Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen

5651 - 12 Iyar 5740      

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Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen was born to Rachima and Hacham Shaul Hacohen on the festival of Shavuot 5651 (1891) in Gabès, Tunisia. His grandfather was Hacham David Hacohen, Head of the Gabès yeshiva and known as a miracle-worker. Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen studied with Hacham Haim Houri of Gabès, who as to become his principal teacher, and Hacham Fradji Alush, Head of the Beit David yeshiva and Av Beit Din of the Gabès Rabbinic Court.

He married Shashona, daughter of Hacham Zion Cohen, author of Yoshia Zion, in 1910. In 1921, following the decease of Hacham Fradji Alush, he began to serve as head of the yeshiva and Presidentof the Rabbinic Court. In 1941 he moved to Tunis, the capital city, to obtain medical treatments for his son and was appointed Associate to the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia, Hacham Mordecai Kamos Amaiass, and to the Chief Rabbinic Court as Rosh Herkev (head of a triumvirate of rabbinic judges).

At the age of seventy, in 1958, Hacham Soso Hacohen immigrated to Israel, settling in Beer Sheva's Shikkun Dalet neighborhood. He moved to Jerusalem after being appointed to the Sephardi Eidah HaHaredit Rabbinic Court and set the Porat Yosef and Reishit Hochma yeshivot as the places for his daily study.

Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen passed away on 12 Iyar 5740 (1980) and was buried in the rabbis' section of the Beer Sheva cemetery. His grandson, Rabbi Yoram Cohen, Rabbi of the Ramot neighborhood in Beer Sheva, established the Imrei Yosef institutions in his commemoration: a network of preschools in Beer Sheva, a pensioners' kollel, and a kollel for rabbinic studies. Hacham Yosef Soso Hacohen authored many books, including Haim BaYad – Responsa, Keshot HaNesech­ – on Talmudic topics, Kisa D'Pascha – on the Passover Haggadah, Pirchei Shoshanna – Responsa, sayings by CHaZa"L and original commentary on the Bible, and Yiftach Yosef – containing original commentary on the Torah and religious laws.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Israel and the Nations' in which he permits drinking fermented palm juice prepared by Ishmaelites, rather than being stringent

A question arises concerning the drink customarily prepared by Ishmaelites from date palms, prepared by cutting down the palm tree's top branches, slitting them lengthwise and hanging a vessel to collect the liquid that flows from them. It is sweet as honey and sold in markets. They also prepare a fermented version, made by adding a little leavening in the vessel containing the palm juice. The Ishmaelites are accustomed to fermenting it while the vessel is still hanging on the palm tree, by adding a bit of leavening, so that every drop that flows from the palm ferments. We have recently heard that it is not easy to make it ferment; in the winter, in particular, they need to add a bit of their cooked food, such as couscous and the like, in which there might be a bone, or some non-kosher meat. There are those who do nothing more than placing leavening in the vessel in the usual way. The question has therefore been asked as to the law concerning such palm drink; can the difference be tasted? The palm drink's taste remains as it was, and the vendors all say that it contains no such thing. Reply: Since there are many Ishmaelites who put in nothing but leavening, and tasting it proves that there is no difference in its taste, we can assume that the vendors all act similarly, and it is permitted for consumption.

Haim BaYad, Yoreh De'ah, section 35, p. 178, published by the author, Zohar Press, Tel Aviv 1976