Yair Chaim Bacharach
(1638 - 1702)
Rabbi Yair Chaim Bacharach was one of the greatest
rabbinic figure of the seventeenth century but most of his life he had
to endure suffering and disappointment.
His grandmother Chava was a granddaughter of the Maharal of Prague and famed for her unusual
scholarship and piety. Her husband R. Samuel was appointed rabbi of
Worms. On Good Friday in 1615, the community suffered a pogrom and R.
Samuel was a casualty, passing away at the age of 40. Chava raised her
children but never remarried, though the great Shelah HaKodesh, R. Isaiah
Horowitz, sought her hand, and when she refused deemed himself to be
unworthy of her.
Chavas son, R. Samson, was also appointed rabbi of Worms where he served until his death in 1670. Chava lived in Worms
till her grandson Yair Chaims thirteenth birthday at which time
she undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land but died on the way. R.
Yair Chaim esteemed her to such an extent that the title of his most
famous work, Chavos Yair, is based on her name.
R. Yair Chaim served briefly as rabbi of Coblentz and
returned to reside in Worms. Shortly before his death his father, R.
Samson asked the community to appoint his son in his place. But the
community failed to select him. R. Yair Chaim wrote many works and was
recognized as one of the great halachic authorities of the time. One
of his works, Mekor Chaim, a major commentary on the Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chaim was ready to be printed when the commentaries
of Taz and Magen Avraham were printed. Sadly, R. Yair Chaim withdrew
his own commentary.
Besides his halachic expertise he had complete mastery of all the sciences, music and had
a deep interest in history. He also wrote poetry. He compiled a 46 volume
encyclopedia on many topics.
In 1689, the Worms community was decimated by the French.
Gradually, it was rebuilt. R. Yair Chaim had prematurely aged and was
soon to lose his hearing. In 1699, he was finally appointed rabbi of
Worms where his father and grandfather had served before him. He served
for only three years until his death in 1702. The inscription on his
tombstone begins with the words, A great and dark horror befalls
us from the hiding of the light of Rabbeinu... One may detect
a sense of regret that perhaps Worms had not properly treated the giant
within their midst.
In 1982 R. Yair Chaims major work, Mekor Chaim,
was finally published by Mechon Yerushalayim.