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Ḥayyim Modai

MODAI, ḤAYYIM (d. 1794), Safed scholar. In 1749 Modai journeyed to Europe as an emissary of the Safed community. Passing through Egypt, he came across a manuscript of geonic responsa which he published 43 years later under the title Sha'arei Ẓedek (Salonika, 1792). In 1755 he was appointed a member of the bet din in Constantinople as well as one of the pekidim ("commissioners") of Safed in the town. Following the earthquake in Safed in 1760, he was again sent to Europe in 1762 as an emissary for the town by the Constantinople commissioners, who published four letters on the subject of his mission in order to give it full publicity. After visiting various Italian towns (Mantua, Turin, and Venice in 1763), he went to Holland and England (Amsterdam and London) in 1765, and Germany. In 1766 he was in Prague where he had halakhic discussions with Ezekiel *Landau, who refers to him in respectful terms (responsa Ḥayyim le-Olam, YD no. 2; Nodabi-Yhudah, Mahadura Kamma, YD no. 87–88). Four years later he returned to Constantinople where he stayed until the death of Ḥayyim b. David Abulafia, when he was invited to succeed him as the rabbi of Smyrna. There he remained until 1793. At the end of his commendation to Sha'arei Ẓedek, Modai expresses his longing to return to Safed. His wish was fulfilled and he returned to Safed in 1793. His works include Tiv Gittin (1875), containing the bills of divorce arranged by him between 1737 and 1775 with the glosses of Yom Tov Israel; and Ḥayyim le-Olam (1878–79), responsa in two parts, including many written while on his travels; it also contains the responsa of his grandson, Nissim Ḥayyim Modai, entitled Meimar Ḥayyim. His glosses on the Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim and Yoreh De'ah, and the Peri Hadash appear in the Berakh Moshe (Leghorn, 1809) of Moses b. Mordecai Galante (pp. 151–69); a responsum by him in the Ma'amar ha-Melekh (Salonika, 1806), of Raphael Abraham Maẓli'aḥ; and an alphabetical poem on the smoking of tobacco (toton) at the beginning of the Avodah Tammah (1903) of Joshua Raphael Benveniste. From 1767 Modai was on friendly terms with Ḥ.J.D. Azulai; on one ruling – in connection with reading from an invalid Sefer Torah – they expressed opposing views; the correspondence between them continued until 1787.


S. Ḥazan, Ha-Ma'alot li-Shelomo (1894), 31a–32a, 39b; M. Benayahu, R. Ḥayyim Yosef David Azulai, 1 (Heb., 1959), 362–6; 2 (1959), 412–3; I. Ben Zvi, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 360, 381–3; S. Emmanuel, ibid., 406–7, 411, 419; S. Simonsohn, ibid., 334, 348–9: Yaari, Sheluḥei, 130–1, 451–5.

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