Hezekiah ben David da Silva

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HEZEKIAH BEN DAVID DA SILVA (1659–1695), rabbi of Jerusalem, brother-in-law of Moses *Ḥagiz. Hezekiah was born in Leghorn, where he studied under Samuel Kushta and Judah Sharaf, a Jerusalem emissary. He migrated to Jerusalem prior to 1679 and there studied under Moses b. Jonathan *Galante. In 1688 he was sent as an emissary of Jerusalem to Central and Western Europe. In Amsterdam, in 1692, he was offered the post of rabbi, which he declined, but during his stay, he influenced the wealthy Jacob Pereira to found a yeshivah in Jerusalem in his name (to take the place of the yeshivah of the same name, "Beit Ya'akov," named after the brothers Vigo of Leghorn, which had closed its doors in 1689 immediately after the death of Moses Galante). Hezekiah was head of this yeshivah from his return to Jerusalem in 1692 until his death.

Hezekiah's reputation rests upon his Peri Hadash, which contains exceptionally trenchant criticisms of the rulings of Joseph *Caro and all the earlier codifiers, with the exception of Maimonides. In this work, aimed at nullifying the authority of the Shulḥan Arukh as representing the final halakhah, he attempts to elucidate the halakhah as conforming with his view. He also added his own novellae. He inclines to leniency in his rulings, taking to task those authorities who adopt a stringent line. The section Yoreh De'ah was published in Amsterdam in 1692, while Hezekiah was on a mission there from Jerusalem; the section on parts of Oraḥ Ḥayyim and Hilkhot Gittin in 1706, and that on the whole of Oraḥ Ḥayyim in 1730. When the volume on Yoreh De'ah reached Egypt it gave rise to violent controversy. The Egyptian rabbis even thought of excommunicating him but instead they ordered the book to be suppressed and issued a ban against anyone studying it, which was later repealed, however, by *Abraham ha-Levi, the rabbi of Egypt. In the course of time, the work increased in popularity, many leading halakhists accepting its rulings. Jonathan *Eybeschuetz in his Kereti u-Feleti (Altona, 1763), and Joseph *Teomim in Peri Megadim quote him regularly and rule in conformity with his view. The work was published later in the editions of the Shulḥan Arukh together with the other standard commentaries – in Yoreh De'ah (Amsterdam, 1743), in Oraḥ Ḥayyim (1754), and in Hilkhot Gittin (Vienna, 1809). The publishers softened, to some degree, the sharpness of its language, and omitted the harsh expressions used against the Shulḥan Arukh and other halakhists, making it conform in style to the other commentaries. Among those who strove to rebut its trenchant criticism were Hananiah Cases in Hok le-Yisrael (Leghorn, 1740), Hayyim ibn Attar, who in his Perot Ginnosar (Amsterdam, 1742) gives the Peri Ḥadash on Yoreh De'ah together with his criticisms entitled Peri To'ar, and Ẓevi *Ashkenazi (the "Ḥakham Ẓevi"), whose conclusions were published in the periodical Sha'arei Torah (cf. bibliography). Hezekiah also wrote: Mayim Ḥayyim (Amsterdam, 1730), novellae on Maimonides, and responsa.

A pamphlet on the halakhic determination of the time of twilight was published in the Shemen la-Ma'or (Constantinople, 1755) of Ezra Malki, and again under the title Binah ve-Da'at (Cracow, 1927). Ḥayyim Joseph David *Azulai speaks of works by Hezekiah on the Talmud according to the kabbalistic system of Isaac *Luria, which he ordered to be suppressed, the section of his Peri Hadash dealing with the laws of Sabbath being inadvertently destroyed along with them. Among his disciples were Solomon *Algazi, who was a rabbi in Egypt, Isaac ha-Kohen *Rapoport, and Isaiah *Azulai.


Y. Feigenbaum, in: Sha'arei Torah, 4 (1910), 63–64; R. Margaliot, Toledot Rabbenu Ḥayyim ibn Attar (1925), 30–31; Frumkin-Rivlin, 2 (1928), 91–96; Ḥ. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 3 (1947), 175–84; Yaari, Sheluḥei, 295–8; Yaari, in: Yerushalayim, 4 (1953), 185–9.

[Abraham David]

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