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Tuesday
Feb202018

“THE REBBE WAS LIKE A TRUE FATHER TO ME”

Driven from a young age to study Torah, RYeshuah Hadad made his way from a small village in Morocco to a respected position as the rav of the Sephardic community in Milan, Italy, as a direct shlichus of the Rebbe. * Over the years, he received a great deal of guidance from the Rebbe, who guided him every step of the way in the rabbinic position that he held for close to half a century, as well as many signs of personal closeness. * His son, RYosef Hadad, sheds some additional light on the persona of his father, in an exclusive interview with Beis Moshiach.

“Ozreini Keil Chai L’Hachnia” – Rabbi Yeshuah Hadad’s deep voice sounds a bit distant as he accompanies the Rebbe’s voice singing the tune without words. This brief recording was publicized right after the passing of R’ Yeshuah Hadad a”h, one of the first students in Chabad yeshivos in Morocco, and one of the veteran shluchim of the Rebbe, for over 50 years, in Milan, Italy.

“Ozreini Keil Chai L’Hachnia” is a Sephardic song. One year, Rabbi Nissan Pinson, then a shliach to Morocco, came to the Rebbe. At one of the farbrengens the Rebbe asked him to sing a Sephardic song. Rabbi Pinson, Russian-born, began singing “Ozreini Keil Chai.” A few years later, when R’ Yeshuah Hadad, then a bachur, went to the Rebbe for the first time, the Rebbe told him to sing “Ozreini Keil Chai.” After that, on several other occasions, the Rebbe asked him to sing this song during farbrengens.

A CHILD THIRSTING FOR TORAH

During the Shiva, I asked his son, R’ Yosef Hadad, to tell me about his father.

“My father was born in Tabia, a small village in Morocco, dozens of kilometers from Marrakesh. My father was a successful shliach and rav in Milan for decades, but every time he told the story of his life, he began with the small village in Morocco where he was born and raised. When I was thinking about that today, I realized why my father did this. He wanted to convey a message. ‘I was born in a small Moroccan village, my neshama descended there, in that out-of-the-way place, but with a great desire to grow, I went to a place of Torah in Casablanca. When you carry out “yogaata,” then you reach the “u’matzasa;” no excuses.’

“My father yearned to study Torah and when he was 11 years old, he put the money together to travel and one day, he said goodbye to his parents and went to yeshiva in Casablanca. On the long journey, some of his few belongings were stolen. At the end of the long trip, he arrived in Casablanca where he was helped by his married sister who lived there. He went to learn in a local yeshiva, Otzar HaTorah, but after two years he decided that the level of learning was not high enough and the atmosphere wasn’t to his liking, so he packed his few belongings and went to Meknes where he joined the Chabad yeshiva, which was run by Rabbi Michoel Lipsker. In Meknes, despite having no relatives or acquaintances and although the material circumstances were not optimal, he began to climb in Torah study through his great diligence.”

R’ Hadad would later recount that in the Chabad yeshiva he found what he sought, an atmosphere of genuine yiras Shamayim. There in yeshiva he learned Nigleh and first became acquainted with the world of Chassidus.

He also began studying the laws of sh’chita. When he went to be tested, he was told that due to his young age, he could not be tested. The reputation of the boy who wanted to be tested on the laws of sh’chita reached Rabbi Boruch Toledano, rav of Meknes, and he invited the boy to be tested by him. When he saw that the boy was proficient in the laws, he provided him with a letter of recommendation to the beis din in Rabat (capital of Morocco) in which he testified, “He is like a twenty-year-old.” The beis din agreed to give the boy a certificate of sh’chita.

After two years of learning in the Chabad yeshiva in Meknes, he went to learn in Tomchei T’mimim in Brunoy, with the Rebbe’s blessing, with a group of friends. This was the first group of the outstanding talmidim of the Chabad yeshiva in Morocco who continued on to learn in France. This group paved the way for many other groups of top bachurim from Morocco who went to the yeshiva in Brunoy to grow in the learning of Nigleh and Chassidus and the ways of Torah and Chassidus.

In Brunoy he learned for five years, in which he benefited a lot from the legendary mashpia, R’ Nissan Nemanov and from the brilliant rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Goldberg. During his time learning there, he began writing letters to the Rebbe and received answers and guidance. The bachur from Morocco impressed the hanhala of the yeshiva with his knowledge and conduct, and when R’ Nemanov learned that the bachur was expert in the laws of sh’chita, he appointed him to teach these laws to a group of bachurim.

