Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche was born to Sultana and Hacham David in 1890, in Marrakesh, Morocco.

His father, Hacham David Chelouche, presided over the yeshiva in Marrakesh and his other sons had all died. At the age of two, Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche became seriously ill to the point that his life was in danger. His father prayed before the Torah ark, pleading that his own life be taken instead. The child recovered, while the father died within two weeks. In keeping with Moroccan custom, Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche was considered "redeemed" and, for this reason, wore only clothes given to him by neighbors until the age of 12.

In 1903, when he reached Bar Mitzvah age, Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche immigrated to Jerusalem with his mother and sister. He studied at the Tov Yisbe'u yeshiva, headed by Hacham Yosef Haim Hacohen, who presided over the Maghreb Community Committee in Jerusalem. During his studies, he earned a meager living reading and writing letters for aged women who lived in Jerusalem and by helping them cash the checks they received from their relatives in Morocco.

In 1912 Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche, along with his friend Hacham Bechor Yosef Ben Malcah, founded a Talmud Torah in Jerusalem.

Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche married Sa'ada and the couple had three children, two sons and a daughter.

During the First Word War Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche, being a French subject, was obliged to leave the Land of Israel; he returned in 1920. He left for Morocco in 1922 as a rabbinic emissary, sent by the Jerusalem Maghreb Community Committee.

For many years and well into old age, he taught at the Porat Yosef yeshiva in Jerusalem under the leadership of Hacham Ezra Attiah and Hacham Nissim Eliashar. Among his students was Rishon LeZion Hacham Ovadia Yosef.

He was elected as a member of the Jerusalem Maghreb Community Committee in 1929, and appointed as a dayan in its rabbinic court in 1930, alongside rabbinic judges Hacham Shmuel Azran, Hacham Shalom Azoulay and Hacham Amram Aburavia. He officiated as the Committee's rabbi from 1957 to his death in 1960.

Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche, who would not earn a living from Torah, ran a commerce for religious articles.

Hacham Yosef Yitzhak Chelouche passed away on 30 Sivan 5720 (1960) and was buried in Jerusalem. After his decease, his descendants published Divrei Yosef, a book of sermons based on his manuscripts.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he teaches the obligation to eulogize charitable people as a Torah scholar's obligation

The deceased was a charitable individual. When people went to fulfill the obligation of gathering money for charity, he was often the first to give. We are all therefore obligated to eulogize him, even those who did not directly benefit from him. Measure for measure; just as he was a benefactor for other people, and his death put an end to the benefit and value they received, thus must other people come to his benefit and eulogize him. This is the reason the sages said that "The Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future prepare a canopy and shelter for those who fulfill the mitzvah of charity with those who toil at Torah. "For to be in the shelter of wisdom is to be also in the shelter of money". Just as the toil of some at Torah benefits others, so do those who fulfill the commandment of charity benefit others; just as Torah scholars are to be eulogized, so are those who fulfill the mitzvah of charity to be eulogized.

Divrei Yosef, Sermons on the Torah and on Festivals, Sermons for Eulogies, p. 140, Private publication of the author's manuscripts, Jerusalem 2010