Elyashar, Jacob Saul ben Eliezer Jeroham

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ELYASHAR, JACOB SAUL BEN ELIEZER JEROHAM (1817–1906), Sephardi chief rabbi of Ereẓ Israel (rishon le-Ẓion). A grandson of Jacob ben Ḥayyim *Elyashar, he was born in Safed. His father, a dayyan, shoḥet, and cantor there, was arrested by the Turkish authorities, but succeeded in escaping and settled with his family in Jerusalem. When Jacob Saul was seven, he lost his father, and his mother remarried in 1828. His stepfather, Benjamin Mordecai *Navon, became his teacher and supported him for many years. Elyashar married the daughter of *ḥakham bashi, Raphael Meir *Panigel. He was appointed a dayyan in Jerusalem in 1853, and in 1869 head of the bet din. He succeeded his father-in-law as ḥakham bashi and rishon le-Zion in 1893.

A cultured scholar and a fluent linguist, Elyashar wrote thousands of responsa in answer to questions from both Ashkenazim and Sephardim all over the world. He was respected by the authorities and the heads of other religious communities, and received orders of merit from the Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid, in 1893, and the German kaiser, William ii, in 1898. He was accepted by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities and worked hard to put religious institutions in Jerusalem on a solid foundation. The affection in which he was held is reflected in the fact that he was referred to as "Yissa Berakhah" ("conferring a blessing"), the word Yissa (יִשָּׂא) being derived from the Hebrew initials of his name. He enjoyed marked success as an emissary to Smyrna (1845), Damascus (1854), Alexandria (1856), and Leghorn (1873).

In 1888 when a controversy arose as to the permissibility of working on the land during the following year, a sabbatical year, Elyashar decided that such work could be permitted by selling the land formally to a non-Jew, but suggested that each Jewish agricultural settlement leave a small portion of land uncultivated as a symbol and reminder of the commandment. Elyashar died in Jerusalem, where the Givat Sha'ul district is named after him.

He was the author of the following works, all published in Jerusalem (some by his son, Ḥayyim Moshe) and all bearing the word "Ish," the initials of his name, in their title: (1) Yikrav Ish (1876–81), 2 parts, novellae and responsa, which were included in the Benei Binyamin of his stepfather; (2) Ish Emunim (1888), homilies for festivals and various special occasions; (3) Ma'aseh Ish (1892), responsa; (4) Derekh Ish, homilies; (5) Divrei Ish, 2 parts (1892–96), homilies; (6) Simḥah le-Ish (1888), novellae, responsa, and piyyutim; (7) Yissa Ish (1896), responsa; (8) Olat Ish, responsa, as well as a number of sermons entitled Penei Ish (1899); (9) Sha'al ha-Ish (1909), responsa and rulings, together with responsa by his son, Ḥayyim Moshe, entitled Penei ḤaMA; (10) Kavodle-Ish (1910), responsa, including the eulogies in his honor. Elyashar possessed a large collection of manuscripts, some of which are in the Jerusalem National Library.

His eldest son, Rabbi Ḥayyim moshe elyashar (1845–1924), a merchant and businessman, represented the Jewish community on the council of heads of religious communities established by the Turkish authorities, and, in the early days of the Mandate, served as rishon le-Ẓion. He was one of the initiators of the combined rabbinical committee which was the forerunner of the chief rabbinate of Ereẓ Israel. Hisson isaac eliachar (1873–1933), the first chairman of the United (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) Jewish Community Council of Jerusalem, was appointed to the Jerusalem municipality in 1917. His grandson eliyahu eliachar (1898–1981) was chairman of the United Community Council of Jerusalem from 1938 until 1949. He headed for many years the Committee of the Sephardi Community of Jerusalem and served during the mandatory period as a member of the Asefat ha-Nivharim and the Va'ad Le'ummi. He was a member of the First and Second Knesset.


J.S. Elyashar, Toledot ve-Zikhronot (autobiography), in: Lu'aḥ Ereẓ Yisrael, 6 (1900), 39–61, ed. and annot. by A.M. Luncz; Frumkin-Rivlin, 3 (1929), 310–1; M.D. Gaon, Yehudei ha-Mizraḥ be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 2 (1937), 59–60, 62–68; Yaari, Sheluḥei, index; Benayahu, in: Yerushalayim, 4 (1953), 212; eẒd.

[Geulah Bat Yehuda (Raphael)]