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Chaim Joseph David Azulai

From Academic Kids

Rabbi Chaim Joseph David ben Isaac Zerachia Azulai (1724, 21 March 1807), commonly known as the Chida (by the acronym of his name), was a rabbinical scholar and a noted bibliophile, who pioneered the history of Jewish religious writings.

Biography

He was born in Jerusalem, where he received his education from some local prominent scholars, including Chaim ibn Attar (the Or ha-Chaim). At an early age he showed proficiency in Talmud, Kabbalah and Jewish history.

In 1755, he was - on the basis of his scholarship - elected to become an emissary for the small Jewish community in the Land of Israel, and he would travel around Europe extensively, making an impression in every Jewish community that he visited. According to some records, he left the Land of Israel three times (1755, 1770, and 1781), living in Hebron in the meantime. His travels took him to Western Europe, North Africa, and - according to legend - to Lithuania, where we met the Vilna Gaon. Wherever he went, he would examine collections of manuscripts of rabbinic literature.

He settled in the 1770s in Leghorn (Italy), where most his works were published, and died there. He had been married twice; he had two sons by the names of Abraham and Raphael Isaiah.

His works

Azulai wrote a large number of works (71 according to a source), many of which are still extant and studied today. His scope was exceptionally wide, from halakha (Birkei Yosef) and Midrash to his main historical work Shem ha-Gedolim. Despite his Sephardi heritage, he appears to have been particularly fond on the Chassidei Ashkenaz (a group Medieval German rabbis, notably Judah the Chassid).

Shem ha-Gedolim is a record of rabbinical works and short biographies of their authors. Azulai often records where he has seen in person which versions of certain manuscripts were extant. In 1852, an updated version was published by Isaac Ben-Yaakov, which made it more useful as a work of reference.

See also

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