Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin (the first), son of Hacham Sa'adia, was born in 1699 in Aram Tzova, now called Aleppo, Syria. None of the children born to his parents before him had survived, and his mother therefore left him at the entrance of the synagogue. The synagogue's president found the baby and, after some inquiring, discovered that the child in question was Hacham Sa'adia's son. Out of pity, he raised the child in his own home, and when the boy reached schooling age, sent him to study with Hacham Raphael Shlomo Laniado.

Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin became famous even as a youth for his extensive knowledge in Torah and Kabbala. Rabbis from different countries would turn to him with questions on Halakha, and by the age of 36 he was already participating in Halakhic debates with the senior sages of Aram Tzova.

In 1743, following an epidemic of plague that left many dead in the city of Baghdad, Rabbi Moshe Mordecai, head of the Baghdad community, asked Hacham Raphael Shlomo Laniado from Aleppo to choose one of his city's finest Hachamim to serve as Rabbi of Baghdad. Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin was chosen to lead the Sages of Baghdad.

Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin served for a lengthy period of 30 years in this role. He transformed loca religious life, building synagogues, ritual baths and study houses; he organized regular Torah classes and made public Halakhic amendments. Customs that he established at the time are followed to this day by Iraqi Jews. He had great number of students, thus earning the great merit of increasing Torah study.

Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin was one of his generation's greatest Halakhic responders, and is mentioned by several of the great sages of his period in their books in reference to their correspondence with him on issues of Halakha and Aggadah. An erudite Kabbalist, his learnedness went well beyond the revealed aspects of Torah and he was extraordinarily knowledgeable in HAAR"I's writings.

Hacham Tzedakah Hotzin authored numerous books during the course of his life, only some of which have been published. Writings that he sent in manuscript form from Baghdad to Aleppo to have printed in Venice were plundered by robbers. The following is a partial list of his published books: Orach Tzedakah and Me'il Tzedakah - on the Arba' Torim; Ma'aseh HaTzedakah and Tzedakah U'Mishpat – Responsa; Avodat HaTzedakah – a commentary on the Torah.

The end of the summer of 1772 marked a heavy outburst of plague in Baghdad. Three of his five sons, victims of the epidemic, died. His sermon for Shabbat Shuva turned into a eulogy for his sons and for the epidemic's numerous victims. Several days later, Hacham Tzedakah also succumbed to plague. He passed away on 6 Tishrei, 5532 (1772) and was buried in Baghdad.


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