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Chaim ibn Attar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ḥayyim ibn Attar
Chaim ibn Attar grave.JPG
Grave of ibn Attar on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
Died7 July 1743(1743-07-07) (aged 46–47)
רבי חיים בן עטר.png
BuriedMount of Olives Jewish Cemetery

Chaim ibn Attar or Ḥayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar (Arabic: حاييم بن موشي بن عطار‎, Hebrew: חיים בן משה בן עטר‎; b. c. 1696 - 7 July 1743) also known as the Or ha-Ḥayyim after his popular commentary on the Torah, was a Talmudist and Kabbalist. He is arguably considered to be one of the most prominent Rabbis of Morocco.


Born in Salé, Morocco in 1696, Chaim was the son of Rabbi Moshe Ben-Attar and the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Ben-Attar (the Elder),[1][2] whom he learnt with in his early years. When he was nine years old, his family fled to Meknes, Morocco, escaping the local antisemitic vizier.[3] He soon married a relative of his, named Fatzunyah, whose father supported him, letting him study Torah without the burden of supporting a household; he did not end up having any children with her, so he later would marry a second wife named Esther Bibas. When his father-in-law died in 1724, his financial situation worsened, although the burden of support shifted to his father. At this time, he also ran a yeshiva in Salé.[4]

When a famine hit Morocco, he decided to leave his native country and settle in the Land of Israel, then part of the Ottoman Syria. En route, he was detained in Livorno by the rich members of the Jewish community who established a yeshiva for him. This was in 1739.[5] Many of his pupils later became prominent and furnished him with funds to print his Or ha-Ḥayyim (Hebrew: light of life‎).[6]

Chaim was received with great honor wherever he traveled because of his extensive knowledge and keen intellect. Before permanently settling in the Land of Israel, he went to Algiers where he recruited students for a yeshiva he was planning on opening in the Land of Israel. He soon arrived at the Acre port in the Land of Israel with his two wives and thirty students. However he could not immediately proceed to Jerusalem, due to an epidemic. In the middle of 1742 he arrived in Jerusalem, where he founded Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael.[7]

One of his disciples there was Chaim Yosef David Azulai, who wrote of his master's greatness: "Attar's heart pulsated with Talmud; he uprooted mountains like a resistless torrent; his holiness was that of an angel of the Lord,... having severed all connection with the affairs of this world."[8]

On July 7, 1743, less than a year after his arrival in Jerusalem, Chaim died; it was on a Shabbat. It is said that that week in Europe, the Baal Shem Tov was sitting at Seudah shlishit, and before anyone in the area could have found out about Chaim's death, he exclaimed, “The light from the West has been extinguished!”[9] He is buried in the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery in Jerusalem, Israel.


  1. Ḥefetz Hashem (God's Desire), Amsterdam, 1732—dissertations on the four Talmudic treatises Berakhot, Shabbat, Horayot, and Ḥullin.
  2. Or ha-Ḥayyim (The Light of Life), Venice, 1742—a commentary on the Pentateuch after the four methods known collectively as Pardes; it was reprinted several times. His renown is based chiefly on this work, which became popular also with the Hasidim.
  3. Peri Toar (Beautiful Fruit), novellae on the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, dealing especially with Hiskiah de Silva's commentary Peri Ḥadash, Amsterdam, 1742; Vienna and Lemberg, 1810.
  4. Rishon le-Zion, Constantinople, 1750—consisting of novellae to several Talmudic treatises, on certain portions of the Shulḥan Arukh, on the terminology of Maimonides, on the five Megillot, on the Prophets and on Proverbs.
  5. Under the same title were published at Polna, 1804, his notes on Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Isaiah.

See also


  • Michael, Or ha-hayyim, No. 894;
  • Benjacob, Otzar ha-Sefarim, p. 541;
  • Luncz, in Jerusalem, i.122 (epitaphs);
  • Nacht, Mekor Chayyim, Hebrew biography of 'Attar, Drohobycz, 1898;
  • Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim;
  • Franco, Histoire des Israélites d'Orient
  • Assaf, David (2009). "'A Heretic who has No Faith in the Great Ones of the Age': The Clash Over the Honor of or Ha-Hayyim". Modern Judaism. 29 (2): 194–225. doi:10.1093/mj/kjp003. S2CID 7927756.


  1. ^ Shdeour, Esti (April 6, 2016). "The Moroccan Gadol who was "Adopted" by Chassidim - Harav Chaim Ben Attar, zt"l". Inyan: 12. Harav Chaim ben Attar was born in 1696 in Salé on Morocco's Atlantic coast to a family whose forebears had been expelled from Spain
  2. ^ Rubinstein, Rabbi Y. Y. "The Ohr Hachaim". Hamodia. Retrieved August 10, 2020. In 5456/1696 in the town of Salé on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar, the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, was born.
  3. ^ Rubinstein, Rabbi Y. Y. "The Ohr Hachaim". Hamodia. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  4. ^ Shdeour, Esti (April 6, 2016). "The Moroccan Gadol who was "Adopted" by Chassidim - Harav Chaim Ben Attar, zt"l". Inyan: 12.
  5. ^ Shdeour, Esti (April 6, 2016). "The Moroccan Gadol who was "Adopted" by Chassidim - Harav Chaim Ben Attar, zt"l". Inyan: 12.
  6. ^ Rubinstein, Rabbi Y. Y. "The Ohr Hachaim". Hamodia. Retrieved August 10, 2020. The Ohr Hachaim’s arrival in Italy was met with great enthusiasm, and he was persuaded to spend two years there teaching Torah. Though he had arrived penniless, he was able to earn enough for his family and talmidim to undertake the next stage of their journey. Benefactors also provided for the publication of his great commentary on Chumash in Venice.
  7. ^ Shdeour, Esti (April 6, 2016). "The Moroccan Gadol who was "Adopted" by Chassidim - Harav Chaim Ben Attar, zt"l". Inyan: 12–13.
  8. ^ "Chaim ibn Attar". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  9. ^ Rubinstein, Rabbi Y. Y. "The Ohr Hachaim". Hamodia. Retrieved August 10, 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 July 2021, at 20:18
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