Hacham Haim Hizkiyahu Medini

< Sivan 5784 June 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Haim Hizkiyahu Medini, son of Eliyahu Raphael and also known as the Sdei Hemed, was born in Jerusalem in 1833. He studied with Chief Rabbi Rishon LeZion Hacham Yitzhak Kobo and with Hacham Yoseph Haim Burla. By the age of 13 he had already been ordained as a teacher; he was also married at a young age, to Rivka.

In 1853 his father died, and as a result Hacham Hizkiyahu and his wife, along with his mother and his two sisters, left for Kushta, Turkey (Istanbul of today) where he was welcomed with great honor. He was offered several Torah-teaching positions, but refused to earn a living from teaching Torah and taught the public without receiving a salary.

In 1866, Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini was invited to serve as city rabbi of Karasau-Bazaar (today called Bilohirsk, in Crimea). Since he spoke Turkish, which is related to the Krimchak (Crimean) dialect, he got along easily with the local community. The community members were suspected of being Kara'ites, but Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini determined that their identity as Jews was indisputable, and succeeded in arousing and renewing their affinity to tradition and Torah. Despite the tensions between the Ashkenazi Jews and the Krimcheans, he was no less appreciated by the city's Ashkenazi community. He would often rule in Halachic issues and received questions from all over the world. He began to work on an encyclopedia of Halacha, entitled Sedei Hemed.

In 1869, his son died. Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini left Karasau-Bazaar in 1878, to the regret of the community, and immigrated to the Land of Israel. After a two-year stay in Jerusalem, he moved to the city of Hebron to officiate as its rabbi and as a dayan. He continued to teach the public and opened a yeshiva for youth. Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini was very popular with the Arabs of Hebron as well.

Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini married his daughters to Torah scholars who were also craftsmen – a shoemaker, a tailor, and a hatter. Hacham Hizkiyahu Medini passed away on 24 Kislev, 5665 (1904) and was buried in Hebron.

His books include Sdei Hemed – an Halachic encyclopedia that includes guidelines for ruling Halacha, Or Li – a book of questions and responsa written anonymously in memory of his deceased son, and Michtav LeHizkiya – an additional book of questions and responsa. Igrot Sdei Hemed contains his letters, various missives and takanot.

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