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Joseph Ḥayyim ben Elijah al-Ḥakam

JOSEPH ḤAYYIM BEN ELIJAH AL-ḤAKAM (1833 or 1835–1909), *Baghdad rabbi. He was the son of Elijah al-Ḥakam and the father of Jacob al-Ḥakam (see *Al-Ḥakam). Born in Baghdad, he studied with his maternal uncle, David Ḥai b. Meir. In 1848 he began to study under Abdallah *Somekh. He succeeded his father (1859) as preacher, a post he held until his death. In 1869 he visited Ereẓ Israel. In 1876 Jacob Obermeier of *Vienna, who had come to Baghdad to teach French, insulted Joseph Ḥayyim. The community excommunicated him and compelled him to request the rabbi's pardon. Al-Ḥakam was renowned as a great halakhic authority who instituted many takkanot. He wrote some 60 works on all aspects of Torah, only a few of which have been published. He is best known for his Ben Ish Ḥai (1898), homilies blended with halakhah and Kabbalah. This work achieved immense popularity, particularly in Oriental communities, where it is studied extensively and has gone through many editions. His other published works include Ben Yehoyada (1898–1904), five volumes of commentaries to the aggadic portions of the Babylonian Talmud and Rav Pe'alim (1901–12), responsa. He wrote approximately 200 piyyutim and pizmonim, about 50 of which are incorporated in the liturgy of Baghdad Jewry; the rest are still in manuscript.


A. Ben-Jacob, Yehudei Bavel, index; D.J. Sassoon, History of Jews in Baghdad (1969), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.