December 17, 05:06 PM GMT
5,000 - 7,000 USD
AUTOGRAPH COPY OF THE SERMON GIVEN BY THE BEN ISH HAI AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR SOLOMON DAVID SASSOON, BAGHDAD: 1894
33 pages (8 1/8 x 5 1/2 in.; 205 x 140 mm) on paper (preceded by two introductory pages in the hand of David Solomon Sassoon); modern pagination in pencil in Arabic numerals in upper-outer corners; written in Baghdadi cursive script in black ink; generally twenty-two to twenty-four lines per page; justification of lines via dilation or contraction of final letters and insertion of dashes; no headers or catchwords; occasional vocalization; intermittent strikethroughs and corrections. Almost all pages mounted on guards; minor creasing along fold lines, with small nicks in outer edges; ink periodically faint or smudged (see esp. p. 8); small puncture on pp. 11-12, affecting only individual words. Modern brown buckram; paper tickets on spine with manuscript title and shelf mark in ink; modern paper flyleaves and pastedowns; Sassoon bookplate on pastedown of upper board.
A homily written entirely in the hand of the great Rabbi Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad upon the passing of one of his close friends.
As spiritual leader of Baghdadi Jewry and a master orator, Rabbi Joseph Hayyim delivered lectures and sermons to his community on topics of Jewish law and ethics both during the week and on Sabbaths. From time to time, he was also called upon to eulogize prominent Baghdadi Jews who had passed away. Such was the case when David Sassoon died in Poona in 1864, as well as when his son, Solomon David Sassoon, died in Bombay thirty years later, on Sunday, 10 Adar II 5654 (March 18, 1894).
The present lot comprises the autograph copy of the sermon R. Joseph Hayyim gave at the memorial service held for Solomon David Sassoon at the Sassoon family home in Baghdad. According to a May 3, 1894 newspaper report, on April 5 of that year, after morning prayers, the service was announced in all the synagogues of the city, “and the courtyard of the [Sassoon] house was filled from one end to the other.” In his introductory remarks, R. Joseph Hayyim moved the audience to tears as he spoke of the deceased’s refined character, humility, philanthropy, and adherence to the dictates of Jewish law and tradition, even despite the temptations that normally accompany affluent lifestyles. He noted that the loss of this great man, “plucked while still tender,” was especially difficult for Sassoon’s young family, Bombay, and all of India. (Indeed, Sassoon was eulogized across the Middle and Far East, in places as far away as Hong Kong, Calcutta, and Jerusalem.) The sermon itself treated these themes at greater length, using the teaching in Avot 4:13 about the preeminence of “the crown of a good name” as a point of departure.
Later that day, R. Joseph Hayyim penned a letter to Flora and David Solomon Sassoon to which he attached a transcript of his introductory remarks about Solomon David delivered at the memorial service, saying, “Read it, cry with it, be calmed by it just as I was calmed by it, and then keep it. May it be [His] will that the tears wept by the community served and will serve their purpose, may [the departed’s] soul be bound up in the Bond of Life, and may he repose in peace; amen, so may it be [His] will.”
Sotheby’s is grateful to David Roth for providing information that aided in the cataloging of this manuscript.
Abraham Ben-Jacob, Perakim be-toledot yehudei bavel: korot anaf ehad mi-mishpahat sassoon ha-bagdadit, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Olam ha-Sefer ha-Torani, 1989), 94-96, 296-302.
[Anon.], “Massa bavel,” Maggid mesharim 5,29 (May 3, 1894): 5.
Jacob Saul Elyashar, “Kinah,” Ha-melits 34,109 (May 25, 1894): 7.
Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad, Sefer ben ish hayil, vol. 4 (Jerusalem: Otsar ha-Mizrah — Mekhon “Ben Ish Hai,” 1979), 297-305.
Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad, Ud mutsal me-esh: derashah le-zekher rabbi shelomoh ben david sassoon bi-shenat 5654 … nidpas la-rishonah al pi ketav ha-yad ha-yehidi ba-olam ketav yad sassoon 484, ed. Raphael Kohen (Jerusalem: Raphael Kohen, 2010).
Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad, Sefer birkat ha-reah: osef ketavim: derushim, she’elot u-teshuvot, tefillot u-bakkashot, ve-likkutei shemu’ot (New York: Sephardic Heritage Museum, 2018), 70-82.
David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid: Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the Sassoon Library, London, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press; London: Humphrey Milford, 1932), 89 (no. 484).
David Solomon Sassoon, Divrei david, in Ben-Yaacob, Perakim be-toledot yehudei bavel, 651-653.
Moshe Sh. Shabbat, Yeshivot bagdad: mehkar makkif al hivvui ha-yeshivot be-bagdad ba-me’ot ha-aharonot (5300-5711) hithavvutan ve-hashpa‘atan le-dorot, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Moshe Sh. Shabbat, 2019), 99.