Hacham Rachamim Nehorai

A Short Tribute

Hacham Rachamim Nehorai was born on 12 Av, 5662 (1902) in Annaba (Bone) Algeria. His father died when he was a child and he had to abandon his studies to help his widowed mother support their family. While working and helping out at home, he studied Torah on his own. When he reached the age of 18, he decided to fulfill his passion for in-depth Torah learning and went to study with Bone's chief rabbi, Hacham Yaacov HaCohen who, after only two years, ordained him as a rabbi and halachic adjudicator. Like many Sephardi sages, Hacham Rachamim Nehorai did not wish to benefit financially from the glory of Torah and earned a livelihood as a ritual slaughterer, and even opened a shop where he worked as a butcher.

After Hacham Yaacov Shoshanna, the Rabbi of Bone, died in 1937, the community leadership requested that he officiate as city rabbi. Hacham Rachamim Nehorai accepted the post, and began to deal with the profound influence of the French that had marginalized Torah study for the benefit of general education. Hacham Rachmim Nehorai opened a Talmud Torah school for children that operated every afternoon and even established religious summer vacation camps. With time, he had pupils training in yeshivas outside Algeria, and also established a rabbinic seminary in Algiers.

When the Second World War ended, Hacham Rachamim Nehorai regularized matters of Kashrut and ritual slaughtering in the city of Algiers. All profits were designated for the Eliyahu HaNavi Fund, the community's charity fund. When Algeria obtained its independence from France in 1962, Hacham Rachamim Nehorai remained in his city as long enough people remained there for a minyan (quorum). When the last members of the community left, he left with them to Paris, where he was appointed Av Beit Din. His aura of holiness affected many of the city's residents; he had ritual baths opened in Paris, as well as kosher grocery stores and butcher shops.

Hacham Rachamim Nehorai passed away on 21 Tammuz, 5745 (1985) and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The Kiseh Rachamim yeshiva, founded in Sanhedria, bears his name.

Hacham Rachamim Nehorai did not write his learning for publication, but after his death his students gathered his original Torah commentary, responsa, and letters in book entitled Rachamecha HaRabbim. Additional writings of his were printed in a collection of works by rabbis of his generation in the HaYareach journal and subsequently printed as a book.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel' in which he teaches to bring people into the fold with the great compassion of a mother holding her child to her bosom

"And He said, "Put your hand back into your bosom. He put his hand back into his bosom; and when he took it out of his bosom, there it was again like the rest of his body." The Holy One, blessed be He, teaches a great lesson to our Teacher Moses, may he rest in peace. For Moses, after seeing what Dotan and Aviram had done and how they had become informants, thought it would be impossible for the People of Israel to repent - having been tainted in Egypt and become a single nation, with no differences between them - and that none of the good attributes of their forefathers remained within them. How, then, would the Almighty differentiate between them? The Holy One, blessed be He, therefore said to him: Your way of thinking is incorrect. They are the children of the holy fathers, and even if they have strayed from the way, there is still hope. What then, is to be recommended? Take an interest in bringing them to your bosom, bring them close with great compassion, as a compassionate mother might hug her children to her bosom to save them, protect them and warm them under her wing. In this way you will not reject My People because they have distanced themselves from Me, for their source is pure, and everything follows its source. Make the effort to bring them to you with a little compassion, and you will see that they will return to their original pure state, and will begin to resemble their source. And so it was.

Rachamecha HaRabim, pp. 240 – 241, The Sha'arei Rachamim Yeshiva Institute for Manuscript Publication, 1990, Jerusalem