Rabbi Moshe ben Machir

Rabbi Moshe ben Machir was among the great men of Sefat who lived some 400 years ago. He was a good friend of Rabbi Shemuel de Uceda, the author of Midrash Shemuel on Perkei Avoth. He is best known for his work Seder HaYom, printed for the first time in Venice in 5359 (1599). He also founded a yeshiva in the village of Ein Zeitoun, near Sefat.

For many years, Ein Zeitoun had been known as a place of Torah and holiness. The Tanna Rabbi Yehudah (the son of Rabbi Ilai), Rabbi Kruspedai, and Rabbi Yossef Sargossi (known as HaTzaddik HaLavan [“The White Tzaddik”]) are buried there. In his book Chachmei HaSefaradim B’Eretz Israel (Sephardic Sages in the Land of Israel), Rav Shraga Weiss recounts that the Arizal was particularly fond of Ein Zeitoun, and he would normally go there to pray by the gravesite of the Tanna Rabbi Yehudah. He also directed his disciples to go there and recite special kabbalistic prayers that he had taught them. Rabbi Eliezer Ezekri, the author of Sefer HaChareidim, would normally travel to Ein Zeitoun on the eve of Rosh Hashanah to shed tears over the exile of the Shechinah and to pray for the salvation of body and soul. In Sefer HaChareidim, in the chapter that deals with mitzvot connected to the land of Israel, he writes that the people of Ein Zeitoun had the custom of reciting Rabbi Yehudah Halevi’s Shir Yedidot, which begins with the words: “The Holy Land will be called favored … in beseeching G-d not to chase them out” from this holy place that was filled with ancient glory, where Jews had poured themselves out in prayer for hundreds of years. Rabbi Moshe ben Machir built a yeshiva there, which very quickly earned a great reputation throughout the Diaspora. There he also wrote his very specific work Seder HaYom. Written on the first edition’s flyleaf, we read: “A work entitled Seder HaYom: An exquisite explanation of the prayers according to the four types of wisdom known by the acronym PARDES. Written by a man of G-d, entirely wise and pious, Rav Moshe ben Machir of Sefat.”

The book was truly well named. It shows every Jew how to organize his day according to the ways of Torah and the fear of G-d. It is designed for every segment of the population, and it deals in particular with the course of the day, from morning till night, during the week and on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and the holidays. Rabbi Moshe ben Machir wrote in his introduction: “This is why every man should push himself, day and night, at all times and at every instant, not to lose even a single moment of time with the vanities and charms of this world. From the time he arises in the morning until he goes to bed at night, a man should manage his time in such a way that he seeks only to accomplish G-d’s will. As for his own desires, they should be the same as Heaven’s: Correct and pure.”

“This is why I felt the need – I, Moshe the son of Yehudah from the family of Machir – to write this book that I have named Seder HaYom [literally ‘Order of the Day’], because in it I deal with how a man should manage his days and nights, his Shabbats and holidays, during the entire year – be it at home or away – when going to bed and when arising.”

Seder HaYom spread throughout the entire Diaspora, and it has been cited by all the Poskim of previous generations that dealt with laws concerning daily life. Rabbi Moshe ben Machir made substantial promises to whomever studied his book and followed its advice in their daily life: “I am certain that by adopting this daily regimen, one will be loved by G-d and man. He will succeed in everything he undertakes, he will conduct himself faultlessly, he will attain an advanced age, he will see children and grandchildren, and he will succeed in accomplishing G-d’s will. This is the right path for all to follow.”




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