Rabbi Rahamim Hai Hawita Hacohen

Rabbi Rahamim Hai Hawita Hacohen was born on the isle of Jerba on Sivan 22, 5661 (1900). His father, Rabbi Hanina, had great difficulty in providing for the needs of the family, but never did he ask his son to help him in his work.

Rabbi Rahamim studied with great passion and raised himself in the knowledge of Torah, for his father would tell him that the Torah is more precious than gold or pearls. He loved to delve into each point of his study, doing so well into the nights.

At the age of 15, Rabbi Rahamim joined the classes of Rabbi Moshe Kalfon Hacohen, the Av Beth Din of Jerba. Already at that age, he began to exchange correspondence with Torah greats. A few years later, he was named Shochet of Jerba and Sofer of the Beth Din.

When he married, Rabbi Rahamim decided to begin teaching, and his fame eventually became great. His students admired him without limit, and he devoted a great part of his time to them. He got them into the habit of writing down in a small journal their own commentaries on the Talmud and Bible, later correcting their style of commentary in order that they love their studies. Rabbi Rahamim innovated teaching methods and inculcated in his students, from their earliest ages, the principles of study and the foundations of Torah. This method enabled the creation of decision-makers and teachers destined to become rabbis in Jewish communities everywhere.

Famous students developed in his shadow, among them being the Gaon Rabbi Matziah Mazuz and the Gaon Rabbi Raphael Hadir Tsaban.

In 5691 (1930), one of the positions of Dayan in Jerba became free, and the sages of the city asked him to come and sit among them. Nevertheless, they feared that by naming him to this post, they would lose a great Torah educator. After discussing the issue many times, they decided to appoint him. It was thus discovered that he possessed the abilities of a great decision-maker, and in every field. Moreover, he wrote 10 books of Halachah.

Rabbi Rahamim knew how to vigorously preserve Judaism, and he enacted various laws for his community. His fame as a preacher and orator drew crowds to hear him speak. He had the habit of illustrating his lectures with marvelous explanations. His novel interpretations illuminated the Torah with a great light and brought back many Jews closer to their source.

The life of Rabbi Rahamim was beset with much suffering. In his letters, he recounted that the difficult ordeals that he endured prevented him from having a clear and tranquil mind. Despite his weakness and illness, he wrote a commentary on the Book of Esther in which he stated, “Since it is impossible for me to dig thoroughly into the Talmud and the Poskim because of my illness and pain … Hashem healed me so that I could study during my recovery … Between two attacks, I drew comfort and strength from the Book of Esther … Blessed be the Eternal, Who gave me His help during my distress, Who sent me His word and healed me.” Despite these difficult trials, Rabbi Rahamim did not abandon his ways, but continued to study, teach, question, and answer.

When Rabbi Moshe Kalfon Hacohen passed away, Rabbi Rahamim replaced him as Rosh Av Beth Din. He was loved by all the inhabitants of the city. Despite his sufferings, he received everyone warmly and always with a smile. He occupied this position for four years, until he left for the Land of Israel. One week before his departure, a large crowd gathered at his door. Everyone came to see him to be blessed by his holy mouth. When he began departing on route, the entire city accompanied him and firmly decided not to separate themselves, despite the difficultly, from their greatly beloved teacher.

Arriving in Israel, Rabbi Rahamim decided to settle in the tiny community of Berechia. The light of his teachings did not delay in surpassing the limits of the community. He was respectfully named HaAdmor MiJerba, and his modest home became a prominent place of study. From all directions, people rushed to ask him for advice, as well as to benefit from the purity and clarity of his wisdom. He became the spiritual guide and Rav of all immigrants from Tunisia. He shared in their difficulties, and when they came to see him, he did not neglect to lavish his blessings and advice on them.

On Shevat 10, 5719, barely aged 58, his holy soul was called back to the Creator. His students established a yeshiva near his tomb and named it Kissei Rahamim in his memory. To this day, the yeshiva still radiates the light of its departed teacher’s instructions.




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