Chazaq Cel­e­brates the Crown of Sephardic Jewry - "Hil­lu­lah of the Ben Ish Hai"

The Jewish Voice - - JEWISH FEATURES - By: Adam Suionov

“The right­eous, even in death are called liv­ing … for [they] gather many work­ers for the sake of the To­rah” (Tal­mud Ber­akhot 18a-b).

On Septem­ber 3rd, Chazaq cel­e­brated the life and times of the 19th cen­tury scholar from Bagh­dad, Rabbi Yosef Haim (of­ten called by the ti­tle of his trea­tise, Ben Ish Hai). Chazaq's very own Rabbi Ilan Meirov, au­thor of the com­men­tary Pri Ilan on the se­fer (book) Ben Ish Hai, was given the honor of open­ing up the event. He pre­sented the fol­low­ing to an au­di­ence gath­ered to hear about the spir­i­tual gi­ant. Who was the Ben Ish chai? Sim­ply put, he was a man out of place; some­one be­long­ing in a hoarier era. He was a 19th cen­tury leader with a com­pre­hen­sion of the To­rah closely match­ing our il­lus­tri­ous ear­lier com­men­ta­tors from 800 years ago. He was a noted ge­nius even amongst the might­i­est men of his time, yet he would at­tune his teach­ings to the ‘sheep of his flock'. The night was to cel­e­brate a man past whose teach­ings res­onate un­til even the present.

When the rabbi was a young boy, he was found face down in a well. His sis­ter's screams at­tracted the lo­cal towns­peo­ple who feared the worst for the lit­tle child. But against all odds and with clear mir­a­cles, he sur­vived. In re­sponse, the young Yosef who was a mere seven years old at the time de­cided to ded­i­cate his life to G-d. With hard work and ef­fort, he even­tu­ally be­came known as the Ben Ish Hai, a peer­less leader of the Sephardic gen­er­a­tion. His ex­pe­ri­ence teaches us that great­ness isn't born, but rather starts with a de­ci­sion. In com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Ben Ish Hai's life, Rabbi Ilan asked the crowd to make a de­ci­sion to im­prove our ways as we ap­proach the great days of Judg­ment. If we ab­sorb the right les­sons from the life of this great man, then we be­come eter­nally bound up with his soul and share in his Pur­pose. The Tal­mud teaches us that the right­eous are not di­min­ished even in death, rather their ac­com­plish­ments are am­pli­fied be­yond their life (Chulin 7b).

Yosef Haim was promptly asked to be­come the leader of the great com­mu­nity and shoul­der his late fa­ther's bur­den. How­ever the young scholar turned down this along with all other po­si­tions through­out his life be­cause he knew that with ev­ery po­si­tion in­cludes a boss. In the Ben Ish Hai's life there was only room for One Boss. Yet the Ben Ish Hai did not al­low the lack of an of­fi­cial po­si­tion to get in the way of his re­spon­si­bil­ity to lead the peo­ple. Like his great ha­lachic (le­gal) works, he was a man ca­pa­ble of re­solv­ing seem­ingly ir­rec­on­cil­able con­tra­dic­tions. In fact, one of his great­est lega­cies was demon­strat­ing that the prac­ti­cal laws cod­i­fied by the Shul­han Arukh and the es­o­teric teach­ings of the holy Ari are ac­tu­ally com­pli­men­tary

Sto­ries abound and eye­wit­nesses abide to the great­ness of char­ac­ter, hu­mil­ity and schol­ar­ship of the Ben Ish Hai. He ded­i­cated his life to the great­est cause and changed the course of his­tory with the strokes of his pen. His life is no less than a tes­ti­mony to the won­der­ful ac­com­plish­ments pos­si­ble for the one who sets out with de­ter­mi­na­tion to serve G-d for an Ul­ti­mate pur­pose. May we merit see him once more and drink from the well­springs of sweet wa­ter.

Rabbi Ya’aqob Me­nashe, shlita

Par­tial view of the crowd who gath­ered to cel­e­brate the life and times of the 19th cen­tury scholar from Bagh­dad, Rabbi Yosef Haim (of­ten called by the ti­tle of his trea­tise, Ben Ish Hai)

Chazaq’s very own Rabbi Ilan Meirov, au­thor of the com­men­tary Pri Ilan on the se­fer (book) Ben Ish Hai, was given the honor of open­ing up the event.

Rabbi Nir Shalom, shlita

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