PERSONAL CHAVRUSA WITH THE BABA SALI

The tzaddik known as the Baba Sali (Rabbi Yisroel Abuchatzeira zt”l) regularly visited the yeshiva in Brunoy and learned there, mainly in Elul, every year. R’ Hadad had the privilege of reading for him from the Alter Rebbe’s Likkutei Torah. As the son, R’ Yosef, relates:

“Baba Sali came from Morocco to France for medical treatment for his eyes. While staying in France, it was suggested to him that he daven in various shuls, but he chose to daven in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Brunoy where he learned Chassidus with the mashpia, R’ Nemanov. He asked that one of the talmidim learn Likkutei Torah with him between four and six in the morning and R’ Nemanov immediately suggested Yeshuah Hadad of Morocco.

“My father, who was only 17, spent that time in the holy presence of the Baba Sali and read maamarei Chassidus from Likkutei Torah to him because of the tzaddik’s vision problems. My father said that occasionally the Baba Sali would say in amazement, ‘Rebbi Zalman [i.e., the Alter Rebbe], how did you reach such things?’”

Some of the students who came from Morocco to Brunoy learned in Brunoy for a few years and then returned to Morocco to be involved in chinuch at one of the dozens of Chabad schools throughout the country. R’ Yeshuah also wanted to return to Morocco, but R’ Nemanov told him to remain in France and start learning for smicha for rabbanus, explaining that rabbanim were needed among the Jewish people. R’ Yeshuah obeyed and made just a brief family visit to Morocco. Upon returning to Brunoy he did not feel comfortable because most of the bachurim his age had left the yeshiva. He wrote to the Rebbe and said he wanted to learn in 770. The Rebbe agreed to that and said he should study for smicha.

His friends relate that for teaching sh’chita he received a salary but being a bachur, his expenses were few. Thus, he was able to lend large sums of money to his friends in yeshiva. The day he left yeshiva to sail to New York, he told all the borrowers that he forgave the loans and they did not have to repay him.

IN 770

R’ Yeshuah Hadad arrived at the Rebbe for Yud Shevat 5718. A few weeks later, he had yechidus on his birthday which was in Adar. He did not know exactly when his birthday was, since in Morocco, they did not really emphasize birthdays. The Rebbe told him to designate the upcoming Shabbos as his birthday and to do the practices one does on a birthday on this day. The Rebbe specified: the extra shiurim that are learned on one’s birthday, learn on Shabbos. As for giving tz’daka before the t’fillos, give it on Friday.

Some time later, R’ Hadad sent a letter to his family in Morocco asking them to find out what his birthday is. He discovered that his birthday fell on Shabbos that year!

R’ Yeshuah immediately began to delve into the intricacies of the subjects that are studied for the smicha ordination, until he was given smicha for rabbanus. When he finished that study track, he asked the Rebbe what he should do next and the Rebbe told him to continue studying for dayanus. After a period of intensive learning, he was also given smicha for dayanus. Then he was told to get a document of smicha for sh’chita from Ashkenazic rabbis too, in addition to the smicha he received from rabbanim in Morocco.

After completing his studies for dayanus and having received smicha for sh’chita from Ashkenazic rabbanim, the Rebbe told him to find a temporary sh’chita position until he found a permanent job.

At that time, the summer of 5729/1960, Rabbi Mordechai Belinov arrived from France to 770, by instruction of the Rebbe, and then was told to go on shlichus to Morocco. Before he left, the Rebbe told him to study sh’chita in the manner that comports with the customs of Morocco. When R’ Belinov asked who should teach him, the Rebbe said: Go to Hadad and tell him in my name to teach you.

R’ Hadad began teaching him sh’chita but in the middle of their learning, R’ Hadad had to go to Lakewood in order to take a temporary sh’chita position. The Rebbe, surprisingly, told R’ Belinov to go with R’ Hadad to Lakewood. A few months later, R’ Belinov went on shlichus to Marrakesh in the area where R’ Hadad used to live.

It should be noted that while he was in Beis Chayeinu, R’ Hadad received a number of outstanding kiruvim from the Rebbe. Time after time, the Rebbe told him to sing “Ozreini Keil Chai” for the Chassidim. At times, the Rebbe said, “A sefardishe niggun.” Then R’ Yeshuah would sing in his deep, booming voice and occasionally the Rebbe joined in.

THE REBBE SENDS HIM TO MILAN

In the summer of 5721/1961, R’ Hadad went on shlichus to Milan to serve as rav of the Sephardic community there, even though he was still a bachur. The Rebbe said he was suited to the job because “he did not change from the Sephardic customs as they were practiced in Morocco.”

