Rabbi Chalom Messas

  • Issue: August 2007
  • Designer: Michael Rozentov
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 689 (no phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd
  • Method of printing: offset

Moroccan Jewry and the Monarchy

The Jewish community in the Kingdom of Morocco is ancient, its history entwined in the economic, social and political history of the sharifian kingdom.

Ever since the Alawite Dynasty took control of Morocco in the 17th century, Jews served in the royal court in a variety of capacities.

The status of the Jews of Morocco and their personal security fluctuated over the centuries. However, as a result of the favorable attitude of the monarchy, their status was relatively better than that of Jews in other diasporas. A reflection of this attitude may be found in a tahir(royal decree) issued by King Mulai Abd al-Rahman to Sir Moses Montefiore in 1864, stating: "All the Jews... will be accorded a fitting attitude on the part of our rulers... and we will punish, with the help of Allah, anyone who harms a Jew." King Hassan II made an important contribution to creating the conditions that led to the peace talks between Israel and Egypt. The present king, Sidi Muhammad VI, carries on the heritage of his forbears in his attitude toward the Jews. Jewish emigrants from Morocco wherever they may be continue to admire and cherish the country and its monarchy for the concern shown toward the Jews.

Rabbi Chalom Messas (1909-2003)

Rabbi Chalom Messas is regarded as one of the major rabbinical Halachic scholars of the Moroccan Jewish community during the 20th century, active in Morocco and Israel.

Born in Meknes to a rabbinic family, he devoted himself to Talmud and Halachic study at a young age in the yeshiva founded by Rabbi Yitzhak Asbag. In 1931 he was appointed headmaster of its Talmud Torah, which had 36 classes. During this period he compiled two books: Mizrah Shemesh, containing new explanations relating to the Shulhan Arukh
Yoreh Dei'ah (Code of Jewish Law) and Beit Shemesh, containing new explanations relating to the Talmud and the works of Maimonides.

In 1938 Rabbi Messas established a company named Dovev Siftei Yeshenim, devoted to publishing extant manuscripts of early Moroccan sages and issuing 12 such volumes. He founded the Keter Torah Yeshiva for higher Torah studies and the training of the next generation of spiritual leadership in 1944, and in 1949 was appointed a dayan (religious judge) in Casablanca. He became chief rabbi of Casablanca and head of its Jewish religious court in 1960.

Rabbi Messas accepted an invitation in 1976 by Israel's Chief Rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Shlomo Goren to come to Israel and serve as chief rabbi of Jerusalem, where he was nominated unanimously.

During his term of office in Israel, Rabbi Messas was sought out by rabbis and rabbinical courts in the country and abroad for his opinions on complex Halachic issues revolving around personal status. He was accorded recognition and esteem from all sectors of Israeli society – Haredi, national religious, traditional and secular. As was his custom in Casablanca, his home in Jerusalem was open to the public at large until late at night.

He continued to publish manuscripts by the sages of Morocco; his own Halachic opinions, in Tvu'ot Shemesh, Shemesh U'Magen; and his sermons Ve-Ham Hashemesh. Rabbi Messas's books gained acceptance in the rabbinic world, and his Halachic judgments serve as precedents in the rabbinical courts.

Throughout his years of high office in the Jewish community in Morocco, Rabbi Messas maintained close ties with King Hassan II, continuing to bless him and his kingdom when he settled in Jerusalem.

Upon the rabbi's death in 2003 at the age of 95, tens of thousands of mourners from all parts of Israel and abroad attended his funeral, and his grave became a site of prayer. He lost none of his vigor or clarity of mind 'til the day he died, continuing to write Halachic judgments and opinions until the end.

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Amar

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Moroccan Jewry Salute the Royal Family - Rabbi Chalom Messas