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Exiled Around the World

Three days of fasting finished with this sundown and three great sages of Jerusalem climbed the stone steps to the second floor of the synagogue. The first was Rabbi Shalom Sharabi the Rosh Yeshiva the head of the school. Following him were his students, Rabbi Yosef Chaim David Azoulay called the “Chida” and Rabbi Chaim DeLaRosa.

The past few weeks they added many more fast days and totally left worldly pursuits adding more holiness to their holiness. Thai was after they understood that it was an auspicious (good fortune) time for Israel. Rabbi Shalom Sharabi the head of the school of Kabbalah decided that they would purify themselves and perhaps bring the final redemption closer in this fortunate time through the special prayers that only great people like them can pray.

They prepared for weeks and were now even more pure and holy and wanted to proceed to their holy prayers when they were struck with great fear. A voice from the heavens came to their ears! “My children”, the voice called to them, “you have no permission to bring the redemption closer before it’s time. To prevent this one of you needs to go into exile in order to break up this group.”

They accepted the heavenly decree and wanted to know who should go. They wrote their names on three small pieces of paper and drew a lottery. The Chida’s paper came out and he would go into exile. The Chida accepted the decree with love and prepared to go into exile amongst the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

In those days the community in Hebron was in dire straits. They were bone poor and they heard that the Chida was traveling to the diaspora to visit Jewish communities. They asked him to help them by seeking funds for them. In those times the custom was that Jewish communities in trouble would send rabbis as emissaries (messengers) to help raise money to send to the community. It wasn’t always easy to find the right emissary. The roads were full of dangers, robbers and murderers ambushed people on the roads. Stormy seas took the lives of many travelers. People would not undertake such a task. And even if they agreed to go, not every person was trustworthy. So when they heard that the Chida is traveling, the Hebron community was very happy that he agreed to go as their emissary.

The Chida agreed to their request and left to exile with prayers and blessings from the community. This was the Chida’s first journey. Afterwards he had many more journeys in his lifetime on behalf of his brothers, different Jewish communities. Many dangerous things happened to the Chida in his travels. Once he was in a storm at sea that he almost didn’t survive.

When coming to Italy he found out that the local authorities were afraid foreigners would bring disease with them to Italy so they quarantined them (held them separately from other people) for 40 days. Only after that would the Italians let them in.

When coming to communities in Germany the Jews there were afraid to give him money. “How do we know that you’re really the Chida?” they asked. Only the recommendation of the Pnei Yehoshua, a great sage in Germany helped, and then they gave money.
When in France he was in a town that was threatened with torrential rains flooding it. The people’s lives were in danger. The Chida started to pray and the rains subsided; the people were saved.

The Chida had many more travels full of obstacles and hardship but he stayed true to his mission of helping his brothers and continued traveling around all the Jewish communities in the diaspora. Even with all his traveling, the Chida continued his Torah learning. He wrote many Torah books and answered questions in Jewish law for many communities around the world.

The Chida sorely missed Israel his entire life in exile. He planned to return a few times but each time the plans were thwarted (stopped) at the last minute.  In 1806 the Chida passed away in Livorno, Italy where he was rabbi of the community. He wrote over 100 books that joined our Jewish Torah literature. In 1960 he was reburied in Israel in Har Menuchot in Jerualsem.


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