Hacham David Ben Zimra

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham David Ben Zimra, the son of Hacham Shlomo Ben Zimra and known as the RaDBa"Z, was born in Spain in 1479. In 1492, when he was 13 of age, as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, he and his family to moved to Fes (Morocco), and then to Safed, where he studied with Hacham Yosef Saragosi, Hacham Levi Ben Habib, and Rabbi Yosef Taitachak.

Hacham David Ben Zimra left Jerusalem for Egypt, where he was appointed head of the rabbinic court. He earned his living from commerce, and his success enabled him to develop ties with government officials; he also supported Torah scholars. In 1517, when the Ottomans conquered Egypt, Hacham David Ben Zimra was chosen to lead the Egyptian Jewish community. His outstanding student was Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi, author of Shitta Mekubetzet on the Talmud. Another famous student of his Beit Midrash was the HAAR"I. In 1553, Hacham David Ben Zimra returned to the Land of Israel and settled in Safed.

Hacham David Ben Zimra instated the calendar system based on the date of the creation that we use to this day. Two of his declarations are famous, and still considered accurate: Concerning the verse, "Miriam and Aaron spoke out against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married, He married a Cushite woman" – he clarified that "she was of the seed of Dan, who reside in the mountains of Cush"; he also ruled that the location of the Holy of Holies is beneath the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount.

Hacham David Ben Zimra passed away on 21 Heshvan 5333 (1573) and lies buried in the ancient cemetery of Safed.

His halakhic Responsa were collected in the RaDBa"Z Responsa and Divrei David; his book Yakar Tiferet contains commentary on Maimonides; Metzudat David clarifies the reasons for the commandments. His commentary on the Song of Songs is titled Michtav LeDavid; Magen David is a book of Kabbala that explains the letters of the [Hebrew] alphabet. The RaDBa"Z’s Talmudic principles appear in MeHarerei Nemeirim, the book written by Hacham Abraham 'Akara.

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