Sephardim originated in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and other countries occupied mostly by Arabs. Jews lived in these lands from Babylonian times to the Golden
Age of Spain, and then to the year 1948, when the Jews left all the Arab lands. Sephardim comprise the second largest Jewish community in the world. They have developed and possess a shared relationship based upon wonderfully unique religious traditions, collective ideals, and beautiful customs. Throughout their history, Sephardi gedolim have been counted among Klal Yisrael’s greatest leaders, yet little has been written about them in contemporary literature.
Traditionally, our hachamim have stressed the importance of studying the lives and stories of our gedolim to inspire us to follow and learn from their middot, ahabat Yisrael, and yirat Shamayim. It is known that learning about the ma’asim of our hachamim and their holy works can result in immeasurable personal growth.
Every person has an obligation to make sure that the memory of their hachamim, their unique accomplishments and stories, and their Torah will live forever in their hearts and memories. For if not we, who will ever know about the beloved hachamim of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and all the other Sephardic countries? We Sephardim have inherited a fabulous legacy: prosperity far greater than material wealth. It is a heritage of greatness in Torah and mitzvot, and we must be proud to show it, cherish it, and never forget it. More people must have the opportunity to write and read about the lives of our hachamim and their great deeds, and then pass the stories on to the coming generations. This is necessary to avoid the stories becoming lost to the passing of time.
Therefore, I humbly present this book, a compilation of inspirational stories and biographical profiles of more than twenty Sephardi hachamim. In it, I delve into the rich historical background and carefully selected episodes from the unique lives of our hachamim. There are many exciting stories, from Rav Hida’s great journeys to Baba Sali’s fascinating miracles.
It is my wish that this book will be only a first of many more works that will unlock the magnificent treasury of Sephardic Jewry. The more one learns about these great talmidei hachamim, the more one recognizes the uniqueness of their wonderful lives. Yet for hundreds of years, most of these gedolim have been relatively unknown to a great many of us.
I hope that this book will inspire all types of communities around the world to teach their children to follow in the ways of our hachamim. May it be Hashem’s will that they live by the lessons taught by our gedolim. May the zechut of all the hachamim throughout history help to bring about the Geulah Sheleimah, and may we witness the arrival of Mashiah Tzidkenu bimhera beyamenu – speedily in our days.
Institute For Preserving Sephardic Heritage