Hacham Eliyahu Lopez

A Short Tribute

Hacham Eliyahu Lopez, son of Hacham Ezra, was born in 1889 in Aram Tsova (Aleppo), Syria. He began his Torah studies in yeshiva with Hacham Ezra Sha'io. He proved to be an excellent student and devoted his time, even as a youth, to teaching and preaching to the community. He gave a daily class in Hoq L'Israel and taught a large number of students.

In 1911, the Italian – Turkish war broke out and he left for Egypt with his parents, working as a merchant to help support the family. He immigrated to Israel with his family in 1913, settling in Jerusalem, where he continued his studies at the Aleppo community Ohel Mo'ed yeshiva in the Bucharim neighborhood.

In 1916, Turkey expelled all foreign nationals from the Land of Israel. Hacham Eliyahu Lopez and his family moved to Antolia, and from there to Ankara. On their way back to the Land of Israel, they stayed at Hacham Raphael Sabban's study house in Kushta.

In 1919 Hacham Eliyahu Lopez reached the Land of Israel for a second time, and returned to the Ohel Moe'd yeshiva, where he founded the Tov Va'Hessed fund, which provided loans to Torah scholars and repaired tefillin and mezzuzot.

In 1921, when the Ohel Mo'ed yeshiva's financial situation deteriorated, he was forced to leave and moved to the Torat Haim yeshiva. He was the only Sephardi sage accepted to Torat Haim.

In 1923, the Porat Yosef yeshiva opened in Jerusalem's Old City and Hacham Eliyahu Lopez began to study at Porat Yosefthere. He was appointed as a rabbi and teacher at Porat Yosef within a few months and officiated in this role for 15 years, to the end of his life.

Later in life, he joined the Sephardi Community Rabbinic Court in Jerusalem where he would mediate between people in conflict. He was also appointed Chairman of the Bayit Ve'Gan Community Council in Jerusalem.

Hacham Eliyahu Lopez passed away on 4 Tammuz, 5698, and was buried in Jerusalem. His original commentary and writings were published after his decease in Imrei Pi and U'ven Avihail.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he demands access to hope ("Petach Tikva") for the Jews of the Orient and that they also be appointed to leadership positions

"Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, by the houses of their fathers, by their families". I have the honor and pleasure of being a guest in the City of Settlements which has, thank God, grown to become an important city. This city holds many hopes, as reflected by its name Petach Tikva (Gateway to Hope) and many look to it with a goodly eye, full of good hopes that its population will grow more and spread to the east, west, north and south, and that it will become a major city in Israel. This includes my friends and brethren, Jews of the Orient and the saintly Sephardi community, who dwell in this city. Make an effort and be strong about this gateway, you who open the gates and upon whom high hopes, encouragement and prosperity depend. Maintain the honor, progress and reputation of the Sephardi and Oriental Jews, please. Recall those of past generations, our forefathers, who held high public positions. Among them were the greatest Torah scholars of the nation of Israel, geonim and poets, whose names were the glory of the entire House of Israel.

This verse, from this week's Reading Portion, can serve as an indication: "Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, by the houses of their fathers, by their families", those "sons of Gershon" who came from the Spanish Exile, "Take also the sum" – note the source of their origins, and be quick to reinstate the glory or the past. To those who head the community, I read this verse, "Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, by the houses of their fathers, by their families" – meaning: Appoint leaders for the community, this is no partisan matter - "by the houses of their fathers, by their families" – appointing a head for every household and a president for every tribe is the method of all our saintly communities.

Imrei Pi, U'ven AviHail, p. 557, Jerusalem, 1996