Hacham David Idan

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham David Idan, the son of kabbalist Hacham Moshe Idan, was born in 1873 in Djerba, Tunisia.

He was Hacham Joseph Berrebi's student, and also studied with Hacham Halfon Moshe HaCohen and Hacham Mordecai Amais HaCohen. By the age of 17, he was already Hacham Joseph Berrebi's teaching assistant at the Rabbi Hizkia Peretz synagogue.

In 1891, his father died and Hacham David Idan took on the difficult task of supporting his mother and brother, which prevented him from devoting himself entirely to his studies. With time, however, he prospered and was even able to acquire houses and fields.

Hacham David Idan married Mazal Tov, Hacham Haim Bittan's daughter and the granddaughter of Hacham Nissim Bittan, who stood at the head of the presidents of Djerba's rabbinic courts; the couple had boys and girls born to them.

Hacham David Idan preached in public to vast numbers of people who would come to hear him. He was an expert mohel and is credited with having brought thousands of boys into the Covenant of our father Abraham. He was always modest and gentle in his ways, acting for the grace of Heaven and not for reward.

In 1912, Hacham David Idan founded the first Hebrew language press in Djerba, which he named HaDfus HaZioni. The printing house drew publishing work from throughout North Africa. In 1919, he founded the Zionist society named Ateret Zion with several of his friends, also rabbis.

Hacham David Idan served as President of the Djerba Jewish community for some fifteen years, and mediated between its communities and the authorities. He is mentioned in books by Hacham Moshe Zaqen Mazouz, who was the senior authority for the presidents of the rabbinic courts, and is the signatory on amendments and agreements in the Shoel VeNish'al book of Responsa (volume 2) by Hacham Halfon Moshe HaCohen. For decades he served as cantor and blew the shofar at the Great Synagogue in Djerba during the High Holidays. He also blew the shofar every Friday before the Sabbath began, as was the custom in Djerba.

He attempted to immigrate to Israel towards the end of his life, but his application was rejected by a Ministry of Health physician. In 1955, on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, Hacham David Idan passed away. His wife passed away the following day.

Hacham David Idan wrote Shivkhei Tzaddikim, a book of stories on the rabbis of Tunis and Djerba, written in Arabic, and Maskil LeDavid, two volumes of sermons and ethics. Following his death, his sons published Mazkeret Netzach in his memory.

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