A Short Tribute

A Short Tribute

Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai was born to his mother Rachel, daughter of Perla, and to his father Hacham Gabriel Yehoshua Shabtai in 1862 in the city of Salonika, Greece. In 1867, at the age of 5, he immigrated to Israel with his parents and they settled in Jerusalem.

Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai studied in the Chessed El yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and with his father, who was one of the yeshiva headmasters. In 1879 he married Hannah, the daughter of Rabbi Elazar Mizrachi, and they had several sons and daughters.

In 1886 Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai jointly authored Me'am Lo'ez, a commentary on the Book of Exodus, with Hacham Nachman Battito and HachamShmuel Nissim.

In 1889 he left as a rabbinic emissary for Tunis and Tripoli, and in 1890 he went to Buchara.

In 1900 he was appointed Associate Hacham Bashi in Jaffa and in 1904 appointed Hacham Bashi in Tripoli, Libya; in 1908 he was appointed Hacham Bashi in Aleppo, Syria, serving in this role for eighteen years.

While in his position, as a result of the Young Turks rebellion, he dealt with changes in the regime as well as with the imposition of the military draft on Jews. Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai stood his guard and defended the community. He took care of the release of three hundred scholars from hard labor and saved the Jewish cemetery from destruction.

In 1919 he left for London and Paris on a mission to raise funds for the establishment of an orphanage in Aram Tzuba (Iraq). In 1926, following a divergence in views with the heads of the community in Aleppo, he resigned from his position and returned to Jerusalem, where he was appointed Rosh Av Beit Din [Head of the Rabbinic court]. In 1940 he was chosen as a member of the Chief Rabbinic Council, and in 1943 he established the Sha'arei Ora yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai passed away on 23 Av 1955 and was buried in Jerusalem.

Hacham Hezekiah Shabtai's book, Divrei Hizkiahu, published in two volumes, contains sermons, responsa and halachic rulings.

Love of Israel
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel'
in which he teaches that one who loves peace is already worthy of being drawn closer to Torah
'Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.' 'The study of Torah is equal to them all' precisely clarifies this, why does the text not begin with the command about Torah?
According to the interpretation in our article located in the introduction, He said – as it were, after Israel made their first camp, and came to detest argument and to love peace – that they justly deserve that I give them the Torah, in the sense that they came to merit the Torah through peace. This clarifies what it says, 'loving peace and pursuing peace': they are already worthy of being drawn close to Torah through peace.
Divrei Hizkiahu, p. 25, Rabbi Ezra Haim Hashalem Printing, Damascus, Aram Tzuba, 1921
Torah Study
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Torah Study'
in which he teaches that one working for his livelihood who reads the Shema is considered as studying Torah
'…recite it day and might, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper in your undertakings and only then will you be successful." Our teachers, however, explained and clarified that according to Torah a person who works for a livelihood and is pressed for time, yet sets times aside for Torah [study], or someone who has no time for even this – yet prays Shacharit, Mincha and 'Arvit, and recites the Shema appropriately, this too is considered as studying Torah… A person who releases himself from the yoke of Torah will have the fear of God and common decency [derech eretz] imposed upon him; a person who maintains his studies and supports the studies of Torah students will be delivered from it all and achieve the merit of God-fearing people…and will succeed in all things.
Divrei Hizkiahu, Vol. 2, p. 8, Jerusalem, 1952
Tzedakah and Healing
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing'
in which he interprets the Priests Blessing as honestly providing for the poor, this being called 'countenance'
It is known that one must try to provide for the poor person before his appeal for support and assistance. It has been said, concerning this, that if a poor person first had to extend his hand, then the letters of the Name will arrive in reverse, and this is termed "hind", while if a person extends his hand to the poor before he [the latter] puts out his hand to take, then will the Name arrive straightforwardly, and this is termed "countenance".
It is also known that peace will come through charity, and has been said, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace". This is what is meant by "The LORD lift up His countenance upon you", that if you achieve bringing the letters of the Name's countenance straightforwardly, He will then give you peace.
And it is also known that it is by the merit of charity that we are redeemed, and that they, of blessed memory, said that the name of the Messiah is like the name of his Master's, as it says 'our just Lord', which explained in Scripture by what follows, 'So shall they put My name' - on the People of Israel, as it were, meaning that the Name of God is carried by the Messiah, who will arrive speedily in our days, and very soon, Amen.
Divrei Hizkiahu, p. 26, Rabbi Ezra Haim Hashalem Printing, Damascus, Aram Tzuba, 1921
Israel and the Nations
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations'
in which he teaches the obligation of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" towards our non-Jewish neighbors
"Love your fellow as yourself" – To say that a man love his fellow man, and come to his assistance, is not required between Israel and their brethren, but that it also be thus with our neighbors – who are not Jews. One must be loving with them, and pursue their wellbeing and benefit. We are obligated to do so not only because it is common sense, but by the holy Torah, whose ways are pleasant ways, and all its paths are peace. The wicked Egyptians … tormented us very much, and as we know, there was no harsh labor they did not force upon us. This is the reason that the Torah commands us to overcome and not to hate them. Why? Because we were strangers in their land. All the more so concerning the nations in our day, who are not idolaters, and who dwell in their lands as strangers and residents without disgrace. We are certainly obligated to be loving and friendly with them.
And if they are, heaven forbid, in distress, we are also obligated to share in their distress and be in sorrow for them… in the sense that we are certainly obligated to all the nations and it is our duty to love them, as a man loves his fellow man. In this way they will recognize the fact and know that the Torah we have is complete, and leads us in the true way, and all the world's peoples will see that the Name of the Lord is called upon us.
Divrei Hizkiahu, p. 256 - 257, Rabbi Ezra Haim Hashalem Printing, Damascus, Aram Tzuba, 1921
Traditions of the Fathers
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Traditions of the Fathers'
who attributes success to his father's guidance, in whose shadow he took refuge
Already from an early age did my father my master guide me in the just ways and teach me mankind's purpose in life. If I have met with success in one or another aspect, it is because I always took refuge in his shadow and depended on the words of his teachings.
Divrei Hizkiahu, Vol. 2, Introduction, Jerusalem, 1952
Customs of Israel
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Customs of Israel'
in which he gives the reason for naming the Sabbath before Shavuot Shabbat Kallah [the Bridal Sabbath]
This Sabbath day is called Shabbat Kallah by the People of Israel for two reasons: Because it was our forefathers' custom to utter holy words on this Sabbath and to fulfil what they, of blessed memory, wrote 'Moses enacted for [the People of] Israel that they should inquire and expound upon the matter of the day'. And also because the Assembly of Israel is named the 'bride of the holy groom', since by the Torah which was handed to us by our Teacher Moses, may he rest in peace, He consecrated us in total sanctification [kiddushin].
Divrei Hizkiahu, Vol. 2, Zichron Tzaddikim, p.309, Jerusalem, 1952