Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel (1880-1953)

Rabbi Uziel was the Sephardic Cheif rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine, succeeding rabbi Ya'aqob Meir (see here) from 1939 to 1948, and the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel from 1948 to 1954.

Rabbi Uziel was born in Jerusalem. His father, Rabbi Joseph Raphael, was the ab bet din of the Sephardic community of Jerusalem. At the age of twenty he founded a Yeshiba called Machaziqe Tora for Sephardi young men. In 1911, he was appointed Yafo and the district. In spirit and ideas he was close to the Ashkenazi rabbi Abraham Ytzchak Kook and their affinity helped to bring about more harmonious relations between the two communities.

In 1921 he was appointed chief rabbi of Salonika (Greece) for a period of three years. He returned to become chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1923, and in 1939 was appointed Chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine.  He contributed extensively to newspapers and periodicals on religious, communal, and national topics. 

He was the author of  Mishpete Uziel, a very important collection of rabbinical Responsa on Halakhic general topics, and a selection of his addresses, letters and other writings.  

Two days before his death he dictated his testament. It said, among other things,  "I have kept in the forefront of my thoughts the following aims: to disseminate Tora among students, to love the Tora and its precepts, Israel and its sanctity; I have emphasized love for every man and woman of Israel and for the Jewish people as a whole, love for the Lord God of Israel, the bringing of peace between every man and woman of Israel, to bring genuine peace into the home of the Jew, into the whole assembly of Israel in all its classes and divisions, and between Israel and its Father in Heaven."

√ The full text of Rabbi Uziel's testament was printed by the Israel Ministry of Religion in 1953, to commemorate his Sheloshim. This short but meaningful  text (printed in vocalized Hebrew) could be found today in Hebrewbooks. Click here to read it. 

√ Rabbi Uziel wrote many books, among them Hegyione Uziel, a work on the basic philosophical aspects and creeds of Judaism.
To read this fascinating book (Hebrew) click here .