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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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.