Yosef Qafih

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Yosef Qafiḥ (Hebrew: יוסף קאפח‎), widely known as Rabbi Kapach (27 November 1917 – 21 July 2000), was a Yemenite-Israeli authority on Jewish religious law (halakha), a dayan of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Israel, and one of the foremost leaders of the Yemenite Jewish community, first in Yemen and later in Israel. He is known for his editions and translations of the works of Maimonides and other early rabbinic authorities (Rishonim), particularly his restoration of the Mishneh Torah from old manuscripts and his accompanying commentary, including original insights, culled from close to 300 other commentators.[1] He was the grandson of Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ, also a prominent Yemenite leader and founder of the Dor Deah movement in Yemen. Rabbi Yosef Qafih was the recipient of many awards, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.


Yosef Qafiḥ was born in (27 November 1917) in Sana’a in Yemen.[2] His father was Rabbi David Qafiḥ, who died when his son Yosef was one year old. At the age of five Rabbi Yosef also lost his mother, and was raised by and learned Torah with his grandfather Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ. When Yosef was 14 his grandfather died and he inherited his position as rabbinic authority and teacher of the Sana’a community. In his early years he worked as a silversmith. He married Bracha.

In 1943 he immigrated to Palestine, studied at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva and qualified as a dayan at the Harry Fischel Institute. In 1950 he was appointed as a dayan in the Jerusalem district court, and later was appointed as a dayan at the Supreme Rabbinical Court. Throughout the course of more than half a century numerous rabbis sat on various rabbinical courts with him, including Rabbis Tzvi Pesach Frank, Yosef Shalom Eliashiv,[3] Ovadia Yosef, Avraham Shapira, Mordechai Eliyahu, and the Tzitz Eliezer.[4] He was a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel, and presided over the Yemenite community in Jerusalem, as well as spreading Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook's teachings among the Israeli Sephardi populace.[citation needed] He died on 21 July 2000 at the age of 82.


His main work in the field of Torah literature was his translation and publication of manuscripts of numerous works by Sephardic Rishonim, including the Emunot ve-Deot of Saadia Gaon, the Torat Chovot HaLevavot by Bahya ibn Pakuda, the Kuzari by Judah ha-Levi and many other works in Judaeo-Arabic. The prime place in his oeuvre is reserved for the writings of Maimonides: he translated the Guide for the Perplexed, the Commentary on the Mishnah and the Sefer Hamitzvot and edited a 24-volume set of the Mishneh Torah (posthumously divided into 25). His works and translations received recognition from the academic and Rabbinic world alike. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wrote that the seven years he sat with "the great Gaon Rabbi Yosef Kapach ZT"L" in the beth din were "seven good years"[5] and that Rabbi Kapach toiled over his Torah day and night.[6]

He wrote and studied extensively on the heritage of Yemenite Jews. He published a book under the title of “Halichot Teman”, and edited the “Shivat Tzion” tiklal, a Yemenite prayer book reflecting the views of Maimonides in three volumes. In 1993 he published a new version under the title of “Siaḥ Yerushalayim” in four volumes (posthumously edited to six). Qafiḥ identified with the Dor Dai tendency, except that he did not publicly express opposition to the Zohar beyond saying that it was preferable to draw sustenance from the teachings of Maimonides. In his leadership of the Yemenite community in Israel he endeavored to maintain peace between the main factions in the community and worked to preserve Yemenite customs. In matters pertaining to Yemenite customs, even where later customs conflict with the earlier custom, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu regarded the opinion of Rabbi Kapach, who he called Mori Yusef (Hebrew: מארי יוסף),[7] to be decisive.[8]


  • In both 1962 and 1973, Qafiḥ was awarded the Bialik Prize for Jewish thought.[9]
  • In 1969, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish studies.[10] His wife, Rabbanit Bracha Qafih, was also awarded the Israel Prize for her special contributions to society and the State in 1999,[11][12] in recognition of her extensive charitable work (this was the only occasion on which a married couple have both been awarded the Israel Prize).[13]
  • Qafiḥ has also won the Rabbi Kook Prize, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bar Ilan University.

