Hacham Hizkiya di Silva

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Hizkiya di Silva, son of Hacham David di Silva, was born in 1656 in Livorno, Italy. He began his Torah studies in Livorno with Hacham Samuel Costa and Hacham Yehudah Sarraf. In 1676 he immigrated to the Land of Israel and settled in Jerusalem, where he studied at the Beit Yaakov Viga yeshiva with the Rishon LeZion, Hacham Moshe Galante.

In 1678 he married Hannah, the daughter of physician Hacham Raphael Mordecai Malqui, and the couple had a son whom they named David.

In 1689 his teacher, Rishon LeZion Hacham Moshe Galante, passed away, and Hacham Hizkiya di Silva succeeded him in the role of Rosh Yeshiva at Beit Yaakov Viga. The yeshiva closed because of financial difficulties and Hacham Hizkiya di Silva left for Europe and traveled through Italy, France, England and Holland as a rabbinic emissary.  When he reached Amsterdam, he was greeted with great honor, and the aged rabbi of the city, Hacham Yitzhak Abouhav di Fonisca, invited him to serve as Rabbi of Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, in 1692, he had the first volume of his book on the Yoreh De'ah section of the Shulchan Aruch, Pri Hadash, published. That same year, he returned to Jerusalem to teach in his yeshiva, which had been reopened with the support of Hacham Israel Yaacov Fereira. Rishon LeZion Hacham Yitzhak Hacohen Rappaport, author of Batei Kehuna, Hacham Shlomo Elghazi (the 2nd), Rabbi of Cairo and Hacham Yishaya Azoulay, the HID"A's father, were among his students.

In his book Pri Hadash, he settled old and unsolved Halakhic conflicts between adjudicators, even ruling against the Shulchan Aruch in certain cases. His fiery style and his ruling in contradiction to the Shulchan Aruch led the Egyptian sages to excommunicate him, hide his book and forbid its reading. His excommunication did not spread beyond Egypt, and he was released from it by the leading Egyptian sage of the time, Hacham Abraham Halevy, author of Ginat Veradim. Pri Hadash has since become a one of the fundamental sources for Halakhic ruling, although in later editions his language was softened in those cases where he opposed rulings. Numerous books have been written in the attempt to reconcile Pri Hadash with the Shulchan Aruch, including Hacham Haim Ben Attar's work, Peirot Ginossar (Peirot To'ar), published in 1742.

Hacham Hizkiya di Silva passed away on 28 Kislev, 5456 (1695) and was buried on the Mount of Olives, near the Tomb of the Prophet Zachariah. After Hacham Hizkiya di Silva's passing, his physician son, Hacham David di Silva, published the second volume of Pri Hadash on Orach Haim and the third on Even Ezer. His book Mayim Haim was also published, and contains original commentary on the Talmud and on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah; additional published works of his include the Ma'amar Bein HaShemashot booklet and the Drashat Mussar, originally published in Spanish in 1691. The HaDrushim booklet has been lost and his book Shitot, on the Talmud according to the Kabbala, was kept out of circulation in keeping with his will; apparently the section on Sabbath halakhot was mistakenly archived as well.


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