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A Rav Uziel Renaissance

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila writes on his blog about the work being put into disseminating the teachings of Rabbi Ben-Zion Ḥai Uziel. He met with Ezra Barnea who has been responsible for publishing Rav Uziel’s writings:

This week I met with Mr. Ezra Barnea, the Director of The Institute for the Publication of Rav Uziel’s Writings. A native and long time resident of Jerusalem, Ezra studied in the Sephardic Talmud Torah in the Old City, in the same buildings that now house our Sephardic Educational Center. An expert in Sephardic manuscripts, music and hazzanut, Ezra sits in a very small office in the Heichal Shlomo building in Jerusalem. His office may be small, but his work is larger than life. With no staff (except his adorable grandson who was in the office that day helping him out), a small advisory board, some dedicated volunteers, a few generous donors, and an old school work ethic combined with a pleasant personality that always greets you with a warm smile, Ezra Barnea has taken it upon himself to edit and publish the massive and precious treasure chest of manuscripts left behind by Rav Uziel. Sitting in Ezra’s office is a true inspiration. Surrounded by books, manuscripts, and a glass case containing Rav Uziel’s beautifully embroidered robe traditionally worn by Sephardic Chief Rabbis, Ezra has singlehandedly created a “Rav Uziel Renaissance” here in Israel.

Rabbi Bouskila also writes about a new book that is in the works:

Because of this current crisis plaguing Israeli society (and Jews everywhere), Ezra has commissioned Israeli scholar Zvi Zohar to write a special book dealing with Rav Uziel’s halakhic approach to conversion. An expert in Sephardic Halakhic responsa (and a friend and lecturer at the SEC in Jerusalem and Los Angeles), Professor Zohar’s book will certainly present today’s rabbinic leaders with a challenge that – if accepted – will transform the world of conversion to something much less complicated, and virtually free of controversy. In his desire to foster a Judaism that was inclusive and welcoming, Rav Uziel legislated halakhic rulings that made converting to Judaism a positive and inspirational experience, without compromising halakhic matters. Rav Uziel’s approach was inspired by this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Ekev, where we are taught that God “Loves the Stranger (Ger),” and that we “Shall love the stranger (ger).” The Hebrew word for stranger (ger) is the same word used by halakha for converts. I look forward to Professor Zohar’s book, and the positive impact it will hopefully make for the Jewish people.

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