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In Pirkei Avos, Rabbi Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi says, "It is good to combine Torah study with work…" Here's how one great Sefardic sage fulfilled that obligation!
Rabbi Chaim Chezkiyah Medini (1833 - 1905) was born in Jerusalem. Even as a boy, he earned a reputation as a Talmid Chacham. In due time, he married and continued studying in his father's house. When his father suddenly passed away, Rabbi Chaim and his wife went to Constantinople to live with wealthy relatives. However, Rabbi Chaim did not wish to be a burden upon them. Therefore, he decided to earn his living as a teacher. Soon, he became well-known throughout the city. In 1866, a visitor from Crimea, a Russian province, attended one of his classes. He was so impressed that he invited Rabbi Chaim to become Chief Rabbi of the entire region. Rabbi Chaim accepted and, due to his efforts, saved the Jews there from assimilation.
Rabbi Chaim had three daughters. Most Rabbis want their daughters to marry full-time Torah scholars. However, Rabbi Chaim proudly married one daughter to a tailor, another to a shoemaker, and his third to a hatter.
Although they too studied Torah, they combined it with Derech Eretz - pursuing a trade. Rabbi Chaim said, "Our sages taught that one must learn Torah and earn a livelihood. My sons-in-law are my partners! My main occupation is to study Torah. Their main occupation is their work. This way, we all fulfill what the sages said 100%!"
In 1899, Rabbi Chaim returned to Israel and settled in Hevron. There, he worked on his encyclopedia of Jewish Law, the Sdei Chemed. It is one of the most important reference books we have today. Rabbi Chaim passed away on Erev Chanukah in 1905. May his memory be a blessing!
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