Published works[edit]

  • Saadia Gaon:
    • Sefer Yetzira, with Saadia Gaon's version of the text itself along with his Arabic commentary with facing Hebrew translation.[14]
    • Translations into Hebrew of Saadya Gaon's Arabic translation and commentary on Tanakh
      • Torah
      • Saadia on Yeshaʻyah was not translated by Rabbi Kapach in a single place; on occasion he translates a portion which he quotes.[15] Also, Rabbi Kapach referred[16] readers to the Derenbourg edition.[17] (A few years before Rabbi Kapach passed away, Tafsir Yeshaʻyah, including the complete introduction, was translated into Hebrew by Professor Yehuda Ratzaby.)[18]
      • Megillot[19]
      • Tehillim,[20] Iyyov,[21] and Mishlei[22]
      • Daniel.[23] 15 years after publication, owing to an additional manuscript with material that was missing from the manuscripts previously used, a supplement was published.[24]
    • Megillath Antiyuchas (Hebrew: מגלת אַנְטִיוּכַס) with Saadya Gaon's Arabic translation and the extant portion of his introduction[25] with facing Hebrew translation.[26]
    • הנבחר באמונות ובדעות in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[27]
  • Torat Chovot HaLevavot in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[28]
  • Commentary on the entire six orders of the Mishnah by an early Yemenite חכם, translated into Hebrew from the original Arabic.[29]
  • The Rif on Tractate Chullin with a commentary by an early Jewish Yemenite חכם in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.
  • תשובות רבינו יעקב מרומרוג (Rabbeinu Tam).[30]
  • Kuzari in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[31]
  • Gan HaSikhlim (written in approximately 1147)[32] by Rabbeinu Nathanel Beirav Fayyumi, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[33]
  • שאלות ותשובות הראב"י אב"ד (Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne Av Beth Din).[34]
  • Rambam:
    • Beiur M'lekhet HaHiggayon, the first compilation of Maimonides, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation as well as the commentaries of רמ"ד, רי"ה, רמ"כ, חי"ר, and רמ"ו.[35]
    • Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation (later editions have Hebrew only).
    • Mishneh Torah of the Rambam, published according to ancient Yemenite manuscripts, with his own commentary (23-25 volumes).
    • Sefer Hamitzvot, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[36]
    • Guide for the Perplexed in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation[37] (later editions have Hebrew only, in one volume).
    • Iggeroth haRambam, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[38]
  • Ba'alei ha-Nefesh by Raavad (Abraham ben David) with Sela' ha-Maḥloḳot of the רז"ה.[39]
  • תשובות ופסקים לראב"ד (Abraham ben David).[40]
  • שו"ת הריטב"א (Rabbenu Yom Tov Ben Abraham Al-Ishbili), Jerusalem, Mossad Harav Kook, 1978, edited with an introduction and notes.[41]
  • Maor Haafelah by Nethanel ben Isaiah, in original Arabic with accompanying Hebrew translation.[42]
  • Commentary on the Early Prophets by Avraham ben Shlomo, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.
    • Volume 1: Joshua, Judges (תשנ"ט).[43]
    • Volume 2: Samuel I (תש"ס).[44]
    • Volume 3: Samuel II (תשס"ב).[45]
    • Volume 4: Kings I (תשס"ו).[46]
    • Volume 5: Kings II (planned).
  • Midrash Habeiur, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[47]
  • שאלות ר' חטר בן שלמה, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.[48]
  • ספר המעלות לדרגות ימות המשיח, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.
  • כתאב אלחקאיק - ספר האמתיות, in original Arabic with facing Hebrew translation.
  • Collected Papers
  • המקרא ברמב"ם (index to the verses of the Bible in the Rambam).[59]
  • Shavuoth in Yemen[60]
  • Halichoth Teiman: Jewish Life in Sana,[61] Jerusalem 1961.[62]
  • Shivath Tsiyyon (1950s), a new edition of the Baladi Yemenite prayer book.
  • Yemenite Passover Aggadta with four Yemenite commentaries, the Arabic among them translated into Hebrew.
  • Siaḥ Yerushalayim (1993), the newest edition of the Baladi Yemenite prayer book.
  • First published posthumously:
    • Avraham ben Shlomo's Commentary on Samuel II and Kings I,[63] published from translated, punctuated, and partially referenced manuscript that Rabbi Kapach drafted before his death; edited for completion.
    • Rabbi Yosef Kafih’s Notebook on the Plants of the Mishnah
    • קונדריס שיחת דקלים
    • In volume 8 of Masorah L'Yosef:[64]
      • לתקופת הימים[65]
      • A paper that Rabbi Yosef Kapach wrote about Rabbi Moshe Tsarum
      • Speeches for Bar Mitzvahs[66]
  • Responsa of Rabbi Yoseph Kafih (posthumously published):
    • עדות ביהוסף (collected beth din rulings)[67]
    • שאלות ותשובות הריב"ד להרב הגאון יוסף בן דוד קאפח זצ"ל (with commentary by Rabbi Avraham Ḥamami)
      • Volume 1: Relating to Maimonides' Sefer HaMadda'
    • ספר תשובות הרב קאפח (with commentary by Rabbi Shalom Nagar)
      • Volume 1: תשל"ד-תשל"ו[68]
      • Volume 2: תשל"ג-תשל"ו

