Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Sivan 5763 - June 3, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rav Shmuel Toledano, z"l
by M. Samsonowitz

Rav Shmuel Toledano, of Tangiers and Israel, passed away last week at the age of 94.

Rav Toledano was born in Venezuela to a family descended from Rav Daniel Toledano, a leading Castillian rav who lived in Spain before the expulsion. At a young age, his genius, intense power of concentration and musical talents were pronounced. He was orphaned from his mother when he was very young.

After moving to Paris to earn degrees in mathematics, engineering and architecture, he became close to a religious French professor, Prof. Yosef Benoliel, and immersed himself in Torah study. From then on he spent day and night primarily in Torah.

He settled in Tangiers, Morocco, which was then a burgeoning international city, and shortly thereafter married Hesibita Benaim of Gibraltar. Although he made a comfortable living as an architect, his mind was occupied with far holier matters.

Rav Shmuel Toledano single-handedly launched Torah schools where only secular Alliance schools had existed before. First he opened a talmud Torah and a yeshiva, then a girls' high school and seminary. He founded the yeshiva gedoloh Eitz Chaim in Tangiers, which attracted students from all over Morocco and produced rabbonim and roshei yeshivos, many of whom openly acknowledge that they owe all their spiritual achievements to him.

When he founded the yeshiva, he asked HaRav Dessler zt"l, then in Gateshead, to send him rebbeim to staff it. The rebbeim he sent included great talmidei chachomim and teachers such as HaRav Zusha Waltner zt"l, and ylct"a HaRav Moshe Schloss, HaRav Yissochor Meir of Yeshivas Hanegev, HaRav Lipa Rabinowitz of Manchester, and HaRav Yechezkel Silver, who were drawn from the Gateshead and Manchester kollelim, who were recommended by Rav Dessler. R' Moshe Reichman, who was then a young man, occasionally served as a bochen.

A number of Gateshead graduates taught at the girls' seminary including Michelle Toledano, Rachel Levy, and Evelyn Posen.

These Torah pioneers worked unflaggingly to imbue a select group of Moroccan youths with knowledge of Judaism and a Torah perspective. Their hashkofoh was based on HaRav Dessler's teachings and the Chazon Ish.

Rav Toledano built the school institutions with his own money and fully supported them. He single-handedly stood in the breach even when he had to fight other Jewish associations and bodies. He was constantly maligned for promoting a "dark ages" agenda in opposition to the efforts by "modern" Jews who wanted Moroccan Jewry to join the modern world and shed their strict observance of Judaism, Rachmono litzlan.

The hundreds of students who studied in the Tangiers institutions came from cities and towns all over Morocco and went on to found Torah institutions and Jewish kehillos all over the world. They constitute the first row of Sephardic Torah scholars in Israel, who founded institutions which had a powerful influence in keeping hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews dedicated to Torah Judaism in our times.

Rav Shmuel moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1958. When he saw the neglected state of Sephardic education here, he helped found Yeshivas Shearis Yosef in Beer Yaakov, was named after his grandfather HaRav Yosef Toledano zt"l and his first teacher, Prof. Benoliel. Led by HaRav Nisan Toledano, this respected yeshiva was one of the first few yeshivos created especially for Sephardic youths, and its alumni, too, went on to spread the Torah revolution.

His communal activities were just one facet of his exceptional personality. He was famous for his intense limud haTorah, which sometimes found expression in marathon 16-hour study sessions without a break. He once testified about himself that he studied Torah to the absolute limit of his physical powers. His love and respect for Torah and Torah scholars was boundless, and he once even kissed the hand of a young bochur in the Tangiers yeshiva who gave him a good terutz.

He was a reticent person who disliked attention and praise. When a journalist came to interview him about his role in the Tangiers school, Rav Shmuel sharply sent him away and said he would never talk about it.

From the very beginning of his religious studies, he was attracted to Toras Hanistar. His profound understanding of the subject brought him to write numerous books on various aspects of Kabbala, 18 of which were published. To publish one of his books, he sold his prized violin.

Towards the end of his life, when his phenomenal memory began to fail him, he would sometimes forget the names of family members, but he retained his chiddushei Torah. Until the end of his life, his lips were always uttering words of Torah.

When he found it difficult to study Torah, he would burst into tears and tell his family, "It is not worth living if I cannot learn Torah." Despite his weakened state during the last years of his life, his family reverently surrounded him and cared for him on a daily basis.

He told his sons before his death, "I will be mochel if you don't say Kaddish, but not if you don't learn!"

In his will he wrote that he should be buried immediately if a minyan is available, instead of delaying the funeral, as mentioned by the Shulchan Oruch.

He passed away on Sunday morning, 23 Iyar. Just the day before, on Shabbos afternoon, he still had the zchus to study one of his seforim with his son-in- law.

His levaya left from his house in Bayit Vegan, where a heart-rending hesped was said by his son-in-law, HaRav Avrohom Ochana, rosh kollel Ahavas Sholom, who spoke of his outstanding ahavas Hatorah.

After the burial, hespedim were said by his son-in- law, HaRav Reuven Sofer, who testified that since he had known him, he had never heard him say devorim beteilim. A talmid, HaRav Avrohom ben Zimra, spoke of the Torah institutions he had helped found and his extreme diligence in Torah study. The last hesped was said by his son-in- law, Rav David David, who spoke about his profound love for Torah study. Many times Rav Shmuel literally burst into tears from the awe and joy of having the zchus to learn Toras Hashem.

He is survived by his wife, his devoted partner in his endeavors throughout his life, two sons, five daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are following in Rav Shmuel's distinguished path.

The family would appreciate any stories or information about Rav Shmuel that the public has to share. Please call Rav David 972-2-641-2196, or Fax: 972-2-642-7497.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.