Hacham Yehuda Fetaya

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yehuda Fetaya, son of kabbalist Hacham Moshe Yeshua Fetaya, was born on 2 Shevat 5619 (1859) in Baghdad, Iraq. As a child, he studied at the Midrash Beit Talmud Torah and later at the Midrash Beit Zalicha.  He received most of his Torah learning from his teacher, Hacham Yoseph Balbul.

In 1876, at the age of 17, he was asked by Rosh Yeshiva Hacham Abdallah Somech to stand before the tevah and lead prayers. One of those present remarked that a young person whose beard is not yet full should not be appointed to the tevah. In response, Hacham Abdallah Somech stood up and left his seat, placing his hands on Hacham Yehuda Fetaya, in effect ordaining him as a rabbi and as a teacher of Jewish law.

While still a young man, he resolved to study Kabbala. His father, kabbalist Hacham Moshe Yeshua Fetaya, taught him the Zohar and the HAAR"I's writings by heart. In 1884, at the age of 25, Hacham Yehuda Fetaya wrote his first mystical work, entitled Ya'in Harekach. He became famous for the depth of his knowledge of invocations and amulets. He would heal the sick, using both mystical and known methods.

Hacham Yehuda Fetaya prayed at the Yitzhak Avraham synagogue and eventually served as Rosh Yeshiva of the Midrash Beit Zalicha, where, in 1925, he began to teach the Etz HaHaim Kabbalistic book to a select group of sages.

He immigrated to Israel three times during the course of his lifetime; in 1905, in 1923, and in 1933, when he definitively settled in Jerusalem.

In 1937 Hacham Yehuda Fetaya fell ill and was hospitalized in Jerusalem's Sha'arei Tzedek hospital. Kabbalist Hacham Salman Mutsafi, his student, prayed for his recovery at Rachel's Tomb, and he was granted five additional years of life…

Hacham Yehuda Fetaya passed away on 27 Av, 5702 and was buried at the summit of the Bavli community's cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Hacham Yehuda Fetaya wrote many books, some of which are still in manuscript form. His published books include Minhat Yehuda - commentaries on the Bible, Talmud, and Kabbala that includes conversations with dybbuks and the rite for dybbuk removal; Beit Lehem Yehuda – a commentary on Etz Haim; Ya'in HaRekach – a commentary on the Zohar, both the Idra Rabba and Idra Zuta; Ateret Rachel – sermons of Ethics of Our Fathers, and Keter Tzeddek – on the Torah. Assirei HaTikva and Hasdei David both contain supplications and prayers.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel' in which he explains that the wise will seek repair (tikun) and take pains to bring the sinful to repent

"For their feet run to evil; They hurry to shed blood". This can be interpreted as praise. Fully righteous people are accustomed to pursuing tikun in their towns. When they encounter a problematic person who commits wicked deeds they go, on their own, to the person's home and speak to them in words of reprimand and morals, until they lead the person's heart to change their ways and convince them to end their evil-doing. And should these righteous people need to spend money for this matter, they do so from their own pockets and not from the community's funds. This is what is meant by "their feet run" – those of the righteous – "to evil" people – to have them repent. And if funds are required, "they hurry to shed blood" – the word blood (dam) in this case means monies (damim). "They are clever at wrongdoing" can also be interpreted to mean that the wise go to great lengths with wrongdoers to straighten them out, and "but know not to do right" as their having no issue with those who do right.

Minhat Yehuda, p. 207, Proverbs, Chapter 1, 100. Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya Institute, Jerusalem 1995