Tag Archives: Jewish Law

Jews of the Week: Rav Uziel and the Chofetz Chaim

The Chofetz Chaim

The Chofetz Chaim

Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933) was born in what is today Belarus to an Orthodox Polish-Jewish family. After his father’s passing when he was just ten years old, the family moved to Vilnius where Kagan continued his Jewish studies. Quickly noted as a great scholar, at the age of 17 he was married and appointed rabbi of the town of Radin. Soon after, he founded the Radin Yeshiva, which would go on to become one of the greatest yeshivas in the Ashkenazi world. Meanwhile, Rabbi Kagan wrote many popular books of wisdom, most notably Chofetz Chaim, a book about the laws of proper speech, the title of which became Rabbi Kagan’s nickname. His Mishna Berura became a standard text of Jewish law, and still used extensively today. He wrote nearly two dozen other books on a wide array of topics. At the same time, the Chofetz Chaim traveled across Europe to inspire Jews to observe the Torah, and to counter the growing secular movement. He was also an important member of Agudath Israel. Click here to see rare footage of the Chofetz Chaim at the First Congress of Agudath Israel in 1923.

Rav Uziel

Rav Uziel

Ben-Zion Meir Chai Uziel (1880-1953) was born in Jerusalem, the son of the president of the city’s Sephardic community. Like the Chofetz Chaim, Uziel was also quickly noted as a great scholar, and by age 20 founded his own yeshiva. By 31, he was the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, where he worked alongside his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi Kook, bridging the two communities together. During World War I, he worked tirelessly to stop the persecution of Jews, which earned him a sentence of exile in Damascus. In 1923 he returned to Israel as the Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv, and in 1939 became the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, a post he held until his passing in 1953. Rabbi Uziel was a founding member of the Jewish Agency, and played a key role in the founding of the State of Israel. Of course, he wrote a great deal of widely-read Torah thought and commentary as well. Rav Uziel and the Chofetz Chaim passed away on the same day, twenty years apart: the 24th of Elul.

Shana Tova! Rosh Hashanah Begins This Sunday

Words of the Week

In Jewish history there are no coincidences.
– Elie Wiesel

Jew of the Week: the Chida

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.

Lag B’Omer is This Saturday Night!

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

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Elyashiv

Rav Elyashiv

Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910-2012) was born in Lithuania, the grandson of famous kabbalist Shlomo Elyashiv. He was an only child, long-awaited after 17 years of childless marriage. Proving his genius at an early age, he never needed to pass any rabbinical examination or ordination. Considered by many to be among the greatest rabbis in the world, and chief posek (authority of Jewish law), he was also the spiritual leader of the Degel haTorah party in the Israeli Knesset. Since the 1950s, countless volumes of his teachings have been published, including a famous 18-volume set of Talmudic commentaries. Rabbi Elyashiv passed away last week, at the age of 102. Over 300,000 people attended his funeral in Jerusalem. True to his humble nature, it was his wish that no eulogies be said. Rav Elyashiv had 12 children, and lived to see his great-great-great-grandkids. Incredibly, he already has nearly 1000 descendants!

Words of the Week

Better that you not vow, than that you should vow and not fulfill.
King Solomon (Kohelet 5:4)