Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy

A Short Tribute

Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy was born to Sa’ada Kamari and Hacham Bashi Yihya Yitzhak Halevy in Sana’a, Yemen.

He learned Torah from his father, who ordained him to the rabbinate and trained his as a dayan, while earning a living with his father-in-law tailoring clothing for the Royal Palace. When he came of age, he married Zohara, the daughter of Hacham Abraham Hacohen, who was the son of Hacham Aharon Hacohen, a prominent rabbi and a member of the Sana’a rabbinic court. The couple had 10 children.

Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1923, settling in Jerusalem, and was joined by his wife and family two years later. He was appointed Rabbi of the Tel Aviv Yemenite community and soon became the entire community’s leader. His unique personal qualities, humble character, and good nature led him to become the leader of all Yemenite rabbis in the Land of Israel.

Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy stood fast in defense of Jewish Yemenite tradition and continued the legacy of his friend, teacher and in-law Hacham Abraham Alendaf, in maintaining the community’s independence and dignity. He worked towards ensuring that the education of children and youth maintained their ancestors’ heritage, and grappled with halakhic issues that concerned the Yemenite tradition, such as preserving the community’s unique pronunciation in prayers and Torah reading, and customs governing shechita, divorce and marriage. He saw to it that Yemen released Jews who sought to immigrate to the Land of Israel and supported their immigration, ensuring that they brought the Jewish Yemenite community’s spiritual and Torah riches with them.

He was appointed to the National Rabbinic Council in 1956. In 1961, he returned to Jerusalem to live with his family.

Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy passed away on 26 Tammuz, 5733 (1973).

Hacham Shalom Yitzhak Halevy is the author of the Divrei Hachamim and Divrei Shalom books of Responsa, and had the vowels in the Talmud punctuated according to the Jewish Yemenite tradition.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he teaches that it is customary to begin reading more rapidly from the words “in the land (that the LORD swore to your fathers” because of the love for the Land

Regarding your question concerning the custom in Sana’a, the capital city, where they recite the Shema with its cantillation, and begin reading more rapidly when they reach “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying”. Know that I had not noted the point where they begin to read quickly before. If we attend closely to when they begin to accelerate, we may grasp the reason behind it. It is certainly an ancient custom, and we should not think that they do so with no reason. Attend and note that the custom to read in a uniform tone and tune is maintained until they reach “in the land that the LORD swore”, and only then do they begin to read rapidly (I have attended to this and heard it in various synagogues of Sana’a immigrants). Why? They must certainly do so for a reason. In my humble opinion, it seems to me that our ancestors’ reason for this was to indicate their love of the Land of Israel and their longing to move there, as though its very mention makes them they wish to fly there immediately…

Divrei Hachamim, Orakh Haim section, paragraph 8, pp. 3-4, Dror Press, Jerusalem, 1972