Torat Hacham Baruch
“I am truly amazed at the content and work put into this book,” says Rabbi Eli J. Mansour. “This sefer proves that every one of Hacham Baruch’s words contained numerous treasures and it will surely play an integral role in our spiritual guidance in Hacham Baruch’s absence.” These are the words that reverberate in the minds of the many readers who have enthusiastically embraced the groundbreaking masterpiece, Torat Hacham Baruch.
A rare combination of clear, easy-to-follow halachic guidance and ethical elucidations,Torat Hacham Baruchcaptures the unique approach which Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim zt”l formulated from his early years under the tutelage of his esteemed rabbi, Hacham Ezra Attia zt”l.
Reviving a Legacy
With diligence and determination, Hacham Baruch set out to fulfill his mission to carry on the legacy andnurture the torch of Sephardic glory here in the United States. For 56 years, the rabbi built, supported, and steered the Syrian community of New York toward the prominent status it holds today.
For almost a decade since the passing of Hacham Baruch, the Syrian community has keenly felt the absence of the rabbi’s unique guidance and vast Torah knowledge. This void was particularly painful since Hacham Baruch had not left any literary works to guide us in his path and to teach the future generations. Fortunately, however, a sizeable collection of audio recordings containing the classes the rabbi delivered for nearly 20 years at the Shaare Zion Synagogue was generously provided by Mr. Alan Mizrachi.
Equipped with these recordings, a group of Torah scholars took it upon themselves to revive Hacham Baruch’s legacy by publishing his teachings in the masterful series, Torat Hacham Baruch.
Hacham Baruch Memorial Foundation
Spearheaded by Rabbi Albert E. Betesh, and fortified by the untiring support of its president, Mr. Ike S. Franco, a group of scholarsinvestedthousands of hours of extensive research in order to compile the subject matter and ensure accuracy. The process included professional transcription, editing, and multiple reviews to guarantee perfection. The text was enhanced by references to both Biblical and rabbinic sources for every point that was touched upon.
This undertaking is projected to produce a 15-volume series that will incorporate many of the laws found in Shulhan Aruch-Orah Haim, including the halachotof Shabbat and holidays. Other volumes will include halachot of kashrut, insights on Masechet Avot, a comprehensive composition of the rabbi’s ethical teachings, and a complete biography of the rabbi’s life and legacy.
Torat Hacham Baruch Vol. I
To date, the Hacham Baruch Memorial Foundation has published the first volume of this series, which consists of the rabbi’s teachings on the first 57 chapters of Shulhan Aruch Orah Haim. This initial volume is enhanced by a brief yet comprehensive biography of the rabbi’s life that is enriched with inspirational stories from his youth. The reader will surely be inspired by the description of the rabbi’s holy upbringing by his illustrious parents, as well as by the fascinating stories of his eminent teachers in his hometown of Jerusalem. Fashioned and embellished by numerous quotes of Hacham Baruch, the biography captures the rabbi’s life in a most captivating way.
“Before I started learning in Yeshivat Porat Yosef, my mother sat with me for two full hours, preparing me for this outstanding center of Torah,” exclaims Hacham Baruch as he begins to describe the commencement of his lifelong journey to achieve greatness in Torah. “‘Beware,’ she warned me, ‘you will be in the presence of angels!’”
The reader becomes privy to the emotions that enveloped the rabbi as he set foot in the hallowed walls of Porat Yosef. “I was terrified upon entering the yeshiva. I remember a special room there, called Heder HaMekubalim (Kabbalists Room), which I was afraid to step foot in. Once, I did go in, and literally began to tremble at the sight of the group of mekubalim whose faces shone like those of angels.”
The book also features a wide-ranging prologue to the study of Shulhan Aruch as presented by the rabbi. Starting with the revelation of the Torah from Mt. Sinai, the rabbi gives a captivating account of the historical sequence of the transmission of Torah law, culminating with its more recent authoritative figures.
Inspiring and Informative Subject Matter
The rich content of the book’s main subject matter stirs the spirit and inspires the heart to emulate the ways of our fathers and adhere to proper observance of halachah. For example, in the context of the laws of proper dress fortefilah (53:13), Hacham Baruch explains how one must appear before G-d with respectful attire as one would dress when standing before a king or an important dignitary. He then reminisces about the early days in the Magen David synagogue: “The members of the congregation would all appear to the Shabbat prayers with a suit and tie. However with time there were those who started to arrive to minha on Shabbat afternoon without the adornment of a tie. Mr. Selim Shamah a”h who was a very G-d fearing Jew, would approach those people and respectfully ask them to return to their home so they can come to prayers with the proper attire.”
Contemporary issues and halachotare discussed as well. For instance, in chapter 4:1, the rabbi delves into the details regarding the halachic status of the modern-day restroom as it pertains to washing ones hands and the like. After a deep discussion the rabbi renders his ruling: “…in my opinion they do not hold the same status as the ones used in past generations. However my uncle, the great mekubal Hacham Ovadia Hedaya zt” l was very stringent in this matter.” In light of these conflicting opinions, the rabbi goes on to give a detailed verdict how to approach this matter in specific circumstances.
After studying the book, the reader walks away with a deeper understanding of prayers and fulfillment of the mitzvot. He is exposed to the rabbi’s rich knowledge and keen ability to articulate difficult subjects in a simplified yet comprehensive form. The book incorporates a clear explanation of our daily duties, including elaborations on the parts oftefilah, along with an understanding of many of the community’s unique customs.
Renewing Commitment to Torah
Scholars and laymen alike are sure to derive much enjoyment from the book’s halachic rulings, rich expositions on the Shulhan Aruch, and inspirational Aggadic embellishments which capture the spirit of the law and bring our nation’s daily religious duties to life.
“It is changing the lives of many participants,” exclaims Rabbi Raymond Falack, who gives a weekly lecture on the book’s content in the Bet Shaul U’Miriam Congregation. “The people are tremendously inspired by virtue of who the rabbi was. It is extremely enjoyable to learn and it transmits the rabbi’s enormous outlook on life along with his love and devotion, good humor and wit, backed by his expansive knowledge of Torah.”
Rabbi Moshe Douek of Congregation Shaare Tefilah echoed these sentiments: “It gives people a sense that the rabbi is standing before them, and it is having a recognizable impact on the daily lives of the congregants.”
Indeed, when one studies from this sefer he will be deeply inspired by the clarity of thought and depth of knowledge it encompasses.
The Realization of a Dream
Perhaps a most important aspect of this project is that it fulfills the wish of the rabbi, as expressed by Rabbi Eli Mansour: “The project of Torat Hacham Baruch is, in my opinion, very essential, and I have no doubt that this project gives Hacham Baruch great satisfaction and nahat ruah [gratification]. It is a fulfillment of one of the unrealized dreams of his lifetime, and it will serve as a great ilui neshamah [elevation of the soul] for him.”
There is no doubt that this worthy project will serve as a primary source of guidance for the Syrian community, as well as a valuable resource for the Jewish community at large, for many generations to come.
We kindly ask anyone who has pictures, audio or video recordings of Hacham Baruch Zt”l, to please contact us. It will greatly assist us in our endeavor to disseminate the rabbi’s teachings. We can be reachedeither by phone at: (212) 842-4444, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Thank you.