Hacham Joseph Gerji

A Short Tribute

Hacham Joseph Gerji was born to Shoshanna and Hacham Mattiyah Gerji on 6 Tammuz, 5629 (1869) in Herat, Afghanistan. He learned Torah principally from his father, who was the rabbi of the Jews of Herat. Hacham Joseph Gerji was learned in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah, and was a skilled preacher, mohel, shochet and cantor. He earned a living from commerce, however, and prospered.

In 1903, he left for the Land of Israel. While on his way, he passed the town of Merv, Bukhara, where there was a sizeable Jewish community and whose leaders insisted that he become the town's rabbi. He consented, and served as their rabbi for seven years.

In 1911, some three years following his father's immigration to the Land of Israel, Hacham Joseph Gerji immigrated as well. After venerating the Land's earth and making a pilgrimage to the tombs of the righteous, he settled in the Jerusalem's Bukharim quarter, as did many of his family and community members. He continued in his role as a mohel in Israel and would travel far and wide to fulfill this cherished commandment. When he would perceive that the baby's family was poor, he would secretly give them a sum of money, in keeping with his means. He also preached to the public and taught little children, principally from the Persian, Bukhara and Afghani Jewish communities.

On 6 Kislev 5697 (1937), a Friday, after having dipped in the ritual bath and recited the morning prayers, Hacham Joseph Gerji went to the Talmud Torah at which he taught. While his pupils were chanting biblical verses, he lay his head on the bookstand, and passed away.

His only book is entitled 'Edut Be'Yehosef – commentaries and sermons on the Psalms which he preciously adored. The book was published in Jerusalem in 1926. The Tiferet Yosef study house in Jerusalem's Bukharim neighborhood is named after Hacham Joseph Gerji.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he teaches that one should have loving feelings toward the poor in mind, speech and action

A person must bear loving feelings towards poor people, with all his or her heart and soul, in mind, speech and action: In mind – by praying about the poor's distress, that the Holy One, blessed be He, take pity on them and rescue them from their poverty. In speech – by soothing the poor with comforting words: "Your happiness is in the World-to-Come; do not worry, this too shall pass; many orphans have succeeded in wealth and children; the principal thing in this world is the World-to-Come; 'Your table is lain out with rich food'. This follows from what was said in the Talmud, that 'whoever consoles [a poor person] with words receives eleven blessings'. In action – by giving them some sustenance, in keeping with one's means. Meaning that one who has the means should give generously of Sheba's gold, as did Hillel the Elder, who acted respectfully towards the well-bred poor person, running ahead of him. And if one does not [have the means, one gives] even a little bit of sustenance – as in bread or food; one should give a generous piece of bread, and then sooth them with words.

'Edut Be'Yehosef, p. 91a, Zuckerman Printing, Jerusalem, 1926