Hacham Shaul Hacohen

A Short Tribute

Hacham Shaul Hacohen, son of Hacham Moussa Hacohen, was born on the island of Djerba, in south Tunisia.

He began to study Torah with Hacham Tzemach Hacohen. When he matured and married, he went to earn his living as a shopkeeper and devoted his remaining time to Torah study.

Hacham Shaul Hacohen was appointed rabbi of a small neighborhood in Djerba. During his term, he was devoted to the community, made unique rulings and annulled customs that he felt were unworthy.

Hacham Shaul Hacohen and Hacham Yeshua Bassis were close friends. Hacham Yeshua Bassi named him Shaul, God’s Chosen. He foresaw the day that Tunisia would lose all its sages and directed Hacham Shaul Hacohen to strengthen Torah study and sustain Torah scholars. And the time did, indeed, arrive when Tunisia was in need of Djerba’s sages.

Hacham Shaul Hacohen was learned in both the revealed and concealed aspects of the Torah but, as can be seen from most of his commentaries, preferred the direct and simple approach in interpretation (pshat).

Hacham Shaul Hacohen passed away on 6 Iyar 5608 (1848) and was buried in Djerba. His remains were brought to Israel some 150 years later, on 15 Shevat 5760 (2000), and buried on Moshav Eitan.

Hacham Shaul Hacohen authored 10 books, some of which were published during his lifetime: Lechem HaBikurim –rules of Hebrew grammar, Karnei Ramim – on RASHI’s and REE”M’s [Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi] commentaries on the Torah, Sfat Da’at – a commentary on the Slichot, Bigdei Kehuna and Nokhach Shulchan – an explanation of the Shulchan ‘Aruch­, Arvei Pesachim – a commentary on the Passover Hagaddah, Yad Shaul – a commentary on the Torah, Netiv Mitzvotecha – a commentary on the azharot (exhortations to obedience) by Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gevirol and Rabbi Yityzhak Ben Reuven, Bina Le’itim – on the science of the calendar, and Shai LeMora – a commentary on the High Holiday prayers.


A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations' in which he teaches that the poor must be fed – all who are hungry, not only those who seek to fulfill the commandment

“All who are hungry, come in and eat”. There are those who interpret this to mean that since the issue concerns the hungry, and not the fulfillment of the commandment, it would seem to refer to the poor among the nations (non-Jews). For the poor must be fed, not having been able to prepare for the holy festival, which demands extensive preparation and expense; therefore we declare to the poor that they come to eat at our table. As the RaDa”h (Rabbi David Abudraham), of blessed memory, states in the name of the Ge’onim that our Sages, of blessed memory, said: One sustains poor Gentiles along with poor Jews”. Therefore it says, “All who are hungry”, whoever is hungry, and not (all who seek) to fulfill the commandment, should come and eat… When the number of non-Jewish poor neighbors eventually increased, beyond the capability (of feeding them), they would no longer leave their doors open as in the past, and would sustain the Jewish poor in their homes.

Arvei Psachim, p.6a, David Eidan Printing, Djerba, 1917