Hacham Ma'atuq Cohen ('Atoji)

A Short Tribute

Hacham Ma'atuq Cohen ('Atoji), son of Kamos, was born in 1859 in Djerba, Tunisia.

His father died when he was still a child and he had to support his family. He nevertheless learned Torah with Hacham David Cohen Gisha. As an adult, he became a goldsmith and worked until he earned a reputation as a wealthy person. He did not, however, shirk from his study, would close shop on Wednesdays and spend the entire day learning Torah. He also studied in his shop and in the market synagogue.

Hacham Ma'atuq Cohen was associated with the Hacham Yitzhak Houri yeshiva in Djerba, where he studied Halakha and prayed on a regular basis. He bought and donated books to the yeshiva. He also had a pleasant voice and knew many ancient piyutim by heart.

Hacham Ma'atuq Cohen maintained a deep respect for his teachers, and would make a 7 kilometer pilgrimage to Didjat every festival to see his teacher, Hacham David Cohen Gisha; after his decease he fasted on the annual commemoration of his demise. For nearly fifty years he attended a synagogue at some distance for his home where there was no other Cohen, so that he could recite the Birkat Cohanim.

 Hacham Ma'atuq Cohen passed away on 8 Tevet, 5699 (1939) and was buried in Djerba. His original work was published after his death in Yekar 'Erech, on HaZa"L texts.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he cautions those who live outside the Land of Israel to fulfill the commandments so that they benefit from redemption

The Land of Israel is so renowned for its holy attributes and for the value of living there that our sages, of blessed memory, said that those who live outside the Land are living as though they haven't a God, heaven forbid. The heart and eyes of every Israelite must always be turned towards there... and one should make every effort to reside in the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, it is very difficult in our times for people to move to the Land of Israel and requires large sums of money, in addition to the mighty effort involved. Our sages have said that every mitzvah that a person thinks about and seeks the opportunity to fulfill is counted as though it was actually fulfilled. For the good Lord, out of His great compassion, joins good intentions to deeds. Certainly anyone who truly, wholeheartedly, looks forward to any mitzvah in hope of the time it may be fulfilled, must be very cautious that their deeds and words do not prove to contradict their thoughts…They should take care to fulfill all mitzvoth that hasten the redemption, such as Torah study during any available free time… or the mitzvah of charity, which hastens redemption…and distance themselves as much as possible from all transgression and lowly attributes that caused the destruction of our City… such as the sin of slander…and the sin of gratuitous hatred.

Yekar 'Erech, p.1, Zohar HaTzedakah Company Printing, Djerba, 1940