Yeshivat Porat Yosef
The flagship yeshivah of the Sephardi Torah world is the Porat Yosef Yeshivah, located in the holy city of Yerushalayim. Former talmidim of the yeshivah today number among the most respected rabbanim and poskim around the world.
|Ben Ish Chai [צלם]|
Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the holy city of Yerushalayim was one of the first Sephardi yeshivos to be established in Eretz Yisrael in modern times. The yeshivah was founded by Harav Ben Tzion Chazzan, following the instruction of the gaon Harav Yosef Chaim ztz”l, the Ben Ish Chai, who was the leader of Iraqi Jewry and the rebbi of Rabbi Ben Tzion. The Ben Ish Chai also stipulated that the yeshivah be built as close as possible to the Kosel haMa’aravi, the last remnant of the Beis haMikdash, and that the studies there should include Kabbalah, in order to hasten the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, may it happen swiftly in our days.
According to the instructions of the Ben Ish Chai, Rabbi Ben Tzion endeavoured to purchase a tract of land for the yeshivah building as close as possible to the Kosel haMa’aravi. After making extensive efforts, he obtained the required sum of money to buy a tract of land for the building from a donation from the wealthy philanthropist Reb Yosef Avraham Shalom Shagal, who lived in the city of Calcutta in India. As soon as he received the necessary money, the building work commenced.
As soon as the structure was completed, the finest minds among the young Sephardim of Eretz Yisrael occupied its benches. In its first year, the yeshivah was headed by Hagaon Harav Shlomo Laniado ztz”l. A year later, however, he was recalled to the Heavenly Yeshivah. Hagaon Harav Ezra Attiah ztz”l replaced him as Rosh Yeshivah, and other rabbanim were appointed to assist him; Hagaon Harav Avraham Harari Raful ztz”l and Hagaon Harav Salman Eliyahu ztz”l, the father of the Rishon Letzion Harav Mordechai Eliyahu shlit”a, who himself numbered among the talmidim of the yeshivah.
|Yeshivat Porat Yosef [צלם]|
The goal of the yeshivah was to produce accomplished talmidei chachamim from among the ranks of Sephardi Jewry, so that they would be able to serve as rabbanim wherever they might be needed. To this end, the yeshivah bachurim endeavoured to plumb to the depths of understanding the halachos, according to the time-honoured methods of Sephardi tradition over the generations. Among the rabbanim of the yeshivah a dispute broke out, as to whether they should learn according to the psak of the Ben Ish Chai, which was grounded in the Shulchan Aruch and the Rambam, with conclusions drawn according to the established tradition; or whether they should follow the derech of Maran the Beis Yosef, as is ruled in the Shulchan Aruch. This dispute was a dispute for the sake of Heaven, and each of the Roshei Yeshivah brought his own opinion based on his own reasoning.
During the period of the British Mandate in Eretz Yisrael, the yeshivah blossomed. The best minds of Sephardi Jewry numbered among its talmidim, learning with exceptional hasmadah, according to the established traditions of halachic reasoning of their community. Apart from the regular sedarim of learning in the revealed Torah, a kollel named ‘Oz v’Hadar’ was established under the auspices of the yeshivah, which attracted the most exceptional talmidim who learned Toras haNistar according to the stipulation of the Ben Ish Chai. Among the talmidim in this kollel were; Harav Salman Eliyahu ztz”l, who was one of the rabbanim of the yeshivah; Harav Yitzchak Kaduri ztz”l, who was one of the senior mekubalim of our generation; and other exceptional talmidei chachamim.
In order to prepare the yeshivah bachurim for a profession that did not necessitate them leaving the realm of the holy, the yeshivah also established the ‘Kli haKodesh Yeshivah’ which prepared its students to become shochtim and mohelim. In addition, the yeshivah had a beit knesset where the talmidim learned the nussach ha’tefillos and the piyutim according to the grammatical rules in Sephardi tradition over the generations.
