A Short Tribute
Hacham Samuel de Medina, son of Moshe, was born in 1506 in Salonica, in Ottoman Greece. He lost his father at a young age and was raised by his eldest brother. He first learned Torah from Hacham Levi Ben Habib, author of Ein Ya'akov, and his main teacher was Hacham Joseph Taitachak, who headed the senior yeshiva in Salonica. Both were first generation descendants of the Sephardi Jews who, expelled from Spain, reached Salonica following the invitation extended by Sultan Beyazit II, who opened the gates of the Ottoman Empire to the exiled Jews.
In 1531, he was head of the yeshiva in Salonica and presided over its rabbinic court. He was in contact with the great rabbis of his time, some of whom studied in the yeshiva of his teacher, Hacham Joseph Taitachak: Hacham David Ben Zimra, Hacham Bezalel Ashkenazi – author of Shita Mekubetzet, from Egypt, Hacham Yosef Caro from Safed and Hacham Joseph Ben David Ben Lev, one of the sages of Salonica.
His book of responsa, collated by his son, contains close to a thousand of his numerous responsa to questions sent to him from all over the world. The influence of his rulings extended for generations after him and continues to our day. The educational method in his yeshiva was unique; students were encouraged to study independently and to develop critical thinking. His students sat in the courtroom with him and studied Torah as it was applied in practice. Among his numerous students one counts Torah scholars such as Hacham Menachem di Lunzano, author of Shtei Yadot and Hacham di Botton, author of Lechem Mishneh; merchants, physicians and scientists also studied with him.
Hacham Samuel de Medina passed away on 2 Heshvan, 5350 (1589) and was buried in Salonica.
His works include Piskei HaGaon Our Master Teacher Rabbi Samuel De Medina, published during his lifetime in Salonica (1580 – 1582) in several volumes; Responsa of Rabbi Samuel de Medina was published by his son Hacham Moshe (1594 – 1598); Ben Shmuel – sermons, published by his grandson, Shma'aya, in 1622.