Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh was born in Rabat, Morocco. His father was Hacham Aiush Elmaliakh and his maternal grandfather was gifted kabbalist Hacham Shmuel Caro, whose signature can be found on the rabbinic approbation of Hefetz Hashem, one of the books authored by the saintly Or HaHaim. Hacham Elmaliakh's father had replaced his own father as Av Bet Din of Rabat-Salé.

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh was highly renowned for being gifted in Torah and Hassidism, and for his great modesty. He debated with the famed Ner Hama'arav, Hamal'ach Rabbi Raphael Berdugo, in the Mishpatim Yesharim Responsa. Students came from all over Morocco to study in the Beit Midrash he established in Rabat-Salé.

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh married Hacham Ga'on Eliezer Diabila's granddaughter (his daughter's daughter), and they had a son and a daughter. His daughter married his student and relative, Hacham Aaron Elmaliakh, who came from the town of Demante and eventually replaced him as Head of the Beit Midrash and Av Bet Din. Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh's son, Amram, who was very successful in his business affairs in Mogador and Lisbon, was appointed Italian consul in Mogador. His grandson, the son of Hacham Aaron Elmaliakh, is Hacham Gaon Yoseph Elmaliakh, known as the Baba Sidi, who compiled the first part of his book, Tokfo shel Yoseph.

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh eventually left his birthplace for Gibraltar, where he was received with love and respect under the auspices of British rule and became Gibraltar's leading Hacham. He inspired the wealthy Gibraltar Jewish community to open their hearts and provide generous support for the rabbis and the poor of Morocco.

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh passed away on 11 Elul, 5583 (1823). The local authorities allotted a spot for his burial at the top of the hill next to the British fort that guards the sea passageways.

Hacham Yoseph Elmaliakh authored Tokfo shel Yoseph, a book of Responsa in two parts. The book was printed during the last year of his life, in 1823, although he may have passed away before the book was published, seeing as the book does not have an introduction.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he rules to not raise the rent of a house when the landlord remained silent although prices had risen.
Concerning the occupancy of a house, rented from him by Moussa for a period of time at a low rate, and now that prices of homes have risen, he seeks to increase the rent…
I ruled that he cannot now add to the rental fees since, despite the rise in prices of homes, he remained silent and didn't raise the rent and, as a matter of fact, collected from him every month at the low rate; he may therefore not add anything at all to the fee.

Tokfo shel Yoseph, Part 1, paragraph 34, p. 158. Bnei Issachar Sephardi Library Publishing, Jerusalem, 2004
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Torah Study' in which he exempts Torah scholars who are not idle from all types of taxes
Torah scholars with a passion for Torah, who act appropriately and are not idle from study except for their livelihood needs, even if they be very rich people, are exempt from all types of taxes, as Maimonides wrote in his commentary to the Tractate Avot, and as Rabbi Yehoseph Halevi instructed as well, and as the HARAN [Nissim of Gerona, 1315 – 1376, Spain] wrote in the name of the RAMA [Meir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia, 1170 – 1274, Spain] and concluded: It is not because of their poverty that they are exempt but because of their Torah learning, and therefore whoever approaches them acts as though he damages the apple of his eye.
Tokfo shel Yoseph, Part 1, paragraph 6, p. 51. Bnei Issachar Sephardi Library Publishing, Jerusalem, 2004
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Redemption of Israel' in which he ends his words about his 'stopover' with 'until G-d in His mercy will redeem him from the enslavement of his exile'
Stopping over, living here in the city of Gibraltar, may G-d protect it, until G-d will look from the heavens and see, and redeem me from the enslavement of my exile with the compassion of the merciful Father, may G-d soon redeem you.
Tokfo shel Yoseph, Part 2, paragraph 6, p. 51. Bnei Issachar Sephardi Library Publishing, Jerusalem, 2004
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Customs of Israel' in which he rules that since the custom is to make an imitation there is no case of an erroneous transaction
Reuven sold Simon gold rings, and Simon sold them to Levy and they received monies from each other. Levy subsequently demanded to return the rings to Simon, claiming that the rings were joined with silver only, and not with a mixture of gold and silver as was the custom of old. Simon replied that this case was not one of erroneous transaction, since all rings made in our day are joined thus, of unalloyed silver only, and this is not a case of imitation… It is well known among Jews that rings made in our day, in keeping with the market vendors wishes, are joined with silver only, and a buyer buys according to current custom. The obvious and evident fact of the matter is that their sale price is at rates far below the rate for gold, and since this fact is simple and known throughout the city, what basis can there be to consider this an erroneous transaction, even if it is an imitation…?
We learn from this that the case of even a complete imitation, such as our case – made of gold but contains silver – when it customary to fashion imitations, is not termed an erroneous transaction. Even in the case of a complete defect, the customer must swear that he knew not of the defect or was reconciled to it. In such a case, the vendor reimburse the money he took, minus his profit from the transaction, as in the law for cattle and land.
Tokfo shel Yoseph, Part 1, paragraph 15, p. 94. Bnei Issachar Sephardi Library Publishing, Jerusalem, 2004
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations' in which he rules against a decree that is the result of slanderous and incendiary words
The haskama [decree] reached by a minority within the community, according to which he is to close the shop he opened…their reason being that it appears to them that it causes damage to those passing through the public domain, since the location where the shop opened is a juncture of the world's four winds, and Sons of the Covenant [bnei brit, i.e. Jewish people], as well as others - who are not Sons of the Covenant - congregate there. And when the shop is set up there for buying and selling even more people congregate, bringing on additional damage. The women on their way to the ritual bath must pass by there, and they pass by the non-Jewish people who have come to buy from the vendor, and must return to bathe again, at times their bathing may be prevented due to the presence of non-Jewish people that might perchance be there…
We considered the haskama and the reasons it cites… and saw that it is constructed along unformed lines and upon void fundaments, and that they have no clear reason…to shut down his shop, which he built in the public domain, in a place where people come and go. Where, if not there, should he set up shop?! As a matter of fact, it is a place fit for a shop, since it is public domain, and a place where people come and go. To withhold his livelihood and deprive him of income…it is certain that they have not the right to deprive a person of income so as to satisfy their wish, no person would ever say so.
And as to the damage they consider is caused by the shop to those in the public domain, we saw no additional damage being caused, even according to their claim, for the location is indeed a juncture of the world's four winds, where people come and go, both Sons of the Covenant and those who are not Sons of the Covenant. If so, what is to be gained or lost in setting up shop to sell olive oil and butter and honey in that place, since it is fit for passersby and it is a large market…?
It is but a pretext they seek, and slanderous words to ignite the fire and the raise the flames - in order to have more fights and arguments with the shop owner. Whether they have a conflict with him or not, they have discovered an excuse to create disharmony, as is their custom. For nowhere do we find that a townspeople can hold back an individual, who is one of them, from setting up shop in the public domain to earn a livelihood…neither did we find that a shop was disallowed in town because the women pass by the shop on their way to the bathhouse. Such things are done every day, in all places.
Tokfo shel Yoseph, Part 1, paragraph 20, p. 23. Bnei Issachar Sephardi Library Publishing, Jerusalem, 2004