Hacham Haim Benvenisti


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A Short Tribute

Hacham Haim Benvenisti, known as Knesset HaGedola, son of Israel, was born in 1603 in Kushta (Constantinople). He studied with his grandfather, Hacham Moshe Benvenisti, and with Hacham Yosef Mitrani, Hacham Yosah Samiga and Hacham Tzemach Narbuni. In 1624, at the age of 21, he was appointed to the Kushta Council of Elders. In 1643 he began to officiate as Rabbi of the city of Tire, near Izmir, and in 1666 began to officiate as Rabbi of Izmir.

In 1665, Shabbetai Tzvi, the false messiah, returned to Izmir from exile and many people were drawn to him. Hacham Haim Benvenisti and Hacham Aaron Lapfa led his opponents. At a later point, Hacham Haim Benvenisti began to support Shabbetai Tzvi. He withdrew his support when Shabbetai Tzvi converted to Islam and led the group of rabbis who fought against his followers. Hacham Haim Benvenisti's status in the halakhic world remained untarnished by the period of his support of Shabbetai Tzvi, and he is considered one of the greatest adjudicators in Jewish history.

Hacham Haim Benvenisti passed away on 17 Elul, 5433 (1673) and was buried in Izmir. Among his works is the Knesset HaGedola, Be'i Hai - Responsa, Hamra VeHayay - innovations on the Talmud, a book of Passover Halakhot entitled Pesach Me'ubin, and a commentary on the Sefer HaMitzvot HaGadol entitled Dina Dhayay.

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