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Yaakov Chaim Sofer

Not to be confused with Chaim Sofer, the Hungarian rabbi and author of Machne Chaim

Yaakov Chaim Sofer (1870–1939) (Hebrew: יעקב חיים סופר) was an Orthodox rabbi, Kabbalist, Talmudist and posek (decider of halakha). Sofer is the author of Kaf Hachaim, a work of halakha (Jewish law), by which title he is also known.

Biography

Sofer was born in Baghdad, where he studied under Sephardi sages such as Yosef Chaim (the Ben Ish Chai) and Abdallah Somech. In 1904, he journeyed to Ottoman Palestine in order to pray at the graves of tzadikim ("the righteous"). After visiting Jerusalem, he decided to settle there permanently. He studied in the Bet El yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, well known for the study of kabbalah. In 1909 he moved to the newly founded Shoshanim leDavid yeshiva. It was here that he composed his works.

Rabbi Sofer authored several works of halakha and aggadah. His books are known for discussing the original traditions of Iraqi Jews and are studied to this day. Rabbi Chaim was well known for his role in working on behalf of Torah education in Jerusalem. His great grandson founded two yeshivot in his memory, Kaf Hachaim and Torat Yaakov.

Works

Kaf Hachaim (כף החיים) is a monumental work, considered a classic by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities. In this work, Sofer discusses the halakha in light of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Kaf Hachaim, usually published in ten volumes, covers Orach Chayim (8 vol.) and parts of Yoreh De'ah (2 vol.). It is often compared to the Mishna Berura in terms of scope and approach, but differs in its more extensive reliance upon quotations. This work also surveys the views of many kabbalistic sages (particularly Isaac Luria), when these impact the Halakha. Shinun Halacha is a work summarising the Halakhic conclusions presented in Kaf Hachaim.

In addition to the Kaf Hachaim, Rabbi Chayim authored:

  • Kol Yaakov: on the laws of writing torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot, as well as on the tefillin in general
  • Yagel Yaakov: a compendium of Shabbat drashot (sermons) delivered while in mourning for his father
  • Yismach Yisrael: novellae on the parsha, the weekly [[Torah
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