Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia, son of Moshe, was born in 1830 in Damascus, Syria.

As a child, he learned Torah from his father, moving to the Land of Israel as a youth to study with his grandfather, Rishon LeZion Hacham Nissim Abulafia, who officiated as a rabbi in the city of Tiberias at the time. When Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia eventually also became one of Tiberias' sages, he was asked by the heads of the Safed and Tiberias communities to travel abroad as a rabbinic emissary to the Jewish communities of North Africa.

His first trip was in 1857, and he traveled again in 1862. During his travels he stopped in Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers. Welcomed with great honor, he was asked to rule Halakha and to provide his approbation for various books.

In 1863, Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia returned to Tiberias, where he resumed his Torah teaching as one of the city's sages.

In 1873, asked by the sages of Damascus to serve as their city's rabbi, Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia returned to the city of his birth to lead the community. He did so with great courage, at times overturning other sages' rulings. He bravely stood up to the wealthy and influential members of the community, yet was lenient and flexible with the city's poor people and simple folk. Despite objections raised by the city's butchers, Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia had local meat taxes lowered, out of concern for the poor.

In 1909, sensing that his end was near, Hacham Yitzhak Abulafia decided to return to the Land of Israel, where he wished to be buried. He returned to Tiberias where, on 15 Adar 5670 (1910) - Shushan Purim - he passed away and was buried.

His book, Pnei Yitzhak, was written in six volumes and contains hundreds of Responsa written over several decades. Over the years, the book was printed in several different cities – Aleppo, Livorno, Izmir, and in Jerusalem, where its last section, a collection of his sermons, was also printed.

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