Rabbi Chaim Faladji
Rabbi Chaim Faladji, the Rav of Izmir, Turkey, was one of the great sages of his generation. Born in 1788 (5548), he took upon himself the responsibility, in every sense of the word, of the community with grace and an attitude that was unequaled in thoughtfulness and attentiveness. At the same time, he was known for his extreme diligence in Torah study, a diligence that found expression in the enormous number of books that he authored, the total of which numbers 95. Among these are Guinzei Chaim and Hukei Chaim.
A heavy yolk rested upon Rabbi Chaim Faladji’s shoulders, one that stole much of his time. One marvels at discovering just how exhaustively he succeeded in studying Torah, how he managed to give his own explanations, and how he arrived at writing such a large number of books, ones which opened the eyes of the Jewish world. His story is in fact one of time optimization. His books testify to the fact that one can arrive at finding the time to accomplish many more things than we, ordinary people, can even imagine. The works of Rabbi Chaim deal with many tractates of the Gemara and offer explanations on Halachah and Aggadah. They deal with the work of the Rambam, with the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch, and give thousands of responses to Halachic questions. His works offer explanations on the weekly Torah sections and comprise, moreover, over 100 discourses and 14 volumes on the entire Tanach. One of his books deals with questions pertinent to dayanim, another on the laws of sacrifice, another on laws pertaining to the community, etc., etc. It is simply impossible in this article to detail the 95 books that he wrote. How did he find the time to write all of these books?
The most definite answer to this question is found in his own personal account: “I take Heaven and Earth as my witnesses that from the day that I began to reason for myself, until the day of my twentieth year, I was deeply immersed in Torah study day and night, without the loss of the least moment, for I occupied myself with nothing having to do with the world in general. And from the age of 20 until the age 40, since I had a family to feed, I occupied myself with the affairs of the world in order to survive. Yet when I had no issues to deal with, I didn’t take advantage of it in order to lose my time, but instead returned to my studies. In the same way, from the age of 40 – the age at which I became a Dayan (judge and decision-maker), and when I took charge of the needs of the community – until today, year after year I took upon myself an extremely heavy yolk, for there was no instant in which I wasn’t called upon during disputes and communal affairs, both in the city itself and its surroundings. Yet even though the authorities added even more difficult tasks to me, and in several domains, and even though my heart grieved within me because I could not study Torah as I wished, I forced myself to find time where I was free from my tasks – the little spare time that I had – in order to consecrate my eyes and heart to the study of Torah. May my actions be observed and imitated when one is faced with numerous communal and individual worries and pressed for time, that one’s eyes and heart not wander in following vain pursuits when given a few moments of freedom from responsibilities, and may blessing be found in one’s Torah!”
Next came a promise: “As long as you have a great desire for Torah, and as long as you do not give yourself over to trivial pursuits, and that your mind becomes completely liberated during the hours and minutes that you are free in order not to lose anything, we will help to find time to accomplish what you desire, to study the Torah a little and to practice it a lot. Most of the time, when a man or woman presented themselves before me and I had to speak to them at length in order to comfort them, G-d knows just how much I suffered when they caused me to lose hours of Torah study. However if I pushed them aside, I feared humiliating them and not having shared in their pain. Now we know that ‘honorable conduct [derech eretz] precedes Torah.’ As for that which our Sages told us in Perkei Avoth, that reducing social contacts (derech eretz) to a minimum is one of the 48 things by which Torah is acquired, this means that one should avoid extending social contacts in one’s private life in order to occupy oneself with Torah, but this does not at all deal with the honor of others, for in that respect one risks causing them pain and humiliation.”