Hacham Meir Yonah

A Short Tribute

Hacham Meir Yonah, son of Moussa Yonah, was born in 1917 in Djerba, Tunisia. The Yonah family's origins were in Yemen, but his grandfather, Hacham Zecharia Yonah, moved to Djerba while still a young man and eventually became renowned as one of Djerba's great kabbalists. His son, Moussa, was a merchant and mohel.

Hacham Meir Yonah studied Torah with Hacham Mekiketz Didi, Hacham Mekiketz Sheli, Hacham Haim Houri, Hacham Rachamim Hai Hayuta Hacohen, and Hacham Ozipha Cohen. At the age of 19, he moved to from Djerba to Gabès, where he was ordained and officiated as rabbi. Two years later, he married Misha Haddad and moved with her to the town of Douz, where he officiated as rabbi and served as shochet.

In 1943, at the age of 26, he left Tunisia with his family for Marseille, France, with the intention of immigrating to the Land of Israel. In Marseille he served as a rabbi, though not officially. In 1950, Hacham Meir Yonah immigrated to Israel, settling in the Pardes Hannah immigrant camp. He eventually officiated as the rabbi of Ramat Ishai – Beit She'arim.

Hacham Meir Yonah was among those who lay the foundation stone of the town of Migdal HaEmek. After its founding, Hacham Meir Yonah moved to Migdal HaEmek with his family, serving as its first rabbi for 31 years, and standing at the helm of its religious council for 26 years pro bono.

Hacham Meir Yonah passed away on 22 Adar Bet, 5744 (1983).

He authored several books, including Mi VaMi – a commentary on the Passover Haggadah, and Beit Meir – a collection of Responsa and original commentary on the Talmud and Bible.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Torah Study' in which he warns Torah scholars to remain humble and not be prideful among their colleagues

"…say little and do much, and receive every person with a pleasant countenance" refers to the attribute of humbleness. One should not boast of having learned much, but belittle oneself by saying, "despite all I have learned I've not learned a drop in the sea of the Torah's wisdom…" And one should not act as do those who, seeing that their wisdom exceeds that of their colleagues, become prideful and take no other person into account, and are unwilling even to speak with others, thinking that they are unique in the entire world – they are surely making a great error. For our sages, of blessed memory, said that "The words of Torah are comparable to water. Just as water leaves high places for lower places, thus do the words of Torah exist only among those of humble spirit." This is the meaning of "say little and do much"; even if you have done much, meaning that you have studied Torah and fulfilled many mitzvoth, you should consider this as a minor thing so that you not be prideful among your colleagues. Which is why the verse ends with "and receive every person with a pleasant countenance" – even a person who is lesser than you.

Beit Meir, original interpretation of Tractate Avot, p. 142, published by Rabbi Yonah's family, Migdal HaEmek 1986