Hacham Mordecai Azran

5608 - 16 Adar 5608      

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Hacham Mordecai Azran

A Short Tribute

Hacham Mordecai Azran was born in 1848 in Marrakesh, Morocco. He began studying Torah with the sages of Marrakesh, principally with Hacham Mordecai Tsarfati. He earned a living as a merchant and was as successful in commerce as he was in Torah. His home was “a meeting place for sages” and he regularly hosted rabbinic emissaries from the Land of Israel, including Hacham Yaacov Abuhatzeira, who would stay with him during his frequent visits to Marrakesh.

In 1907 Hacham Mordecai Azran immigrated to the Land of Israel with his family, settling in the city of Yaffo. He joined the city’s committee for sages of the Maghreb, with whom he founded the city’s Sephardi rabbinic court.

In 1914, because of the conditions in the country during World War I, he had to leave for Alexandria, Egypt. He returned to the Land of Israel after the war ended and settled in Jerusalem. His permanent place for Torah study was the Porat Yosef yeshiva, where his study partner was Hacham Ben Zion Atun. With time, he earned a reputation among the Jerusalem sages and would study and respond to questions, even at the age of ninety.

Hacham Mordecai Azran passed away on the 16th of Adar, 5698 (1938), succeeded by his son, Hacham Shmuel, one of the Jerusalem Maghreb community sages, and his daughters, Hannina and Freicha.

His book, Am Mordecai, published in Jerusalem in 1933, contains sermons and a lengthy ruling concerning an agunah [a woman “chained” by marriage to an absent husband].

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Customs of Israel' in which he teaches that the day of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai may be likened to the Giving of the Torah itself
In 1915, during the World War, may a disaster not occur twice, we were exiled from the Holy City to Na Ammon [Egypt] and, on Lag Ba’Omer, I was asked to say a few words of Torah…
This holy and awesome day, marking the decease of the greatest of our masters, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, may his acclaim protect us Amen, has become a festival day of joy and celebration throughout the world’s Jewish communities. It is a very puzzling matter, since on the anniversary of the decease of the greatest of our masters, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai it would seem appropriate that we fast, weep and mourn at our loss of the world’s light. Yet we do the opposite, strangely, feasting in joy and celebration… How odd!
However, one part of the Torah, a superior part, was not revealed to the world until the day of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s decease, may he rest in peace, when permission was granted for its revelation. So that the day of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s decease is like the day of the Giving of the Torah…and since it was revealed on that day, this superior part could now exist for generations to come. This day, therefore, has become one of feasting and joy, and a festival likened to the day of the Giving of the Torah itself.
Am Mordecai, Sermon for Lag Ba’Omer, p. 35b, HaMaarav Press, Jerusalem, 1933