three books published during his lifetime: Beit Yehuda – a collection of responsa, Lechem Yehuda, elucidations of Maimonides' work, and Bnei Yehuda. His sons published four of their father's books after his death: VeZot LiYehuda – sermons on various topics, Mateh Yehuda, Shevet Yehuda and Kol Yehuda – sermons on the Torah.

Hacham Yehuda Aiash passed away on 1 Tishrei, 5521 (1761) and was buried in Jerusalem.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he tells of his daily longings for the Land of Israel

Heaven is my witness that my soul longed for the LORD's court. From the day I knew my own mind, at the age of twenty-five, so it was, day after day, that my eyes looked toward there and my heart yearned. Whether because of the place's sanctity or out of great love for the Land, throughout the great passion of learning Torah and permanently seated at my studies, I did not budge from my love a single day… It seems clear to me, on the basis of the past as well as what is yet to come, with God's will, that going to the Land of Israel, in the sense mentioned, suffices on its own to annul even the obligation to the public's needs, for it is known to all that I will find a place worthy of my learning in the Holy City, and Torah study is equal in value to the sum of all the commandments

The Complete Beit Yehuda Responsa, section 124, pp. 277 – 278, Bnei Issachar Institute Press, Jerusalem, 1990