Chaim Yosef David Azulai (1724-1807) more commonly known as the Chida (derived from his initials), was born in Jerusalem to a family with a long line of rabbis. From childhood he showed amazing proficiency in Jewish study, and learned under the great Torah scholars of the day. His name was soon well-known across the Jewish community of the Holy Land, and before he was 30, the Chida was selected to be the community’s emissary to Europe. He would go on several international trips to raise support and funds for the Jews in Israel (long before the start of the Zionist movement). Two of these trips lasted over 5 years each, and took him across Africa and Europe. Many credit him with sustaining the small Jewish community of Israel, which would have otherwise been extinguished by various Turkish and Arab warlords. During his travels he made sure to visit any ancient libraries he came across, and diligently studied their manuscripts, which earned him fame as a great scholar of all subjects. Meanwhile, he was able to publish roughly 70 different works on Judaism (writing his first book at age 16), ranging from Jewish law and scriptural commentaries to prayer books, mysticism and Kabbalah. His works are also important to secular scholars, as the Chida recorded a detailed diary during his trips around the world, giving historians an eyewitness account of the 18th-century. His incredible travels included a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey and King Louis XVI of France, a stint as Chief Rabbi of Cairo, as well as some dangerous encounters with the Knights of Malta and the Russian Navy. By the end of his life, he was considered a saint by both Jews and non-Jews alike.
Words of the Week
Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done. But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in more light.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe