A Short Tribute

A Short Tribute

Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon was born in 1848 to Rachel and Hacham David Ben Shimon, author of the Tzuf Devash, in Rabat, Morocco. In 1854, at the age of six, he immigrated to the Land of Israel with his family. Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon served as secretary of his father's rabbinic court, and became Head of the Magen David Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

In 1860, he married Esther Ben Oualid. In 1888, he was sent back to Morocco by the Va'ad Ha'Eda HaMa'aravit (Maghreb Community Committee) as a rabbinic emissary. While staying in the city of Fes, Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon founded the Dovev Sephat Yesheinim committee, whose objective was to collect the manuscripts of Morocco's sages and have them published.

In 1891, after returning from Morocco, he was appointed Chief Rabbi of the Cairo Jewish community, a role he was to fill for three decades (1891 – 1921). During his term, he was decorated with honorary awards by the Ottoman and Egyptian governments.

During the First World War, he combatted anti-Semitic incitement in El Aqdam, an Egyptian newspaper. Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon wrote the newspaper's owners – Princess Alexandra – a letter. In her reply to the sage she wrote, "Thank you for alerting us to the errors and crimes issued by the newspaper […] against the nation that I respect and laud", and dismissed the newspaper's editor.

In 1921, he immigrated to the Land of Israel with his family, settling in Tel Aviv–Yaffo. He maintained a synagogue in his home in Tel Aviv, and the chief rabbis of Tel Aviv–Yaffo would consult him on legal and Halakhic matters.

Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon passed away in Tel Aviv on 10 Heshvan 5689 (24 October, 1928) and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Some two months later, his wife passed away and was buried alongside him.

Hacham Raphael Aaron Ben Shimon had the merit of writing valuable books and having had them published during his lifetime. Among his works are Nehar Pakod – complements  to his father's book, Sha'ar HaMefaked – on the customs in Jerusalem; Nehar Mitzraim, in two parts – on customs and laws in Egypt, written in the order of the Shulchan Aruch; Seder Halitza – on the laws of halitza [the Jewish ritual whereby a widow is freed from the biblical obligation of marrying her brother-in-law (levirate marriage) in cases where her husband died without issue]; Tuv Mitzraim – on the sages and ge'onim of Egypt from Maimonides' time on; Umtzor Devash – Responsa; Lehem HaMa'arechet in three parts – sermons; Bat N'aot Hameradot – on laws concerning a dissenting spouse.

Israel and the Nations
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations'
in which he teaches that non-Jews were invited to come on the Sabbath Eve so they could play on the Sabbath of a circumcision

In Egypt it was customary the custom was to bring musicians to play on the Sabbath of a circumcision. They would do this by inviting them from the Sabbath Eve, so that they could play on the Sabbath, and this is permitted by religious law. Despite the fact that our master Rabbi Ben Zimra wrote that …" in Egypt the custom was to forbid" to instruct a non-Jew to play music on the Sabbath itself, there is no prohibition to instruct the non-Jew on the Sabbath Eve. The prohibition given by our master Rabbi Ben Zimra in that Response does not apply in this case, and those who do so are not to be reprimanded. If there is, however, any suspicion that they will collude in hiring non-Jews to play on the Sabbath day itself, the right thing to do is to apply a safety margin on this matter as well.

Nehar Mitzraim, Volume One – Orach Haim VeYoreh De'ah, Sabbath Hakakhot, paragraph 9, Pereg Haim Mizrachi and Sons Printing, Na Amon, Alexandria 1908