Hacham Jacob Sasportas

< Iyar 5784 May 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Jacob Sasportas, son of Aaron, was born in 1610 in Oran, Algeria. In 1628 he moved to Tlemcen to officiate as rabbi, and in 1634 began to serve as halakhic adjudicator and President of the Tlemcen rabbinic court. A series of libels resulted in his imprisonment, and Hacham Jacob Sasportas was forced to leave Algeria. He moved about Morocco, married Rachel, the daughter of Hacham Daniel Toledano, Rabbi of Meknes and, in 1651, reached Amsterdam where he had his index of verses appearing in the Jerusalem Talmud printed (Toldot Yaakov, 1652).

In 1655 he left for London with a delegation headed by Hacham Menashe Ben Israel, invited by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell to participate in the debate on the return of the Jews to England, who had been expelled some 350 years previous by King Edward I. In 1658 he went on a mission for the Moroccan monarch to Spain.

He was appointed as a rabbi in London, but an epidemic of plague in 1666 forced him move to Hamburg, Germany. In 1667, evil tidings concerning Shabbetai Zevi, the false messiah, reached him from Turkey. He wrote his book, Tzitzat Nobel Tzvi, in four volumes (completed in 1673), to convince the masses not to follow Shabbetai Zevi. He returned to Amsterdam that year to preside over the Di Pinto brothers' study house, and also gave classes at the Keter Torah yeshiva. In 1675 he moved to Livorno, Italy to teach at the city's yeshiva. In 1680, at the request of Rachel Suoaso di Pinto, he left for Hague to obtain a permit from the authorities to install an eiruv (ritual enclosure) in the city.

Hacham Jacob Sasportas returned to Amsterdam in 1684, where he presided over the Etz Haim yeshiva. In 1693, following the death of Hacham Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, he was appointed Rabbi of Amsterdam.

Hacham Jacob Sasportas passed away on 4 Iyar, 5458 (1689) and was buried in the Beit Haim Portuguese cemetery in Ouderkerk, near Amsterdam. His tombstone remains intact to this day.

His works include Toldot Yaakov – an index of verses, published in Amsterdam in 1652, and Tzitzat Nobel Tzvi, published in Hamburg in 1673, of which an abridged version, edited by Rabbi Yavetz, was published in 1737 and a scholarly edition in 1954. Ohel Yaakov – a collection of his responsa, was published posthumously in Amsterdam (1737) by his son, Hacham Abraham

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