Thursday, December 5, 2013

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Abraham Saba (1440-1508)

Rabbi Abraham Saba (אברהם סבע) was born in Castilla, Spain in1440.  Like thousands of other Jews, at the time of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, he fled to Oporto, Portugal, hoping to live there under the noble King Joao the second. In 1496 the new King Manuel I (changing the Hebrew vocalization of his name, the Sephardim called this king "menuval", --מנואל--as per the famous qina which Moroccan Jews recite on Tish'a be-Ab: "yom me-ori hashakh begerush Castilla...").  King Manuel decreed that all Jews are considered di-facto Christians, therefore, from that momentany "new Christians" found practicing any jewish rite would be judged by the Inquisition (=tortured) and burned alive in an "auto de fe" to expiate for his or her sins. The worst part of these new edicts was that to assure that the parents will not teach Judaism in secret to their children, all Jewish children, especially infants, were taken by force from their homes and brought to convents to be raised as faithful Catholics.  This tragedy was also recorded in yom me-ori ילדים האומרים בכל יום שמע ישראל אמרו לעץ הקיצה ולאבן עורי.  Rabbi Abraham Saba's two sons were also taken from him....

It is said that looking for his sons and in an attempt to identify and try to save Jewish children, he disguised as a Christian peasant and visited numerous convents. In every convent he would recite out loud the Shema Israel. When hearing the voice of Rabbi Abraham, attracted by the familiar sweet melody of the Shema the Jewish children in the convent would come toward him and cry disconsolately.  He never found his children.

From Oporto he fled to Lisbon. There, he was caught by the Inquisition's guards trying to hide his Tora books and Tefillin. He was sent to prison. After six months confinement he escape to Fez (Morocco) where he lived, in illness and suffering, for ten years. 

In memory of Ezra ben Nizha - Rabbi Ezra Labaton z"l.

Most of Rabbi Saba books were lost or burned in Portugal. In Fez, however, he recommitted to paper from memory the following works

  • Eshkol ha-Kofer , a commentary on Megilat ruth and Megilat Esther.
  • Tseror haHayim  a commentary on Shir haShirim.
  • Tseror haMor , a commentary on the five books of the Tora. In it, one can also find many autobiographic insights. 
  • Tseror haKesef  a book of rabbinic responsa and legal decisions 

Click here to download the book TSEROR HAMOR, from

Click here to read and listen to he piyut "yom me-ori"