Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ben Ish Hai Torah Coming to Israel

The what is coming to Israel?  Who the heck is Ben Ish Hai?

Rabbi Yosef Chaim
The Ben Ish Hai is a standard reference in Sephardi homes (functioning as "a Sephardi Kitzur Shulchan Arukh") and is widely studied in Sephardi yeshivot. Due to the popularity of this book, Hakham Yosef Chaim came to be known as "Ben Ish Chai", by which he is referred to by many today. The book is a collection of homilies he gave over two years discussing the weekly Torah portion. Each chapter begins with a mystical discussion, usually explaining how a Kabbalistic interpretation of a certain verse relates to a particular halakha, and then continuing to expound on that halakha with definitive rulings.

OK.  So what is special about this Torah?  It is a 400 year old Torah that was used by Hakham Yosef Chaim and other  prominent Iraqi rabbis.
An ancient Sefer Torah once possessed by the Iraqi rabbinic luminary Ben Ish Hai (1832-1909) will soon leave Bagdad and come to Israel.

The Torah Scroll, estimated to be 400 years old, is one of the oldest in the world. It was written in large, clear letters on thick parchment known as gawil – meaning it was not split while being processed.

The ancient Torah narrowly escaped fire in 1937. It was once used in the synagogue of the acclaimed Rabbi Abdullah and his famous disciple Rabbi Yosef Chaim, the "Ben Ish Hai." It is very likely both sages read from the scroll for their congregations.

The poor security situation in Iraq - and fears of murder and kidnapping by Islamists among Iraq's few remaining Jews - has generated concerns rioters may target the remaining synagogue and its treasures, including the Torah scroll.

Kept in the Beit-Zilkain Baghdad, the Torah was removed to safety with covert US military aid - and will leave Iraq for Israel in the coming days.

On Tuesday the Torah will be inducted to the Beer Hana synagogue in Netanya under the auspices of Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, whose family came from Bagdad.

Ben Ish Hai Torah

The Jewish community in Bagdad peaked at some 300,000 people in the early 20th century, most of whom began migrating to Israel as increasing anti-Jewish legislation by Iraqi authorities took hold in the 1930's and 1940's.

Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews prompted by a wave of anti-Jewish riots and bombings took place. Aided by Operations Ezra and Nehemiah, Iraq was virtually emptied of Jews by 1960.

Estimates place the elderly Jewish population of Bagdad at 8. Three US military rabbinic chaplains are also stationed in Iraq.

What was once a thriving Jewish community of 300,000 people is now a destroyed community of 8.  No wonder the Iraqis are now attacking their Christian neighbors.  They have gotten rid of their Jews (Saturday People) and are now doing the same to their Christians (Sunday People).

It took a conspiracy of Americans and Israelis to bring this Torah to safety.  Let us pray for the last 8 Jews living in Iraq and that they can come home to Israel too.

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