A Short Tribute
Hacham 'Allwan Shimon Avidani was born in 1881 in the village of Narwa, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and passed away on 27 Tammuz 5741 (1981). His family ties go back to Avidan the Gideonite from the Tribe of Benjamin, as attested by the sage himself, and he signed his books accordingly as "Avidan the Gideonite". Hacham 'Allwan Shimon Avidani studied Torah with his father, Hacham Shimon Avidan, who raised to become a rabbi, shochet [ritual slaughterer] and mohel [ritual circumciser]. When he reached adulthood he moved to the town of Amadiah to lead its community.
In 1917, at the age of 35, he was drafted during the First World War to serve in the Turkish army, apparently because of his strength, courage and bodily size. Despite the harsh conditions in the Turkish army, he did not eat non-kosher food; he grew weak and became ill. He defected from the army because of his illness but was captured and faced a death sentence. By the grace of God, he encountered a senior Turkish officer who suffered from an acute toothache. The sage wrote him an amulet that healed the officer's pain. Seeing his stature and wisdom, the officer annulled the sentence and released him from the military draft. His good relations with military officers and the Turkish governor served him well when he subsequently officiated as Av Bet Din [Head of the Rabbinic Court] in the town of Amadiah, at the time when he headed the Aliyah endeavor. The Hacham helped groups of families make their Aliyah, and in 1933 he also immigrated to Jerusalem. He eventually settled in the Zichron Yosef neighborhood outside Jerusalem's Old City walls, living below the Amedi community's Hanavi Yehezkel synagogue. There he served as rabbi, teacher, shochet, mohel, preacher and Halakhic adjudicator. The Hacham obtained public recognition principally because of his book of sermons and tales on the weekly Torah portion readings, Ma'asei Gedolim. He translated the Bible into Kurdish, wrote piyutim, and authored Korbanin Va'alvan, a commentary on the Zohar.