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Manuscript, Homilies and Novellae – Handwritten by the Author Rabbi Yehuda Ayash, With a Eulogy for His Colleague ...
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Manuscript, Homilies and Novellae – Handwritten by the Author Rabbi Yehuda Ayash, With a Eulogy for His Colleague Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, the Or HaChaim – Unpublished Composition
Manuscript, novellae on the Torah portions, homilies, and commentary on Pirkei Avot, handwritten by the author R. Yehuda Ayash, head of the Algiers Beit Din and author of Lechem Yehuda, Beit Yehuda and more. [Algiers, ca. mid-18th century].
The present manuscript was not known to the biographers of R. Yehuda Ayash and to those who studied his teachings. It includes novellae and homiletics on the Torah portions, mostly on the books of Bereshit and Shemot, and to a lesser extent on the books of Bamidbar and Devarim. It also includes other homilies: "On the virtue of Torah", "On the virtue of honoring Torah scholars", "Homily for Shabbat Shekalim". None of these were ever published.
At the end of the manuscript, novellae on Tractate Avot. These novellae were published in a more expanded form in VeZot LiYehuda (Sulzbach 1776; presumably based on a different manuscript). Two homilies are dated, one from 1742 and one from 1743.
One of the most interesting discoveries in this manuscript is the beginning of a eulogy (one page) delivered by R. Yehuda Ayash when the news of the passing of R. Chaim ben Attar reached Algiers. This section (p. 32b) contains invaluable biographic information on the Or HaChaim. The information, not known from any other source, is particularly valuable coming from a leader of his generation, R. Yehuda Ayash, who knew him personally (see below).
In his eulogy, R. Yehuda Ayash describes the four foremost virtues of the Or HaChaim: his remarkable diligence in Torah study, his dissemination of Torah to many disciples, his exceptional charitability and the multitudes he inspired in many cities to better worship of G-d.
R. Yehuda Ayash (ca. 1700 – Tishrei 1760), a prominent Acharon and Torah scholar in Algiers and Jerusalem. He was a close disciple of R. Refael Yedidia Shlomo Serour of Algiers, and served as rabbi and preacher in the city, later succeeding his teacher as rabbi of Algiers and the surroundings. After a tenure of twenty-eight years, he immigrated to Eretz Israel, travelling via Livorno. Upon reaching Jerusalem in 1758, he was appointed head of the Jerusalem Beit Din and dean of the Knesset Yisrael yeshiva, in place of the Or HaChaim. He authored Lechem Yehuda and Bnei Yehuda on the Rambam, Mateh Yehuda and Shevet Yehuda on Shulchan Aruch, Responsa Beit Yehuda, Kol Yehuda on the Torah portions, VeZot LiYehuda – homilies and selections, and more.
He was renowned in his times as a prominent Torah leader, as seen in the approbations given by R. Yehonatan Eybeschutz and R. Yom Tov Algazi to his book VeZot LiYehuda (Sulzbach, 1776), where they praise him profusely. His compositions are considered classic halachic works and are quoted extensively in halachic literature, such as the books of the Chida and R. Akiva Eger. The Chida held him in high esteem and quotes him in dozens of places in his books, referring to his opinion on one occasion as the supreme opinion. R. Yehuda Ayash wrote an approbation for the first book of the Chida, Shaar Yosef (Livorno, 1757).
The Or HaChaim and R. Yehuda Ayash became acquainted and their paths crossed both in Algiers and Eretz Israel. They first met when the Or HaChaim visited Algiers on his way to Livorno, Italy, after he left Morocco in 1739. After a journey fraught with danger through the desert, he reached Algiers where he presented his works Or HaChaim and Pri Toar to R. Yehuda Ayash and R. Yitzchak Chouraqui, and they granted him an effusive approbation, which was printed at the beginning of his book Or HaChaim (Venice 1742). Shortly after reaching Livorno, the Or HaChaim returned to Algiers, presumably as part of his efforts to garner support for the yeshiva he wished to establish in Eretz Israel. On this second visit, he once again met R. Yehuda Ayash, and received his approbation (together with other Torah scholars of Algiers) for the book Pri Toar. This approbation too is filled with effusive praise of the Or HaChaim, his holiness, his Torah dissemination and his support of Torah scholars (interestingly, the eulogy in the present manuscript brings out similar points).
On Erev Rosh Chodesh Av 1741, the Or HaChaim left Italy for Eretz Israel, accompanied by his family and followers. In 1742, he reached Jerusalem and founded the Midrash Knesset Yisrael, where the leading Torah scholars of the city gathered around him. He did not merit to live long in Jerusalem, and passed away in Tammuz 1743. There are various traditions regarding the exact date of his passing, and the present manuscript provides an important contemporary documentation, dating his passing to Friday night, 14th Tammuz 1743 (not Motzaei Shabbat, as stated in various sources).
The connection between R. Yehuda Ayash and the Or HaChaim continued even after the latter's death, when R. Yehuda Ayash was appointed to succeed the Or HaChaim as dean of the Midrash Knesset Yisrael yeshiva upon his immigration to Eretz Israel in 1758, and together with the Or HaChaim, he is considered a central figure in the history of this yeshiva, as the Torah scholars of the Beit Midrash wrote in 1807: "...Midrash Knesset Yisrael in the holy city of Jerusalem, founded by... the Tzaddik, G-dly kabbalist... R. Chaim ben Attar, and after him a wondrous light shone, the rabbi of tremendous stature... R. Yehuda Ayash, they are the foundations and pillars, whose many merits benefit the People of Israel and its rabbinical students..." (Benayahu, LeToldot Beit MaMidrash Knesset Yisrael BiYerushalayim, Sefer Yerushalayim II, Jerusalem 1949, p. 129).
 leaves. 21.5 cm. Fair-good condition. Stains, including dampstains. Wear, open tears and worming (including significant worming), affecting text. Old leather binding, damaged.
Rabbi Yehuda Ayash Beheld the Or HaChaim After His Passing
A wondrous story illustrating the special relationship between the Or HaChaim and R. Yehuda Ayash is recorded by R. Avraham Khalfon, author of Leket HaKatzir, in his book Maaseh Tzaddikim. He relates that R. Yehuda Ayash, who originated from Médéa (a town near Algiers), went to study Torah in Algiers and settled there. In his old age, he immigrated to Jerusalem, where he sat studying in the Beit Midrash of R. Chaim ben Attar. One day, R. Yehuda entered the Beit Midrash and found R. Chaim (who had passed away some time earlier) sitting in his place! When he questioned the other Torah scholars, no one had noticed anything unusual. From that day onwards, the place of the Or HaChaim was kept empty, and he would come every day to study, perceived only by R. Yehuda.