Chacham Yosef Mammon (Part 2)

Legendary Bukharian Leaders
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Last issue, we looked at the humble beginnings of Chacham Yosef Mammon and his journey to Bukhara. Without any hesitation, the first thing Rav Mammon did once he reached Bukhara was crowning the community with a Midrash of boys around the age of thirteen who would learn Torah all day. Secondly, he rectified all the issues in the slaughterhouses and taught all of the people that work there the correct halachic rituals. Thirdly, he established a mikvah taharah according to Jewish law. The following is a list of the boys that partook in the Midrash of Rav Yosef Mammon:

Chacham Pinchas Hagadol Hacohen;

Chacham Pinchas Hakatan (Mullo Niaz);

Chacham Fooziyel ben Yosef Chaim ChakChak (Chalab, Syria);

Chacham Avraham Yazdi;

Chacham Binyamin (Grandfather of R’Elisha Yehudayoff);

Chacham Yitschak Zambur;

Chacham Moshe Yitimah;

Chacham Fayiz;

Avrech (Mimishpachat Katchu); and

Avrech (Mimishpachat Yisirkh)

As things slowly got established, Rav Mammon sent Rav Daniel back to Mashad to Rav Simantov and requested a sofer (scribe) and a list of books that were further needed in Bukhara.

Within the year Rav Simantov sent over a caravan of books and religious articles. Accompanying the caravan was Rav Avraham Cohen, a young 18-year-old sofer whom Rav Simantov had sent. Rav Mammon and Rav Cohen worked together wonderfully, and eventually Rav Cohen married the daughter of Rav Mammon. The sowing that was planted with tears of toil soon blossomed onto the streets. The boys who learned in the Bait Midrash of Chacham Mammon developed into outstanding talmidai chachamim. Some remained and taught Torah in Bukhara and some traveled abroad to neighboring Bukharian cities to teach Torah there.

Rav Mammon realized that the nusach (dialect of prayer) that the Bukharian Jews were accustomed to was an Old Persian nusach that the Persian Jews themselves had stopped using. This dialect was based upon the sidur of Rav Saadya Gaon (882-942). The Bukharian Jews claimed that they were one of the 10 lost tribes and that is why they probably used the same praying dialect as other Middle Eastern Jews. Rav Mammon realized that there was a dire need to develop an association amongst the Bukharian Jews along with all the Middle Eastern (Spanish) Jewry. Rav Mammon told the Jews of Bukhara that they are originally from the Spanish expulsion and introduced them to the Sephardi dialect of praying. His reasoning was that if the Bukharian Jews would continue to be entirely secluded, it would lead to a spiritual genocide. Thus, the change of nusach during Bait Kineset services would allow for Bukharians to have the same nusach as neighboring countries. 

The apostate Joseph Wolf mentions in his memoir about Bukhara a detailed analysis of Chacham Mammon’s impression on Bukhara. In it he mentions that during his visit to Bukhara in 1832, he encountered a man named Yosef Matzliach, who came from Sana, Yemen. Yosef came to claim his father’s assets. His father was Chacham Zecharia Hataimani, a Yemenite man who also tried to help the community. Unfortunately, Chacham Zecharia and Chacham Mammon’s approaches seemed to clash, which almost caused the community to split. For instance, Chacham Mammon held that the Zohar Hakadosh was an authentic set of sefarim written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and that the Zohar had great authority. Rav Zecharia on the other hand, did not. At the end of the day, due to Chacham Mammon’s tight bond with the Bukharian community, the clash subsided and Chacham Mammon prevailed.

 Chacham Mammon successfully made a connection between the Bukharian Jews and the Jews of Sakalov, Lithuania, in 1802. The Jews of Sakalov became the primary source of sefarim for the Bukharian Jews.

Things seemed pretty settled in Bukhara, but Rav Mammon refused to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. He took upon himself a new mission: to further explore the status of the neighboring Bukharian cities. He was told about a city that was 2000 kilometers east of Bukhara called Shaharisabz. Shaharisabz was relatively inhabited with many Jews and was known to be a city where mikubalim lived. The Kalantars of Bukhara fully supported Chacham Mammon and sent him off with an entourage of men so that Chacham Mammon would always have a minyan. When the entourage from Bukhara arrived to Shaharisabz, they were delighted to see that there was no grave ignorance of Torah among the residents; Chacham Mammon was greeted with open arms and his Torah genius was immediately recognized and appreciated. The Rav of Shaharisabz at the time was Chacham Pinchas Hakohen. Chacham Pinchas tried to further enhance his wisdom by gaining whatever he can from Chacham Mammon. It is believed that one of the reasons as to why the Jews in Shaharisabz were so learned and spiritual is because it had many springs and streams of water. Very often, the mikvah was vandalized by the goyim and it took a while until it was up and running. That’s when springs and streams of water were utilized. This kept the holiness of our people vibrant. Thus, the city was named Shahar-sabz, “Garden city,” due to an abundance of water.

While Chacham Mammon was staying at the home of Mullo Mulajon (Mimishpachat Malach), he was offered to marry Mullo Mulajan’s 13-year-old daughter, Chana. Chacham Mammon acquiesced and a wedding took place soon after. Following the Sheva Birachot, the new couple, along with the rest of the entourage, made their way back to Bukhara. Chacham Mammon and his wife Chana merited to have four children together: Avraham (who was given the nickname “Kivodo” due does his immense Torah knowledge), Yitschak Minachem, Sarah, and Miriam. Sarah eventually married Rav Avraham Cohen, the sofer who was sent to Bukhara years earlier by Rav Simantov. Miriam, the second daughter, married Chacham Pinchas Hakatan (the grandson of the Kalantar Mullo Yosef Chasid). Chacham Pinchas was often called Mullo Niaz.

The thirty years Chacham Yosef Mammon spent in Bukhara were considered the golden years of Bukhara. He put all his might into the community and was the cause of returning this community to its glory. The Jews of Bukhara were so grateful that they referred to Chacham Mammon as “Ohr Yisrael.” Although Chacham Mammon encountered numerous obstacles, he prevailed with divine assistance.

It was the zealous motivation orchestrated by Hashem that caused Chacham Yosef Mammon Hama’aravi to revive the next generation by bringing in sefarim, Judaica, young shochtim and sofirim from abroad all to enhance the real cause of success, the establishment of a Talmud Torah (yeshiva).

Yehi Zichro Baruch.

The information in this article was gleaned from Toldot Yihudai Buchara by Nissim Tajir.

Rabbi Yisrael Kaikov is ordained by the Mirrer Yeshiva, where he learned for ten years. He is an experienced rebbi, a specialist in Jewish history, and together with his wife they are madrich chatanim and kalot. Currently, he is the  Sgan menahel and 8th grade rebbi in Yeshivat Shaarei Zion. He is also the meyased of Kehilat Mekor Baruch on Coney Island and Ave J in Brooklyn.