Hacham Yosef Tzarfati, the son of Hacham Haim Tzarfati, was born in Adrianople (now called Edirne) in Thracia, Turkey, on the Greek – Bulgarian border.
He learned Torah principally in his city, Adrianople, where he headed the Sages' yeshiva. He maintained a daily regimen, studying Bible, Mishna, Beraita and Talmud, and grounded his studying within strict Halakhic boundaries. He would indulge in studying and preaching Aggadah only during his times of respite, on the Sabbath Eve and during the Sabbath day. On his way to the Land of Israel, he studied at Hacham Shlomo Ben Yitzhak HaLevy's yeshiva in Salonika. Hacham Haim Comforti, in his book Koreh HaDorot, attests to the fact that he was a wise and righteous sage, who walked to Jerusalem, where he passed away. Hacham Yosef Tzarfati, however, wrote that he was in the Land of Israel and returned to Adrianople.
His writings include Yad Yosef, a collection of his sermons, first published during the author's lifetime in Venice, 1616; a second edition was published in Amsterdam in 1700 after his demise. Some of his additional writings, published before Yad Yosef, are listed in Rabbi Shabtai's book, Siphtei Yesheinim: Rosh Yosef, a commentary on the Torah's literal meaning [pshat], Ben Yosef – sermons on the Torah, and Mateh Yosef – original clarifications of weighty Talmudic issues, RASHI and Tosphot written while the author was in the Land of Israel.
Hacham Yosef Tzarfati passed away on 4 Heshvan, 5400 (1640).