Rabbi Mordechai Amiyes Hacohen
Hashem always hears the prayers of a mother. When he was a child, the mother of Rabbi Mordechai Amiyes Hacohen prayed that her son become great in Israel. And in fact Rabbi Mordechai Amiyes grew up and enlightened the eyes of Israel with his wisdom.
His first steps were taken under the direction of the Gaon Rabbi Yossef Berebi. He then went to deepen his study of Shas and the Poskim in the yeshiva of Rabbi Moshe Zaken Mazouz. His reputation as an eminent Talmudic scholar did not take long to become known to all.
Torah was so valuable in his eyes that he studied every day without stop and gave himself but three hours of rest. He avoided sleeping too much due to his fear of losing precious time for study.
In the year 5715 (1955), Rabbi Mordechai replaced Rabbi David Ben Baron as head of the rabbanim and became the Rosh Av Beit Din of Tunisia. He occupied this position until the end of his life and faithfully consecrated himself with devotion to the entire community. He was constantly preoccupied with the spiritual life of each individual, always pushing to preserve and enrich Judaism.
His close relations with the president of Tunisia, President Bourguiba, helped to ease the life of the Jews. When the president fell ill, Rabbi Mordechai assembled the Jews in all the synagogues throughout Tunisia so they could pray for his health. A few days later, Rabbi Mordechai went to the bedside of the president, who warmly greeted him and said, “I know that it’s only because of your prayers and those of the Jews that I recovered.”
One day, Tunisian authorities decided to transform an ancient Jewish cemetery into a municipal park. This news stunned the entire Jewish community, and they were not able to annul this decision by their own efforts.
President Bourguiba had entrusted this project to a Jewish engineer, and therefore Rabbi Mordechai, accompanied by a delegation of the community’s notable men, went to see him at the graveyard. During this meeting, the engineer didn’t want to hear anything, and he remained uncompromising.
“You are a Jew!” Rabbi Mordechai exclaimed, “How can you disturb the peace of the righteous?”
The engineer did not bend, but rather continued to refuse.
Seeing the godlessness of this man, Rabbi Mordechai told his delegation to distance themselves from the cemetery. He then turned towards the graves and said, “We have done our part, yet only this godless man stands in the way. Do to him what seems right to you.”
Rabbi Mordechai and the men of the community went back home. The next day, people learned that the engineer had been involved in a terrible accident.
The imposing figure of Rabbi Mordechai and his deep gaze gave him a particular aura. His kindness and great spirit shone on whoever encountered him.
It is said that he had the habit of praying very early in the morning in the yeshiva of Rabbi Menachem Hori. One evening, after studying with his friends, he remained to meditate on a difficulty raised by the Gaon Rabbi Akiva Eguere. He remained there studying until the first hours of the morning – the time at which his friends came back to pray – without ever leaving his book! The found him exactly as they had left him the day before, bent over the Gemara, not differentiating between day and night!
Rabbi Mordechai had the privilege of living a long time. His days were prolonged until the age of 88, departing this world in the year 5734 (1974).