Recorded Lectures[edit]

Posthumously, Machon Mishnat HaRambam is in the process of putting out MP3s with Rabbi Yosef Kapach's recorded lectures (שיעורים מפי הרה"ג יוסף קאפח). So far, the following CDs have been released:

  • רס"ג
    • הנבחר באמונות ובדעות (four CDs)
  • תורת חובות הלבבות
  • גן השכלים
  • רמב"ם
    • הקדמה לפירוש המשנה (one CD)
    • פירוש המשנה
      • פירוש לפרק עשירי – מסכת סנהדרין - פרק "חלק" (one CD)
      • הקדמה למסכת אבות המכונה "שמונה פרקים" (one CD)
    • מורה הנבוכים (eleven CDs)
    • אגרות (one CD)


  1. ^ http://www.torah.org/learning/rambam/special/kapach.html
  2. ^ http://www.chayas.com/rabbi.htm
  3. ^ I.e., prior to his 1972 resignation from the rabbinate's Supreme Beit Din due to Rabbi Shlomo Goren (Of Books and Bans page 5, http://www.nevo.co.il/law_html/law10/YALKUT-1875.pdf p. 453) and the brother and sister verdict.
  4. ^ עדות ביהוסף, פתח דבר (page 3 of the linked Otzar HaHochma pagination).
  5. ^ Hebrew: שבע שנים טובות. See Genesis 41:26.
  6. ^ Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in the Hebrew responsa book שו"ת הריב"ד קאפח, quoted in the Or Hahalichot periodical, Tammuz 5769 (page 3). — שו"ת הריב"ד קאפח, תשובות בהלכה מאשר הורה לשואליו דבר, ידיד נפשי המנוח הדגול, שייף עייל שייף נפיק, הגאון הגדול רבי יוסף קאפח זצ"ל. זכרתי ימים מקדם, עת ישבנו עם הגאון זצ"ל בשבת תחכמוני, בבית הדין הרבני האזורי, שבע שנים טובות, ואחר כך המשכנו בבית הדין הגדול לערעורים, שבת אחים גם יחד, בנעימות וידידות, כתלמידי חכמים שבארץ ישראל המנעימים זה לזה בהלכה... הגאון המנוח זצ"ל בחיים חיותו היה שקוד על תורתו יומם ולילה, לילה כיום יאיר כחשכה כאורה, ובמיוחד התמסר בכל מאודו ונפשו, ויגע בעשר אצבעותיו להפיץ תורתו של הרמב"ם, וכתב עליה חבורים רבים המלאים חכמה תבונה ודעת, מתוך דיוק הדק היטב בתורתו של הרמב"ם.
  7. ^ שתמיד הקפיד בלשונו לכנות את הגר"י קאפח בכינוי: "מארי", על אף שבפי אחינו הספרדים רגילים לומר "חכם"
  8. ^ במחיצת המאורות הגדולים: הגר"מ אליהו והגר"י קאפח, Or Hahalichot periodical, Tammuz 5770 issue.
  9. ^ "List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933-2004 (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv Municipality website". 
  10. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1969 (in Hebrew)". 
  11. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1999 (in Hebrew)". 
  12. ^ http://www.kedma.org/socialaction.htm
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?23506&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  15. ^ E.g., in his edition of Iyyov, page יב, footnote 35.
  16. ^ Kapach's edition of Iyyov, הקדמת רס"ג, page טו, footnote 54. — "ישעיה מ, י. סב יא. וראה פירושו לפרק סב מהד' דירינבורג עמ' 142."
  17. ^ Presumably "Texte Arabe de l'Isaïe de Saadia," in Stade's "Zeitschrift," ix., x., Giessen, 1889-90. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5105-derenburg-derenbourg; see also The Jewish Quarterly Review, January 1896, Joseph Derenbourg, page 192 — "He himself published in Stade's Zeitschrift" etc.).
  18. ^ http://www.virtualgeula.com/moshe/catd1.jpg, Machon MosHe 2003 Catalog List, http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il/al_haakademya/haverim/haverimbeavar/Pages/yehudaratsabi.aspx
  19. ^ Available online at http://www.hebrewbooks.org/39855 but missing pages רמד-רמה (pages ק-קא were scanned twice).
  20. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?8066&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  21. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?24835&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  22. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149875&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  23. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?7871&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  24. ^ Reprinted in Collected Papers Volume 3, pages 1183-1195 (available at http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?64129&lang=eng).
  25. ^ Originally published with English translation by S. Atlas and M. Perlmann in Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 14 (1944): Saadia on the Scroll of the Hasmonaeans.
  26. ^ Printed at the end of Rabbi Kapach's edition of Daniel (listed above).
  27. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?12163&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  28. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?14197&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  29. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?154065&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  30. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?13153&&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  31. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149876&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  32. ^ במבואו לספר כתב הרב יוסף קאפח: מחברנו ר' נתנאל כתב ספרו זה סביבות שנת דתתק"ז ליצירה.
