Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano

A Short Tribute

Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano, the son of Hacham Isaac, was born in 1656, in Salonica, part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. He learned Torah from Hacham Elijahu Covo. Like his father and other family members before him, he was a member of the Hevra Kadisha burial society in which rabbis would actively participate in the burial process.

Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano married and the couple had three sons and a daughter; the daughter married the son of Don Moshe Benvenisti.

In 1683, Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano was appointed Rabbi of the noteworthy Old Italy Synagogue; in 1686 he was chosen to serve as dayan in one of Salonica's four leading rabbinic courts. In 1693, following the demise of Hacham Abraham Ben Ishai and Hacham Aaron Pirhaya, he was appointed Head of the community and Av Beit Din (President of the rabbinic court).

In 1697, Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano began to serve as Chief Rabbi of Salonica. He was obliged to deal with a harsh epidemic that befell the townspeople. His son, Joshua, died at the young age of 22. Hacham Samuel Isaac Modilini greatly contributed to the Salonica community's rehabilitation in one of its darkest hours, despite the fact that his own health made it difficult for him to move from place to place.

Hacham Samuel Isaac Modigliano passed away on 13 Heshvan, 5463 (1703) and was buried in his city next to his son, Joshua, and his teacher, Hacham Elijah Covo.

His writings, published by his sons, include Ne'eman Shmuel, Arukhat Tamid, Sha'ashu'a HaTalmidim, Divrei Shmuel and Renanat Mizmor.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Torah Study' in which he teaches that one who speaks the truth is greater than one who is learned in Torah, for faith preserves good attributes

Our teachers said in the Talmud, "Rabba bar Rav Huna said: Any person who has Torah in him but does not have fear of Heaven is like a treasurer (gizbar) to whom they gave the keys to the inner door (of the treasury) but … did not give keys to the outer door." A person who speaks the truth is called one who fears Heaven. This is the great key to fulfilling the commandments and preserving oneself from transgression; if one plans to fulfill commandments – one should do so, and if one plans to transgress, one should flee rather than conceal the fact from others. Should you be asked where you are going, being a person who speaks the truth, you must reveal the truth, and thus be saved from transgressing. This is why our teachers in the Talmud called those with fear of Heaven 'people who fear transgression'. It shows that fear of Heaven preserves all the good attributes, and is linked to each one of them.

Divrei Shmuel, 5th sermon, p. 23, Shuvi Nafshi Institute for the Publication of Books and Manuscripts, Jerusalem, 2006/7