Thursday, 22 May 2014

Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri

Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri 1820 - 22 Iyar 1930 – known as the Saba Kadisha (the Holy Grandfather – because of his length of years – almost 110!) was born in Instanbul, scion to a line of outstanding Rabbis. In his youth he corresponded with Rabbi Akiva Eiger and his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Sofer – The Chatam Sofer. He was known for his sharpness. His way in Halacha was to intertwine the words of the Rishonim with the final decision leaning on the opinions of the masters of Kabbalah from the schools of the Arizal and the Rashash.

A few years after he married he began to take care of a number of young orphans in his own home! He was a Rosh Yeshiva in Kushta, but refused to accept a salary any higher than what the Avreichim who were learning there were getting. He became the Chacham Bashi of Damascus – a post he maintained for 20 years until after the First World War.

In 1908 the Sages of Tzefat asked him to become the Rabbi of the city and to bring peace into the community which was then in need of someone to assist them. He arrived in Tzefat in1917 (aged 97!) and from that moment onwards decided he would never leave the boundaries of the Land of Israel. Later he went to live in Jerusalem, living in the street which today is known by his name i.e. Rechov Alfandri. During these last years, his home was open only for a select group of Torah students.

Even though he merited very old age, his body remained strong until his last years when he was very ill. He was able to stand by himself and his eye sight remained perfect until his very last days – even though he had used them to read handwritten texts and the smallest of print of masses of Torah works.

On the evening of 22 Iyar 1930 after reciting the Tikun Chatzos prayers (special prayers recited by righteous individuals at midnight every night,) he wrote his last response (Teshuva) – one of the longest he ever wrote. In the morning after dawn, he put on his Tefillin, read the Shema and immediately upon finishing it even before starting the main Amidah prayer he died in his chair adorned with his Tallis and Tefillin – at the age of almost 110.

His Halachic rulings on the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch were printed after he died in the work known as Shailot and Teshuvot of Maharsha (Moreinu Harav Shlomo Eliezer) Alfandri known also as "HaSaba Kadisha". 

One famous story told about him concerns an evening when he went out to make the blessing on the new moon. At the end of the blessing, he looked up and began clapping his hands in consternation. He shouted out, "I see that a large scale war will soon break out!" This happened in April 1914 shortly before World War One broke out!

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