Hacham Abraham Belaish

A Short Tribute

Hacham Abraham Belaish, son of Shalom, was born on 18 Av, 5533 (1773) in Tunis, capital of Tunisia. He was raised in the Grana community, whose members originate from Livorno, and was the student of Hacham Shlomo bar David Malach, Hacham Shmuel Moshe HaCohen, Hacham Yaakiv Abukaya and Hacham Shlomo David; he was ordained by them to the rabbinate. He married Naomi, and the couple had three children: Shlomo, Rachel Aria and Devorah Ventura.

Hacham Abraham Belaish came from a privileged background. He was a familiar figure in the home of Hamuda Bey, the city's governor, and served as his treasurer. All this was to be of no avail when his luck turned. In 1808 he was forced to flee from Tunis penniless, as a result of the riots that took place in the city against its governor and in which the property of the city's foreign citizens, its Jews and Christians, was plundered.

In 1810 Hacham Abraham Belaish reached the Land of Israel. He settled in Jerusalem, where he lived in great poverty. In 1817 he left on a rabbinic mission to Europe. King Vittorio Emmanuele the First, ruler of Sardinia, was among those who made his journey a success. Hacham Abraham Belaish reached Nice, France, where he served as the Jewish community's rabbi for some twenty years. In 1840 he moved to London, where he served as the Portuguese community's rabbi.

Hacham Abraham Belaish passed away in 1853. The precise date of his demise remains unknown, and is commemorated on the 7th of Adar, the anniversary of Moses' passing, in keeping with the tradition that the souls of all Jewish sages emanate from Moses.

A partial list of Hacham Abraham Belaish's numerous published works includes: Tevou'at Yeqev – on Torah and Talmud, Aharit le'Ish Shalom – a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, 'Afrot Tevel – on Ecclesiastes, Petach HaBayit – a collection of sermons, Be'er Le'Hai Ro'i – on ethics, Yad Avshalom – on HaTor Orach Haim and also contains Responsa, Revah VeHatzalla – poems. He also composed prayers, sermons and poems that were published separately in honor of the country's monarchs and ministers. His work has been translated to French, Italian and German.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he teaches that if one is exacting with the poor, one will never give charity in his lifetime
"If one watches the wind, he will never sow; and if one observes the clouds, he will never reap". For if a person is exacting with the poor, saying "This one seems worthy to be given [charity] and is not a cheat, this one is a cheat and I will not give him" - such a person will never give charity, for a human being sees into the eyes, while God sees into the heart. A person who appears worthy in your eyes may possibly be a cheat, while one who seems like a cheat to you may be a worthy person and not a cheat. This is similar to individuals who wish to sow their field yet remain on their guard in case the winds arrive and scatter the earth covering the seeds so that the seeds will not grow. Thinking this way will prevent sowing forever. Similarly, a person seeking to reap their field who looks for clouds in the skies every day, lest the rains fall on their harvest, prevent it from drying and ruin it, will not be able to reap because of these thoughts. So it is with you, O rich person. If you let this thought come to mind and say this one is worthy of being given and this one is not, you will never give charity during your entire lifetime. Rather, let no poor person who approaches you leave emptyhanded, and leave this issue in God's hands, who will consider it charity…
Ofrot Tevel, p.64, published by the author, London, 1850