Illuminated Beth Bookmark by Jean-Jacques LEVI Rabbi Raphael ben Abraham BERDUGO

Branch Beth of BERDUGO family tree

The "Angel" Rabbi Raphael ben Mordecai BERDUGO

[See Handdrawn Family Tree of Branch Beth by Rabbi Raphael ben Abraham BERDUGO]
signature of The Angel, Rabbi Raphael ben Mordecai BERDUGO

Raphael BERDUGO (b. 1747 Meknes - d. 1821 according to Encyclopedia Judaica 1782 according to Portuguese archives) son of Rabbi Mordecai BERDUGO was dayan, scholar, and one of the greatest rabbis of Morocco. He was respected by his contemporaries, and his decisions continue to be a source of inspiration to Moroccan rabbis. Has was an excellent speaker with a great natural authority, and did not shirk from conflict with the notables, pointing out for example their inconsideration for yeshiva students. He did limit himself to his role as dayan (judge), but was a community activist. He made the shohatim abandon their old customs and follow the Castilian customs. He also introduced reforms in the laws of inheritance, for example the inheritance of a husband and children in case of the death of a wife.

His love for torah study had no limits. Having no means of illumination, he studied torah by moonlight. One night, one of his disciples, Rabbi Yossef Maimran, unable to sleep because of a Talmudic problem he was working on, came to see his master. He was surprised to see his master wrapped up in his studies while a thread tied to his hair was attached to the wall so that he would be awakened should he doze off. During the winter, Raphael BERDUGO placed a glass of water near his feet which would tip over if he fell asleep.

Given his strong personality, he had a number of adversaries. One of these was the learned Rabbi Baruch TOLEDANO. Their controversies were quite heated and have remained famous.

See Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 4, p. 592 for his extensive list of publications some unpublished, and some published by Rabbi Chalom MESSAS including: Torot Emet, Me Menouhot, Rav Peninim and Messamehe Lev.

Listed as a saint in Culte des Saints et Pélerinages Judéo-Musulmans au Maroc (page 29). It is noted that upon his remains did not decompose but remained intact until their transfer to Meknes (New Mellah?) years after his death.

Rabbi Raphael married a daughter of the Mashbir had four sons:

Daniel E. LOEB, eMail:
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