Hacham Raphael Yitzhak Israel

A Short Tribute

Hacham Raphael Yitzhak Israel, son of Hacham David, was born in Rhodes, in 1809, while it was under Ottoman rule. He married Reina, the daughter of Hacham Michael Yaakov Israel, who was Chief Rabbi of Rhodes. In 1840, his father-in-law was among those interrogated about the death of a Christian youth during a blood libel. He was hung on an iron hook by European consuls for two days but refused to confess to the false accusation. Hacham Raphael Yitzhak married a second wife, whose father, Hacham Yaakov Entebbe, was the Rabbi of Damascus. The latter was accused of the murder of a Christian priest in the 1840 blood libel in Damascus and cruelly tortured for six months.

In 1853 Hacham Michael Yaakov Israel immigrated to the Land of Israel and Hacham Raphael Yitzhak Israel was appointed to replace him as Chief Rabbi of Rhodes. Hacham Raphael Yitzhak Israel labored diligently on community legislation and was strict about having the market's shops close in time to ensure that the public would participate in the 'Arvit evening prayer. After an earthquake occurred on the island, he left for Europe to raise money.

In 1861 he published Hacham Haim Shlomo Tarsa's Haim Shanim in Izmir. He immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1881, where he was appointed President of the Sephardi community's Rabbinic Court. The members of his court were Hacham Nissim Burla and Hacham Yaakov Matalon, as well as Hacham Abraham (the son of Hacham Shlomo Mevorach) and Hacham Yechiel Bar Adon.

His book of sermons, Beit HaYayin, was published in Izmir in 1883, and in 1900 Kol Koreh was published in Jerusalem. His halakhic rulings and articles are quoted in many books, including Pitchei Teshuva by Hacham Hizkiyah Shem Tov, Mateh Lekhem by Hacham Raphael Haim Franji, in books by Hacham Haim Faladji and by his son, Hacham Abraham Faladji, in Kevod Yaakov, Shaarei Rahamim, and VaYeshev Yoseph. His articles were published in religious journals, including Torah Me'Tzion and HaMe'aseph.

Hacham Raphael Yitzhak Israel passed away on 7 Tammuz, 5652 (1902).


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations' in which he teaches that it is absolute theft to mislead a non-Jew and that one should avoid doing so as one avoids desecrating the Sabbath

One must beware from theft, and conduct trade in good faith, not only with the People of Israel, for one must beware from cheating a non-Jew, which incurs severe punishment and is a great desecration of God's Name. Although one may benefit from a non-Jew's error when they themselves make a mistake - and this involves no desecration of God's Name - misleading a non-Jew as some do, whether by sliding a poor quality and thin coin in lieu of a thick and good one, or by giving poor quality or thin goods instead of good quality and thick goods by switching them while measuring is absolute theft. This is all the result of a lack of faith in God, for it is He who enriches and bequeaths, and they seek to profit from the sin of theft. Although it may, at the time, seem that profit is being made, in any case this will eventually lead to financial downfall, heaven forbid, in addition to the punishment reserved for Judgment Day. Our sages, of blessed memory, said, "Where there is no judgement below there is judgement above". They are to keep in mind that even if they fear no person, they are to fear the Holy One, blessed be He, in the heavens above, who sees and examines people's deeds and, as it were, recompenses people for their ways and for the fruits of their actions. And we are certain that the saintly People of Israel, sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will no longer do any such deeds, and will beware from desecrating the Sabbath and from the interdiction of theft, even from non-Jews, and that the benediction of goodness will be upon them.

Beit HaYayin, Volume 1, p. 105b, Abraham (Pontremoli) son of Rabbi Petach HaDvir, Izmir, 1883