יום שני כ"ב באייר תשפ"ב 23/05/2022
Search
  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

    Read More...

בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

    Read More...

Place

  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

    Read More...

Join Our Mailing List!

Please add a Valid Email Address
Join
Thanks!

Reflections

Glory of a World Gone By

On the 20th of Nissan 4798/1038, Rabbi Hai Gaon, the last of the Geonim passed away.

B. Wolff 14/04/2009 10:00
Rabbi Hai Gaon, last of the Geonim of Bavel, and Rosh Yeshiva of Pumbedisa until his passing in the year 4798/1038
The period of time during which Rabbi Hai Gaon lived was a golden era for the Jewish world.

Rabbi Hai Gaon was born in the year 4699/939CE to his father Rabbi Sherira Gaon. Rabbi Sherira was a distinguished Torah scholar in his own right, and was appointed as Gaon of Yeshivas Pumbedisa at the age of sixty – a significantly young age relative to what was accepted in those days. This was in the year 4728/968.

The term ‘Gaon’ refers to the leader of Jewry in Bavel; in reality however he was considered the central figure for all Jews, from all over the globe. His most vital mission was the transmission of Torah to future generations, in its entire truth and depth of understanding, through the words of the Mishna and Gemara. It is from them that many Halachic rulings are derived, teachings that light the way for us to this day. This oral Torah was transmitted solely by mouth, from teacher to student, in a glorious chain that wound its way down the generations. Thus - in addition to his position as leader of the generation, a Gaon was in effect also the head of the Yeshiva and leader of the central Beis Din.

In the period preceding Rabbi Sherira Gaon, the Yeshiva of Pumbedisa was in a state of decline. With great effort Rabbi Sherira was able to pull the Yeshiva back onto its feet until it blossomed and became a world-renown Torah center, as it was in previous generations. In particular, Rabbi Sherira encouraged the students to maintain their ties with their teachers even after they left the Yeshiva; to continue looking to them for guidance and for answers – as had always been the custom in generations gone by. These connections assisted greatly in the development of the Yeshiva, as it brought many students from all corners of the Jewish world, and with them, vital funding for the continued stability of the Yeshiva.
The Yeshiva of Pumbedisa was originally founded by the Amora Rabbi Yehuda, after Yeshivas Naharda’a closed its doors. The Yeshiva knew times of glory as well as years of decline; in all it served as a focal Torah center for more than eight hundred years.

At Rabbi Sherira’s side throughout his years as leader of the Yeshiva, was his devoted son Rabbi Hai who also taught in the Yeshiva. His teachings were of profound depth, and many came from far away to hear him speak at the ‘Yarchei Kalla’, the annual convention where multitudes of people would gather to learn and be strengthened in Torah.

Rabbi Sherira served as Gaon and Av Beis Din for seventeen years in Pumbedisa, and after another thirteen years (4699/998CE) he handed over the reins to his son Rabbi Hai. This was the first and last time the son of a Gaon ever succeeded his father during his lifetime, and was appointed by the father himself. The title of ‘Gaon’, however, was bestowed upon him only upon the passing of his father in the year 4766/1006, when the latter was ninety nine years of age and of lucid mind.

With the passing of Rabbi Sherira Goan, it was unanimously clear to all that the title of Gaon would pass on to his eldest son, Rabbi Hai. The inauguration ceremony took place over the week when the Torah portion Pinchas is read. In this parsha Moshe speaks to his student Yehoshua, who was about to take over his position as leader: ‘HaShem will appoint you... as leader over the congregation, who will go out before them...’

In place of the regular Haftorah for that week, the Haftorah of Parshas Vayechi was read. It is an extract from Melachim I (Kings I), describing the passing of King David and the subsequent crowning of his son Shlomo. When the reader reached the verse: ‘And Shlomo sat on the throne of David his father and his kingdom was very secure...’ the congregation stopped him and called out spontaneously: ‘And Hai sat on the throne of Sherira his father and his kingdom was very secure…’
Symbolically, we see that in fact Rabbi Hai served as Gaon in Pumbedisa from the day his father died until his own death forty years later – like King Shlomo, who ruled for forty years.

The years Rabbi Hai served as Gaon were years of growth and prosperity for Pumbedisa and for the nation as a whole. From all four corners of the world students flocked to the Yeshiva – from Asia, Europe, Africa and even Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Hai guided his people in five languages: Lashon HaKodesh (Biblical Hebrew), Aramaic, Arabic, Greek and Persian. Thousands of questions reached his address from far-flung lands around the world, and he would answer every question in the language it was written. His extensive correspondence alone made up a third of all the responsa from the entire era of the Geonim.

In the year 4798/1038 Rabbi Hai passed on to the world of eternity, at the ripe age of one hundred years; after serving almost forty years as Gaon, and seventy years as a dominant figure in Yeshivas Pumbedisa.
Rabbi Hai stood out as a Gaon who merited universal respect from Jewry the world over. He was the very last of the Geonim, and with his passing the golden era of the Geonim came to an end – an era when the entire Jewish nation subjugated itself to one, central leadership.