His son relates:

“In Tammuz 5721, my father was ready to go on shlichus. Then, on 12 Tammuz, Rabbi Chadakov went to my father and said, ‘The Rebbe asks what are you doing here? Why haven’t you gone to Milan yet?’ My father said he had stayed in order to participate in the farbrengen. R’ Chadakov reported this to the Rebbe and then came back to my father and said, ‘The Rebbe agreed that you can stay, but you must go on shlichus as soon as possible.’ The very next morning, my father left for Milan.

“About a year later, he married my mother Rochel, and they continued the shlichus together for decades.”

R’ Hadad related a story that shows the fatherly relationship the Rebbe had with him. “A rich man from Milan named Zippel went to the Rebbe. The Rebbe would send him on various missions to Russia. The Rebbe asked him how his shluchim in Milan were and the man began telling him about R’ Garelik, R’ Lazar, and R’ Hadad, noting, ‘Hadad is getting married soon.’ The Rebbe said, ‘I know he is getting married soon, but I don’t need you for that. My question is does he have the means to make a wedding or not?’ Upon returning to Milan, Mr. Zippel asked me to come to his office. When I arrived, he gave me an envelope with quite a bit of cash for the wedding expenses. When I questioned him, he told me what happened in yechidus. The Rebbe concerned himself for me like a true father.”

His son continues, “At the time he went on shlichus, Sephardic Jews from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, began arriving in Milan. My father served as rav of the shul where the Sephardic Jews who had recently immigrated davened, but he was considered the rav of all the Sephardic communities in the city. When one of R’ Hadad’s mekuravim asked the Rebbe a question, the Rebbe sent him to R’ Yeshuah Hadad. Most of these Jews were not observant and many of them did not even go to shul.

“My father worked with the Sephardic Jews in Milan in a number of ways and put much effort into opening a school for the children. He also gave many shiurim alongside his involvement in kashrus. 

“His work with kashrus began when he started visiting a certain meeting place where Persian Jews congregated. These Jews did not observe Shabbos or kashrus and the food served there was not kosher. One day, they invited my father to give a shiur there and my father was bothered that non-kosher food was served. My father’s suggestion about arranging kosher food was rejected on the spot by the management.

“When my father had yechidus, he told the Rebbe about this and summed up the situation by saying, ‘there’s nothing to be done.’ The Rebbe immediately interrupted and said that every time non-kosher food is eaten, it is a sin, and he must make sure that the meeting place serves kosher food. When my father returned to Italy, once again he contacted those in charge and without any reason, this time they responded immediately in the affirmative and my father was allowed to bring kosher refreshments to the place.”

As per the Rebbe’s request, over the next years R’ Hadad launched a large-scale kashrus system. This was by explicit request of the Rebbe that R’ Hadad be responsible for the entire kashrus establishment in Milan. Indeed, R’ Hadad threw himself into this work and developed an infrastructure that is in existence for decades, until today.

In one of the private audiences he had, the Rebbe told him that when a young man is sent to a certain community to serve as chazan, shochet or rav, he must remember that the truth of the matter is that the job is only the official reason he is there. He needs to ensure that he has enough time for his main role, to spread the wellsprings. On another occasion, the Rebbe told him to occasionally check the sh’chita knives at the slaughterhouse.

When the Rebbe began talking about the shape of the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, whose branches were diagonal and not rounded, R’ Hadad used his connections with the person in charge of the Jewish archives in the Vatican and asked permission to look at the menorah, but the person refused to allow him entry. Instead, he brought him a drawing of the menorah which showed diagonal branches.

During his years on shlichus, R’ Hadad drew dozens of Jews close to a life of Torah and mitzva observance and Chabad Chassidus. He once was given an instruction from the Rebbe to bless Jews by means of mentioning the names of our Rebbeim. 

In a My Story segment that was published last year, R’ Yeshuah Hadad told of the special regard he received from the Rebbe as a result of the schools he started in Milan. He prefaced this story with another story about his youth in yeshiva: 

“Every Sunday we went to Paris to teach Jewish children Torah and Judaism. These children attended public school throughout Paris, and on Sunday there was no school. Rabbi Hillel Azimov would gather the children in shuls in various neighborhoods, and yeshiva bachurim would learn with them and instill Torah and fear of heaven in them.

