Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz

The great Kabbalist Rabbi Ovadia Hadaya Zatzal was at his desk, immersed in his thoughts. A letter from abroad had just been brought to him, and as was his habit he studied its contents attentively. Nobody dared to break the silence that ensued, and only the Jerusalem breeze made a slight sound as it blew in the room, like a cool wind from the mountains that crown the eternal city.

It was obvious that this long letter was different from others. Rabbi Ovadia was in the habit of receiving mail, including from abroad, which requested his advice on uncertain cases. However the particular language of this letter drew the Gaon’s attention. With exquisite writing, the author laid out a treatise on a very complex subject, analyzing the problem at hand in a sharp and profound way, widely and exhaustively, and by citing the Sages of the Talmud and the Poskim. The author dealt with a problem that, in the end, he solved through “the power to rule leniently.”

Reading this left no doubt in the mind of the Gaon that what he held in his hand was a letter from an exceptional man, a sage among sages – perhaps even the Rav of the community. He hurried to send a long and detailed response to the author (who lived in Tunisia), and at the end of his response he asked the author if he could kindly lend his support to his Kabbalist yeshiva in Jerusalem, Yeshiva Bet E-l, where he taught. “I would be very grateful if you could collect funds for our yeshiva in Jerusalem,” he wrote at the end of his response.

The author, who lived beyond the sea, did not delay in giving a surprising answer to this request: “Your request is impossible for me to perform because I am too young. I study in a yeshiva and I do not have enough experience to go from one person to another collecting funds. Furthermore, I do not know how this is normally done.”

That was not the only Halachic writing of the young man, who had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah only three years earlier. He also wrote Halachic responses that astonished readers when he was only 14 years old. Everyone saw in him a person destined for greatness. His name, our holy Rav Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz, was later known in the most remote regions of the world.

Some 20 years have passed since an accursed Arab, possessed by a spirit of violence and protected by our enemies, attacked our holy Rav and sent his soul to Heaven. To us, however, it seems that only a few days have passed, and nobody seeks to be consoled over their loss. We remember him always, and his memory remains forever engraved on our hearts. However his riches – spiritual treasures – are here to encourage and comfort us. The precious books that the holy Gaon left behind spread like a dew of light on his cherished shadow, and they cause the wind of resurrection to blow upon a desert of profound grief. Everyone knows that his lamp has not been extinguished and that his light has not grown dim.

Some three after the passing of our teacher, the first volume of his enormous Halachic work Ish Matzliah (Responsum on Arbaah Turim) was published, marking a very important day. On the night of Passover, Tunisian Jews have the custom of studying the work of Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz, that great Posek, the last of the Gaonim of Tunisia, and the Rav of all Jews in exile. At the end of that same year, the second volume of his work appeared, but it had to be divided into two parts because it was so large. The first part was on Orach Chaim and Yore Deah, and the second part dealt with Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat. Together these two parts comprise 178 paragraphs, which is the numerical value of his name, Matzliah. Several years later the work was republished.

In the year 5750 (1990), devotees of Torah and wisdom marked the third anniversary of the appearance of the second part of Ish Matzliah. One never tires of consulting this book, which can be leafed through with amazement, for great riches hide within his responses – from Halachah to philosophical writings, hidden wisdom to exacting language. The style of his long responsum charms the reader, for they combine Halachic investigation with tremendous knowledge, youthful insight, and mature wisdom. One remains wonderstruck before the author’s power to plumb the depths of the Talmud, penetrating its abyss to bring up an abundance of pearls and hidden treasures originating from Poskim both ancient and recent. These he inserts into his writings to yield a teaching that is clear and thoroughly inspected with a fine-tooth comb. No secret is hidden to him, and the melody of his words sings in the reader’s ears.

One response that the author wrote when he was only 14 years old (a response that stretches over several pages at the beginning of the section on Yore Deah) deals with an actual question having serious implications:

When the hands of a Shochet tremble, yet he wants to continue practicing his livelihood and states that his hands carry out their task as directed, should he be permitted to do so? Or perhaps, on the contrary, he should be told to stop because what he is saying is not reliable. In the latter instance, is the meat that he already slaughtered permitted to eat, given that he maintains that he did not tremble during the slaughter? In analyzing this question from every angle, the young author arrived at the conclusion that the animals he slaughters are forbidden, even the ones he slaughtered before he was told to stop.

This response was examined by the greatest scholars of Israel, and it received the total and unconditional approval of the Av Beit Din of Tunisia at that time, the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Shetrug Zatzal. At Purim, when Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz’s friends were immersed in celebrations, he enclosed himself at home to rewrite every word of this response in his notebook, which was a sign of things to come.

Sometimes Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz accompanied his Halachic responses with remarks that surpassed the realm of Halachah, remarks by which he revealed himself to be a great teacher and educator.

The sons of the Gaon undertook a vast project that combined craftsmanship and scholarship to produce his books. These were published by the Rav Matzliah Institute, in the name of our holy Rav, Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz, and by the Kisse Rahamim yeshiva in Bnei Brak. This yeshiva had originally been established by the Rav in Tunis, and in accordance with his desires his sons transferred it to Israel after his death. His position as Rosh Yeshiva was assumed by the Gaon Rabbeinu Meir Mazuz Shlita, and his brothers Rabbi Tzemah Shlita and Rabbi Rahamim Shlita taught at the yeshiva and participated in its administration. Since they all worked for the yeshiva, the Torah blossomed under the guidance of a straightforward and pure education, and the responsum of the renowned Gaon were expounded from one end of the land to the other.




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