Ashkenazi, Abraham ben Jacob

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ASHKENAZI, ABRAHAM BEN JACOB

ASHKENAZI, ABRAHAM BEN JACOB (1811–1880), Sephardi chief rabbi of Ereẓ Israel. Ashkenazi was born in Larissa, in Greece, but c. 1820 his family settled in Jerusalem where he studied under Samuel Arvaẓ, and was successively appointed a dayyan in the bet din of Benjamin Mordecai Navon, av bet din (1864), and rishon le-Zion, the title given to the Sephardi chief rabbi (1869). He was head of the Bet Jacob Pereira and the Tiferet Israel yeshivot. He was responsible for the purchase of the site of the traditional grave of Simeon ha-Ẓaddik in Jerusalem. During his years of office he introduced many important changes in the organization of the community. He was on friendly terms with the Greek patriarch. Ashkenazi was decorated by Emperor Franz Josef during the latter's visit to Jerusalem, and by the sultan. In 1847 he was sent on a mission to North Africa. Ashkenazi wrote approbations to many books. Some of his responsa have been published (chiefly in the responsa Benei Binyamin (1876–81) of Benjamin Navon, and the Kappei Aharon (1874–86) of Aaron Azriel); but most of them remained unpublished. Ashkenazi had a remarkable knowledge of halakhic literature and was said to know the responsa of Solomon b. Abraham *Adret by heart. Together with Jacob Kapiluto he edited Takkanot Yerushalayim on the regulations and customs of the city (1869). A ruling published under the title Yismaḥ Moshe (1874) upholding the will of the caid Nissim Samama of Tunis provoked considerable controversy, but the rabbis of Ereẓ Israel, Egypt, and Smyrna upheld his decision. Ashkenazi's most important work, an extensive commentary on the Ḥukkat ha-Dayyanim of Abraham b. Solomon ibn Tazrat, a disciple of Adret, has not been published. In it he assesses the views of the early and late halakhic authorities, particularly of Adret. The work is a real contribution to Jewish jurisprudence. Some of his essays and eulogies were published in Ha-Levanon, Ḥavaẓẓelet, Yehudah vi-Yerushalayim, etc. He had an intimate knowledge of the lives of the scholars of Jerusalem, and it was he who encouraged A.L. Frumkin to write his Toledot Ḥakhmei Yerushalayim. His son isaac, a well-known talmudist, was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem community (1908).

bibliography:

A.M. Luncz (ed.), Lu'aḥ Ereẓ Yisrael, 13 (1908), 85–86; I. Badahab, Ki be-Yiẓḥak Shenot Ḥayyim (1928), 4–5, 24–27; M.D. Gaon, Yehudei ha-Mizraḥ be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 2 (1938), 121–2; S. Halevy, Ha-Sefarim ha-Ivriyyim… (1963), 66, 80–81, 85, index.

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