Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet Perfet

5086 - 2 Elul 5168      

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Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet Perfet

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet Perfet was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1336. He studied Torah with Hacham Hasdai Karashkesh the First, Hacham Peretz Ben Yitzhak Hacohen and with his principal teacher, Hacham Rabbeinu Nissim Ben Reuben Girondi, in Barcelona. As the result of anti-Semitic libels, he, and his teachers were arrested, as were additional community notables, and imprisoned for five months.

Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet Berfet moved to Saragossa, where he officiated in the rabbinate for four years. It was there that his son, at the age of eight, died and there that he heard of his mother's and younger brother's deaths. He moved from Saragossa to Calatayud, and then to Valencia, where he served as a rabbi until the pogroms of 1391. That year, during an uprising of thousands of aristocrats and serfs against the Spanish monarchy, hundreds of Jews were murdered, many sold in slavery, and a great number forced to convert to Christianity. In Valencia alone, Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet's city, 250 Jews were murdered. Many Jews left Spain for North Africa because of the pogroms, including Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet and Hacham Shimon Ben Tzemach Duran, who both moved to Algiers. Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet was greeted in Algiers as the community's leader and rabbinic judge. He was even accorded the appointment by the Muslim sovereign but refrained from accepting it out of deference for Hacham Shimon Ben Tzemach; in fact, he avoided taking on any official positions while Hacham Shimon Ben Tzemach was alive.

Hacham Yitzhak Bar Sheshet passed away on 2 Elul 5178 (1408). Because of the city's expansion, his and Hacham Shimon Ben Tzemach graves were relocated and are marked by a single tomb. A collection of 517 responsa is the only book that remains of his writings; his original commentary on part of the Talmud's tractates, some poetry, piyuttim and dirges were also preserved.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Love of Israel'
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Tzedakah and Healing' in which he teaches that it is permissible to embark on a caravan and, for reasons of survival, to desecrate the Sabbath

Jews who travel on camels in caravans with Sons of Ishmael in the great and terrible desert do not, as everyone knows, ride on horseback and must publicly desecrate the Sabbath to remain with the caravan because of the dangers of tarrying alone in the desert over the Sabbath. The question arises whether it is right to object that they travel by caravan in the desert, so that they are not led to desecrating the Sabbath, despite the fact that they have no way of surviving other than traveling with a caravan… It is permitted to leave the settlement in a caravan on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays, for these three weekdays relate to the previous Sabbath and are considered as after the Sabbath. One need not refrain from leaving because of the upcoming Sabbath and if because of impending life-threatening danger one must desecrate the Sabbath, it is permissible and involves no prohibition. But it is forbidden to leave the settlement on Wednesdays, Thursdays and on the Sabbath eve, for these three days relate to the upcoming Sabbath and are considered as preceding the Sabbath.

Teshuvot HaRav, Section 16, Kushta, 1547
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Torah Study'
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Customs of Israel'
A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Traditions of the Fathers'