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Anniversary of Passing of the Ben Ish Chai, Master of Kabbalah

The thirteenth of Elul was the day of the passing of the Ben Ish Chai, a master of Kabbalah and Jewish Law. He died 101 years ago.
By Eli Stutz
First Publish: 8/24/2010, 10:18 AM / Last Update: 8/24/2010, 10:33 AM

Arutz Sheva

Yesterday, the 13th of Elul was the day of the passing of the Ben Ish Chai, a master of Kabbalah and Jewish Law. He died 101 years ago.

Multitudes in Israel remember Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1832 – 1909), known as the Ben Ish Chai, literally, the 'Son of Man who Lives', after his most famous book. Today is his 'hillulah' (Sephardic name for anniversary of passing), which is observed by the lighting of a candle and speaking about his teachings.

The Ben Ish Chai is considered one of the greatest sages of Israel in recent generations and the head of the Iraqi scholars. He was one of the leading lights of Kabbalah (Book of Jewish Mysticism) in his generation, and he taught many customs and practices based on Kabbalah which have since become accepted among the multitudes of Israel.

One story of the Ben Ish Chai is that when he was only seven years old he fell into a pit. He was close to death, but it is said that he was saved by a miracle. After this, he decided to dedicate his life to Torah learning. At the young age of 25, the Jews of Baghdad accepted the Ben Ish Chai as their leading scholar after his father's death.

Today there are many Rabbis who study the Ben Ish Chai's works and act according to his principles. One of the well-known masters of Halacha (Jewish Law) who followed the Ben Ish Chai was Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who took care to rule in matters of Jewish Law according to the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai, whose legal opinions were rooted in Kabbalah. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyah passed away this year.


The Ben Ish Chai wrote over 80 books. He gave many Torah lectures to the masses, in which he inspired his listeners to love the Torah and fear G-d. Within his lectures on Torah verses, he interwove practical matters of Jewish law, behavior, and action.