Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

A scarce title I acquired recently is titled Ben Yair, printed in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1877. It was authored by R. Haim Meir Mizrahi, a leading rabbi in Izmir in the 19th century. An unusual and touching feature of this volume is indicated by the author in his introduction: “I come to give thanks to my wife, my honorable and modest wife, a woman of valor, Mrs. Mazal Tov, whose heart was weighed from her barrenness, and who would cry out in pain due to her living without bearing a child. After I wither and exit this world to freedom, who shall be my redeemer… She thus came forth with her own funds to be a partner and support the publishing of this volume and thus leave a memory in this world and the world to come

R. Haim Meir Mizrahi overcame many tribulations to be able to print this volume. A large portion of his writings were destroyed in the great fire in Izmir, which occurred on the 11th of Av, 1851. The remaining writings were left open to the elements by looters following the fire and were subsequently destroyed by rain. The author was forced to rewrite from memory and published two works, the first being Ben Haramah on the Rambam, printed in 1875, and the above-mentioned Ben Yair, being a commentary on Onkelos, printed in 1877. His eldest son, Bechor Yitzhak Mizrahi, died within a year of his marriage in his father’s lifetime, and his two additional children passed away in infancy. R. Haim Palagi (in Tzedakah Haim, sermon 10) writes of R. Haim Meir: “His lips spoke forth like precious stones, he had never opened his mouth unless it was for Torah.” He wrote of himself “The death of his son influenced him deeply; from that point on my body was broken, day and night I cannot rest until I have no energy left in my soul… I would travel from village to village seeking a remedy for my soul… until I took heed of myself and gathered my strength to publish the little remaining writings I had….”

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.
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