  33. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149871&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  34. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?10900&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  35. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149870&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  36. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?155273&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  37. ^ Volume 1: http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?158009&lang=eng. Volume 2: http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?158010&lang=eng. Volume 3: http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?158011&lang=eng. (First 40 pages viewable for free.)
  38. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?155206&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  39. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?155375&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  40. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?155534&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  41. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?154946&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  42. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?103265&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  43. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?149865&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  44. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?149866&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  45. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?149867&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  46. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?149868&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  47. ^ Volume 1: http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149861&lang=eng. Volume 2: http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149864&lang=eng. (First 40 pages viewable for free.)
  48. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/book.aspx?149874&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  49. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?16982&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  50. ^ המאסף שנה ה' חוב' 6, תמוז תשמ"ג, pages 559-564.
  51. ^ קול סיני, volume 3, תמוז התשכ"ד, page 271.
  52. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?16983&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  53. ^ ברקאי קובץ א' (קיץ תשמ"ג), עמ' 101-130.
  54. ^ Sefunot, volume 2 (Jerusalem 1958), pages רמו-רפו, available in PDF at http://www.ybz.org.il/?CategoryID=747&ArticleID=3591.
  55. ^ Sefunot, volume 1 (Jerusalem 1956), pages קפה-רמב, available in PDF at http://www.ybz.org.il/?CategoryID=747&ArticleID=3590.
  56. ^ Sefunot, volume 5 (Jerusalem 1961), pages שצז-תיג, available in PDF at http://www.ybz.org.il/?CategoryID=747&ArticleID=3593.
  57. ^ פעמים 11, תשמ"ב, pages 89-93.
  58. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?64129&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  59. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?158976&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  60. ^ לַמּוֹעֵד, שבועות ג, קובץ ז' (ירושלים תש"ז), pages 41-42.
  61. ^ Pages 3-31 (of approximately 371 total) online: http://www.chayas.com/shabbothHC.pdf (p. 3-9), http://www.chayas.com/roshhashan.pdf (p. 10-12), http://www.chayas.com/kippur.pdf (p. 13-14), http://www.chayas.com/gafpesahpdf.pdf (p. 14-29), http://www.chayas.com/gavshav.pdf (p. 28-31).
  62. ^ Second edition (Hebrew: מהדורה שניה) in 1963; third edition (specifically, "הוצאה שלישית מתוקנת") in 1987.
  63. ^ Listed above.
  64. ^ Hebrew: מָסורה ליוסף. (The first few volumes were vowelized מְסורה ליוסף, but this was corrected in subsequent volumes.)
  65. ^ Paper that Rabbi Yosef Kapach edited, for the purposes of a radio broadcast (1949), about Rabbi Yichyei Kapach.
  66. ^ Written for the various speakers. Familial identifying information was censored from Masorah L'Yosef (page 136).
  67. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?64190&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)
  68. ^ http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?172100&lang=eng (first 40 pages viewable for free)

External links[edit]

See also[edit]