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Medini, Ḥayyim Hezekiah ben Raphael Elijah

MEDINI, ḤAYYIM HEZEKIAH BEN RAPHAEL ELIJAH (1832–1904), rabbi. Medini was born in Jerusalem. He studied under Isaac *Covo and Joseph Nissim *Burla. His father died in 1853, and in that same year he traveled to Constantinople where he stayed for 14 years. For a while he earned his living as a private tutor but lectured publicly without remuneration. He attracted many disciples, some of whom later became rabbis. From 1867 to 1899 he was rabbi of Karasubazar in the Crimean peninsula and succeeded in raising the previously low spiritual standard of the community. He instituted local takkanot, abrogated strange customs or amended and restored them to their proper origin, and founded schools and yeshivot. He opposed *Firkovich, showing that his claim that the people of Crimea were descended from the Karaites was without foundation. He was an ardent Zionist, and in his works there are many passages extolling the virtue of settling in Ereẓ Israel, the forthcoming redemption, and on the duty of settling in Israel and supporting its poor. He became seriously ill in 1878 and it seems that he was then given the additional name of Ḥayyim. In 1899 he returned to Jerusalem where he was received with great honor. His books won for him a reputation, and religious and halakhic problems were addressed to him from the whole Jewish world. In 1901 he heard that there was a proposal to appoint him *rishon le-Zion (Sephardi chief rabbi), but unwilling to accept this office, he moved to Hebron where he served as rabbi until his death. He founded a yeshivah there, meeting part of its maintenance from his private resources. His fame as a man of saintliness spread to the non-Jews who honored him and regarded him as a wonder worker.

Medini's fame rests principally on his Sedei Ḥemed, which he began in the Crimea, a halakhic encyclopedia of exceptional originality, 13 of the 18 volumes of which were published during his lifetime (Warsaw, 1891–1912). It is one of the most monumental halakhic works, and is still extensively used. It contains rules of talmudic and halakhic methodology, an alphabetical list of the various laws, and responsa. In addition, it contains bibliographical research and articles on the lives of Jewish scholars and of the history of Ereẓ Israel. At the beginning of volume 14 is his lengthy ethical will which reflects his lofty spiritual and moral stature. He wrote a supplement to it, entitled Pakku'at ha-Sadeh (in Ha-Me'assef, 5, Jerusalem (1900), supplement). Among his other works are Mikhtav le-Ḥizkiyyahu (Smyrna, 1868), talmudic novellae and responsa on Oraḥ Ḥayyim; Or Li (ibid., 1874), novellae and responsa – published anonymously in memory of his only son who died in 1868; Ne'im Zemirot (Warsaw, 1886), piyyutim which it was the custom to recite every morning. Several of his poems were published at the beginning of Sedei Ḥemed, volume 6. Many of his responsa and approbations are to be found in the works of contemporary rabbis.


Benayahu, in: Ḥemdat Yisrael (collection of essays in his memory), ed. by A. Elmaleh (1946), 183–212, 203 (bibl.); Burla, ibid., 213–5; Avisar, ibid., 216–28; A. Ben-Jacob, in: Hed ha-Mizraḥ, 3 (1944/45), no. 30; M. Benayahu, ibid.; L. Jung (ed.), Men of the Spirit (1964), 107–21.

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