The pride and glory of the yeshivah during the Mandate period was the large Torah library that was situated in the yeshivah building. This library contained thousands of seforim, including ancient seforim of great value, and rare hand-written manuscripts dating back to the period of the Gaonim. A short while before the War of Independence, another approximately five hundred seforim of great value were added to the library’s collection, which were donated to the yeshivah by Harav Aharon Mani, from the library of his grandfather, the gaon Harav Eliyahu Mani ztz”l, who had been the rav of Chevron.
In the year 5708, during the War of Independence, fierce fighting took place between the Jews defending the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Yerushalayim and the Arabs of the Jordanian Legion. The Jordanians eventually captured the Jewish Quarter and took over the entire Old City, taking the young men into captivity, the fighters as well as many talmidei yeshivah. After the war, the Jordanians attacked the Jewish institutions in the Old City, completely destroying the beautiful ‘Tiferes Yisrael’ shul and the ‘Churvah’ shul of Rabi Yehudah haChassid. Yeshivat Porat Yosef was not spared from the barbaric Arabs, who utterly destroyed the building and set it on fire. The tens of sifrei Torah in the aron kodesh were consumed in the flames that destroyed the yeshivah, as well as the entire library with its thousands of rare and invaluable seforim and manuscripts, and the writings of the Rosh Yeshivah Harav Ezra Attiah were also lost in the conflagration.
|Rabbi Ezrah Attiah|
Despite the destruction of wood and stone, the kol Torah, the sound of learning did not cease in Yeshivat Porat Yosef, and the talmidim moved to the New City which had remained in Jewish hands. The yeshivah first settled in the Bucharim quarter, learning in various shuls in that neighbourhood with great hasmadah despite their difficult situation. The rabbanim of the yeshivah would circulate between the various impromptu batei medrash to continue delivering shiurim.
In the year 5717, after almost ten years of being located in temporary quarters in the shuls of Yerushalayim, the yeshivah moved to a new building constructed especially for it in the Geulah neighbourhood. This became the new centre of the yeshivah until after the Six-Day War in the year 5727.
For more than twenty years the yeshivah was thus displaced from its original location, until it finally returned. After the Six-Day War and the capture of the Old City from the Arabs, the ruins of the Jewish Quarter were renovated or reconstructed, and a new, beautiful edifice was built over the ruins of the old Yeshivat Porat Yosef that had been destroyed by the Jordanians. Despite the yeshivah’s return to the Old City, the building in the Geulah neighbourhood was not abandoned, and it continued to function as a branch of the yeshivah.
In the year 5730 the Rosh Yeshivah Harav Ezra Attiah ztz”l was niftar on the 19th Iyar. His passing was greeted with bitter weeping by the talmidim and rabbanim of the yeshivah, but the kol Torah did not cease despite their grief. The rabbanim of the yeshivah then appointed Harav Yehudah Tzadka ztz”l as Rosh Yeshivah, who served in that position until his petirah on the 12th of Marcheshvan in the year 5752. Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul ztz”l was named as his successor, who was niftar on the 19th of Tammuz 5758.
|Yeshivat Porat Yosef [צלם]|
After the petirah of Harav Ben Tzion, the son of Harav Yehudah Tzadka was appointed as Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Moshe Tzadka shlit”a, and the gaonim Harav Shalom Cohen and Harav Tzion Zangi shlit”a were appointed to serve alongside him.
Over the years Yeshivat Porat Yosef raised up many great talmidei chachamim, giants of the spirit in the Sephardi world. Some of the most prominent of them are; the Rishon Letzion Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef shlit”a; the Rishon Letzion Harav Mordechai Eliyahu shlit”a; the Rosh Yeshivah of ‘Bnei Tzion’, Hagaon Harav Ben Tzion Mutzafi shlit”a; and tens of other exceptional talmidei chachamim who have been instrumental in disseminating Torah throughout the world.