Hacham Yaakov Chaim Sofer

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yaakov Chaim Sofer was born in Baghdad in 1870 to Esther and Rabbi Yitzhak Baruch from the Moussa family. He learned Torah and scribing [sofer stam - religious manuscript writing] from his father, and was educated in the Midrash Zilcah Yeshiva, led by Rosh Yeshiva Sage Abdallah Somech and the Baghdad community Chief Rabbi and rabbinic court judge, Rabbi Elisha Danghoor. He was influenced in his Torah and Kabbalistic studies by Hacham Yosef Haim – known as the Ben Ish Chai – and ordained by him as Moreh Tzedek [Halachic decisor, posek]. He earned a living as a manuscript scribe, hence his family name, Sofer.

Hacham Yaakov Chaim Sofer immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1904 with his colleagues Rabbi Yehezkel Ezra Rachamim and Rabbi Tzedaka Hutsein. He lived in Jerusalem and studied at the Beit-El Kabbalist yeshiva. In 1909, together with several additional rabbis from Baghdad, he established the Shoshana L'David synagogue in the Beit Israel neighborhood, where he would give sermons on the Sabbath and Festivals. He studied and wrote his books in a small attic adjacent to the synagogue. He eventually joined the Kabbalah students at the Rechovot HaNahar yeshiva, where he was a collegial student to Rabbi Haim Shaul Cohen Douek.

Hacham Sofer was renowned for his halachic ruling, and as a sage and kabbalist, principally because of his book on Halacha, Kaf HaChaim, a collection of religious laws on the Shulchan Aruch. His writings include: Kol Yaakov – on Halacha in Scribing, Hukei Chaim – sermons for diverse occasions, Chaim ad Ha'Olam – sermons and clarifications for tractate reading conclusions, Yagel Ya'akov – sermons on the weekly Torah Readings, Yismach Moshe – sermons on the weekly Torah Readings. Additional writings that are still in manuscript form include: Be'er Ma'im Chaim – Responsa, Beit Ya'akov – Sermons on the weekly Torah Readings, Chafetz Chaim – sermons for diverse occasions, 'Edut Ya'akov –sermons for the Four Sabbaths and a commentary of Ethics of Our Fathers, as well as Chezyonot Ya'akov – over 800 of his dreams, visions and revelations that he wrote down.

Hacham Yaakov Chaim Sofer passed away in 1939 at the age of 69 and was eulogized by sixteen Jerusalem rabbis. He is buried in the Hassidic section of the Bavli (Iraqi) community on the Mount of Olives.


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