“One year, when Lag B’Omer fell out on a Sunday, we rented buses and brought about 200 of those children to spend an entire day at the yeshiva in Brunoy, from morning till night. The children prayed in the yeshiva, ate with the bachurim, washed their hands before the meal and recited birkas ha’mazon afterward. They heard talks given by the roshei yeshiva and absorbed the atmosphere of the yeshiva.

“The mashpia, R’ Nissan Nemanov, who was the menahel of the yeshiva, would write a monthly report to the Rebbe about what went on in the yeshiva. At the end of this month too, he wrote about hosting 200 children on Lag B’Omer.

“One day, I crossed the yard of the yeshiva and R’ Nissan called me from the window to come up to his room. When I went up, he showed me a letter he received from the Rebbe which said thank you for the report. As far as what he wrote about 200 children who came from Paris to the yeshiva, the Rebbe said: I am surprised, for you know that most of the letters I receive, as well as phone calls and telegrams, are about undesirable things, that a Jew is lacking in family matters, health or parnasa and wants a bracha. If there is one thing that gives me a little health and joy, it is hearing news like this, that 200 children from Paris spent an entire day in yeshiva. So how is it possible to hold back and to leave this news on the desk for ten days and only then to send it to me?!

“When he finished reading the letter, R’ Nissan said to me, ‘The day will come when you will be rav of a k’hilla, a shliach of the Rebbe, and you will have matters to report to the Rebbe. Don’t do what I did. As soon as you have something to report, write it immediately and inform the Rebbe.’

“I once brought the Rebbe a special album about the Talmudei Torah I organized in the course of my work in the Sephardic community in Milan. There were five locations with 193 boys. I wrote the names of the boys and their mothers, the names of the teachers and the details of the curriculum. The Rebbe looked at it for some time and read each name. I usually looked down during yechidus and did not dare to gaze upon the Rebbe, but that time I stole a glance and saw the joy and delight on his face.

“When he finished reading all the names, the Rebbe asked: ‘Is this my mosad?’ When I said yes, he asked, ‘What fault of mine is the cause for my not knowing about all this until now?’”

In connection with this, R’ Hadad said that every month he would send the Rebbe a report of his activities. One time it happened that the report was delayed and he first sent it after a month and a half. Not long after, he received a letter from the Rebbe. “After a long break, your letter was received … and if you claim that you did not write because you did not have what to write, on the contrary, if you know that you need to write, you need to do things so you will have what to write about.”

LONG TERM MEMORY

Several years ago, R’ Hadad moved to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Yerushalayim. At this time, his health was not good and his vision deteriorated so he could not read. His son said, “No excuses! My father did not concede on anything having to do with halacha and minhag. Despite his great weakness and the warnings of the doctors, he went to daven, something which took superhuman effort on his part. Nevertheless, as people who davened with him said, he was always spouting forth divrei Torah. When you take into account that in his last ten years he was unable to read, ten years in which he did not open a book, that means that all the divrei Torah were said from memory.”

The baal koreh in the shul where he davened said during the Shiva that R’ Hadad would correct him even on minor mistakes. One time, the baal koreh suggested to R’ Hadad that at his aliya, he do the reading. R’ Hadad declined, because according to halacha one must read directly from the Torah and he was unable to do so due to his poor vision. Upon hearing this, the baal koreh couldn’t get over it and he said, “So how do you correct me for minor mistakes without looking inside a Chumash?!”

Even in his final days, his son sat with him and read selections from the Zohar while R’ Hadad, who hadn’t opened a book in ten years, would complete sentences.

R’ Yeshuah Hadad passed away on 12 Cheshvan at the age of 81. He is survived by his wife Rachel Hadad (nee Maman), their children, R’ Shlomo – shliach in Milan; R’ Michoel – Crown Heights; R’ Yosef – Kfar Chabad; R’ Menachem – shliach in Brussels; Mrs. Avigayil Dadon – Lud; Mrs. Miriam Bentolila Kinshasa, Congo.

TIES WITH ISRAELI CHIEF RABBIS

Over the years, Rabbi Hadad received instructions from the Rebbe about being in touch with the Israeli Chief Rabbis. Rabbi Hadad did a lot to implement this directive, as evidenced by the pictures of him with the Israeli Chief Rabbis who visited Milan, in which you see Chief Rabbi Unterman visiting the Hadad home, Rabbi Yitzchok Nissim at a summer camp in Milan, and a picture of Rabbi Hadad accompanying Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on his visit to Chabad mosdos in Milan.

Rabbi Hadad related that one time, after a visit by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Chadakov called and asked on the Rebbe’s behalf, whether the guest was shown the proper honor as befitted a Torah scholar.

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