Rabbi Shalom Shimuni of Gaftsa, Tunisia

The home of Rabbi Eliyahu in the Gaftsa district of Tunis was small and modest, but the light of Torah shined and radiated outwards, attracting the Jews of Tunis.

Grace and goodness were always found on the lips of Rabbi Eliyahu and his wife. As Dayan of the community, the Rav set aright the behavior of the faithful, smoothing out difficulties and rendering equitable judgments.

It was in this home that their son Rabbi Shalom Shimuni was born in 5543. Like his father, he became a Dayan and spiritual guide. Beginning from his early years, he would visit great rabbis such as Rabbi Yeshua Bessis and others.

Rabbi Shalom Shimuni attained exceptional depths in Torah learning and derived from there a vast number of its secrets and a great amount of its wisdom. He trained students as shochatim (rituals slaughterers) and instructed them in all their regulations. We tell the story of how, one day, a shochet (a ritual slaughterer) arrived in Tunis from a tiny village. The shochatim of Tunis began to slander him and claimed that he didn’t perfectly know all the regulations pertaining to shechita (ritual slaughtering). Actually, they feared that he would compete against them for business and harm their livelihood.

The shochatim addressed themselves to Rabbi Yeshua Bessis and asked him to examine the man’s shechita so as to verify his expertise.

Rabbi Yeshua Bessis summoned the shochet and asked him to present his knife. The shochet took out his knife and gave it to the Rav, who then examined it thoroughly and found it to be perfect.

The city’s shochatim once again succumbed to feelings of jealousy against their colleague and took off with his knife, damaging it in numerous places. The shochet found out and sharpened the knife several times, presenting it to Rabbi Yeshua Bessis who once again found it to be perfect.

Rabbi Yeshua Bessis wanted to verify the expertise of the shochet in matters of shechita. The shochet confidently answered all the questions asked him, surprising all his listeners by the clarity and precision of his responses.

Rabbi Yeshua couldn’t understand: How could a simple Jew, one who had never seriously studied Torah, know so perfectly well all the regulations of shechita?

He therefore asked the shochet for the name of his teacher.

“Rabbi Shalom Shimuni was my teacher and Rav,” replied the shochet.

And so Rabbi Yeshua Bessis was reassured.

“I knew that there was no one like him to teach others,” he said.

Rabbi Shalom Shimuni rendered his soul to his Creator in 5624 at the age of 81. According to his last wishes, they buried a drum full of no-longer used Torah scrolls. Certain individuals in the surrounding area thought that the drum held all of Rabbi Shalom’s gold, and so they decided to dig up his tomb in the middle of the night in order to get away with all the loot.

The next day, passers-by to the gravesite found his body uncovered, with his hand over his heart.

They rushed to the community leaders and told them of this terrible discovery. Sorrow and dismay fell upon the city. The gravediggers and their directors (the community leaders) hastened to the site to repair the grave and ask for forgiveness from Rabbi Shalom HaTzaddik.

Three days later, two Arabs from a surrounding village tremblingly presented themselves to the leaders of the community.

“Forgive us, sages and saintly men, for we admit our sin. It was we who desecrated the grave of Chacham Shalom,” they said as they broke into tears.

“We thought we could find a great treasure in the tomb, but while we were digging in the middle of the night, the deceased himself terrified us. Now my legs don’t function properly, my friend has become blind, and there was a third person with us and we don’t know where he disappeared to,” he concluded.

The leaders of the community looked at one another in shock as they listened to such an amazing story.

All the inhabitants of the village where the Arabs come from suddenly became ill and were at death’s door until such time as they asked for forgiveness and began to pay for the salvation of the Tzaddik Rabbi Shalom Shimuni’s soul.

His Hilloula is Adar 7.




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