During the year of 5538 (1778) Rabbi Azulai was in Paris twice. From his diary of the trip, under the entry for 6 Tammuz * (July) we read (in my own free translation from the Hebrew):
Monsieur Fabré came and led me to his relative's house where he entertained me for four hours. He and his family treated me very graciously and asked me to dine there with them. I told them that I only eat baked eggs which I would make myself, and they were satisfied.
I asked this particular Gentile what he believes in. He answered me that he believes in the
G-dof Israel. I investigated this, and it appears to me to be indeed so.
So I said to him, "If so, then say the verse 'Hear, O Israel' (Shma‘ Yisrael *) [Deuteronomy 6:4] every morning and evening, fulfill the Seven Commandments, and be careful of any form of what we call sheetoof * [explanation below]. Be careful to observe a faith in absolutely One
G-d,the G-dof Israel."
He agreed, and said that he would only pray to
G-dHimself. . . .
From time to time, people have prayed to a person or a thing but still had in mind the Creator of heaven and earth. These people considered that the person or thing who they worshiped was an intermediary between them and the One
However, this idea of sheetoof is incompatible with the
monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jews are forbidden to do or say anything that suggests that
In fact, the entire human race experienced rescue and deliverance at the time of the Great Flood. "I, yes I, am bringing the Deluge . . . and I will establish my Covenant with you . . ." (Genesis
Clearly, it is an act of disloyalty and unfaithfulness to
In the case mentioned above, Rabbi Azulai saw that Monsieur Fabré was already a true believer. Rabbi Azulai taught him to further express his faith, as vividly as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. When
Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai (1724-1806), was born in Jerusalem and lived his early life in the Holy Land. He is generally referred to by the Hebrew initials of his name — Hida. *
Around the years 1777-8, he was sent to North Africa and Europe on behalf of his brethren in the Holy Land, especially the community of Hebron, where he then lived. As befitting his dignity and abilities, he gave the people whom he met blessings and shared his Torah knowledge.
He recorded incidents of his mission in a diary. A portion of a diary entry from the time he spent in Paris appears above.
On numerous occasions, Gentiles as well as Jews requested his blessings.
He records how, "On my first visit to Paris
Apparently, Rabbi Azulai was a widower at the time of the mission, because he records in his diary his gratitude to the Almighty on the occasion of his marriage to the honorable Miss Rachel, 7 Cheshvan * 5539 (fall 1778, about five weeks after Rosh Hashana) in Pisa, Italy.
In the course of his missions to raise funds to support the impoverished Jews of the Holy Land, Rabbi Azulai sought out manuscripts of early Torah scholarship. He copied and published many Torah compositions that had disappeared from sight during the long centuries of exile. For example, in his time the French Royal Bibliotheque had five thousand Hebrew manuscripts! We owe him a great debt of gratitude for restoring a part of the Jewish legacy to its people.
Rabbi Azulai died in 1806 (11 Adar 5566, the Shabbat before Purim) in Leghorn (Livorno), Italy, where he had spent the last years of his life. Besides publishing lost manuscripts, he was the author of several books on Torah subjects – Halacha, Kabbala, history, bibliography, and more.
Hida - khee DAH, khee DAW
Haim - KHY im
Yosef - YOH sehff
Azulai - ah ZOO lye
Tammuz - TAH mooz
Shma Yisrael - "Hear, O Israel, the
L-rdis our G-d,the L-rdis One." SHMAH yiss rah AYL
sheetoof - shee TOOF (shee TO͞OF), SHIH toof (SHĬ to͞of)
Nimrod - Some say that he was Hammurabi. We can see in this name the name of Nimrod's grandfather, Ham. In Semitic languages, abi means 'father' or 'my father'. Joined together, Hammurabi means something like "Ham is (was) my father." A regular feature of a Semitic language, as we see in Hebrew, is that a grandfather is also called a father. (Nimrod's father was Cush, son of Ham.)
Hammurabi, in distant antiquity, issued an impressive code of law. Some of the laws are unaltered Noahide laws. Some are innovations. And some are in opposition to the Noahide laws. When Nimrod called himself "Ham is my father," he was demanding obedience to himself based on his alleged tutelage by Noah through Noah's son Ham. Hammurabi's real intention was an unabashed challenge to the authority of
G-d'sCovenant with Noah.
If a law in Hammurabi's code was identical to a Noahide law, Hammurabi was insisting that his subjects not obey
G-dAlmighty. He was insisting that they obey his own law. After all, it was demonstrably the same as what Noah had been teaching. One thing leads to another. People who listened to Hammurabi when his law was a Noahide law fell into the trap of listening to Hammurabi's innovations. Sooner or later, Hammurabi's subjects began to actually violate Noahide laws, the ones that were altered. His subjects became confused when they pledged loyalty to Hammurabi. They began to follow laws that permitted the forbidden and forbade the permissible.
The Bible calls him "Nimrod" which means "let us rebel." I've described Hammurabi's strategy to rebel and how his subjects inadvertently also rebelled against
G-d.The Bible's description is: "Nimrod . . . began to become powerful in the land [in the very land of Noah and his sons]. He became a predatory power [and spiteful] to the [very] face of the L-rd.[Since then] it is therefore said [about anyone who knows G-dbut intentionally rebels against Him, that he is] like Nimrod, a predatory power to the face of the L-rd[directly in His face].
My expanded translation is based on a sensible reading of the Hebrew, on a traditional Aramaic translation, and on traditional sources which describe Nimrod as anything but a great hunter, except as a great hunter of men. Ordinary translations are suitable as Bible stories for children. Even so, a clever child will ask, "Who cares if he was a great hunter? Considering all the uncles and cousins that he had, is the Bible telling us that none of them had yet become effective hunters? Could this be about Nimrod winning a simple hunting competition? So why should we care?"
Midrash Rabbah - MID rahsh RAH buh
Cheshvan - KHESH vahn