A great light began to shine more than two centuries ago — and, finally, it illuminates our lives today, in our own language. It is the light of Rabbeinu Yaakov Abuchatzeira’s masterly commentary on the Torah, Pituchei Chotam.
The Abuchatzeira name is undoubtedly familiar to our readers. Who has not heard of the Baba Sali, Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira zt’l, Rabbeinu Yaakov’s grandson, and Rav David Chai Abuchatzeira shlita, of Nahariya, Rabbeinu Yaakov’s great-great-grandson?
Now we can get to know their saintly ancestor — and, even more important, the Torah that he taught — through his unusual, inspirational, and fascinating Torah commentary.
Who was Rabbeinu Yaakov Abuchatzeira?
Later known as the Abir Yaakov, Rabbeinu Yaakov was born in 1806. At the tender age of sixteen, he became rav of his town in Morocco, and soon afterward he became the leader of all Moroccan Jewry. For close to 60 years he led his community with almost superhuman dedication. He was famed for his miracles and loved for his devotion, and after his death his grave became a site for pilgrimage and prayer.
And he was a talmid chacham. Oh, what a talmid chacham! He immersed himself in the study of both Talmud and Kabbalah, achieving mastery of all areas of the Torah and a profound understanding of its secrets.
In Pituchei Chotam, Rav Yaakov explores vital concepts that we can learn from the holy words of Chumash — the nature of our world, the unique Jewish mission, the primacy of Torah, the eternal battle between the yetzer hara and the yetzer tov. While the concepts are deep, the commentary can be understood on many levels, by scholars and laymen alike.
ArtScroll’s Pituchei Chotam gives us the text of his commentary in a flowing translation. (The most esoteric teachings were omitted.) The first volume includes Rabbeinu Yaakov’s commentary on Sifrei Bereishit, Shemot, and Vayikra, while Volume 2, Sifrei Bamidbar and Devarim, is in preparation and iy’H will be released in time for the weekly Torah reading.
Rav David Chai Abuchatzeira says of his great-grandfather’s sefer, “It is a … storehouse of fear of God and encouragement to serve Him wholeheartedly. May [those who learn his Torah] and all who aid in this endeavor merit all that is good, physically and spiritually. May all their desires be fulfilled in the best possible way….”