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Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah Medini (‘Sdei Chemed’)

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About The Rabbi

Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah (Medini) – (1813-1905) is famous as the author of an incredible encyclopedic work of Jewish scholarship called Sdei Chemed. And, as is Jewish custom, he became identified by the title of that book.

Despite his accomplishments, in his personal life the Sdei Chemed knew only tragedy. His only son died before the son married. He himself was struck by blindness. Then, almost miraculously, two years later he recovered and was to see again.

Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah (Medini) had three daughters. There were no Torah scholars in Crimea, so he married them off to artisans: a tailor, a shoemaker and a hat-maker.

He was well known for his piety and charity. There was a period in his life during which he spent or gave away every penny he made during the day; he would start every day over again from zero. That is the same story we find also concerning many Chassidic rebbes. It was the level of the Jews in the desert. When they ate the manna, they only had for that day (except on Friday, when they had for Shabbos, too). A person who doesn’t have anything has to rely on God.

That made a great impression upon all who knew him. He was a person of enormous faith and he communicated that faith to others through his mere presence.

In 1889, he was forced to leave Crimea by the Czars. When he came to Jerusalem, the position of Chief Rabbi was vacant. The previous rabbi had died and there had been no new election. He was offered the position, but he refused saying that he only wanted to live as a simple Jew.

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