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The Chida - The Great Emissary and Discoverer

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The Chida - The Great Emissary and Discoverer
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The Chida's contribution to Torah goes even beyond the seventy plus seforim that he himself wrote. He famous work, Shem Gedolim, helped uncover hundreds of seforim that may have otherwise gone unnoticed forever.

Rav Yosef Chaim Dovid Azulai, known by his acronym "Chida", was born 5484/1724 in Yerushalayim to a prominent family from a line of talmidei chachomim and tzaddikim going back two hundred years to the famous Mekubal, Rav Avrohom Azulai, the Chesed L'Avrohom. He studied under a number of tzadikim including his father Rav Yitzchok Zerachya Azulai and the Ohr HaChaim HaKados, Rav Chaim Ben Attar, who arrived in Yerushalayim when the Chida was a young boy.

At age 29 in 1753, known for his outstanding character and great piety, as well as being a world class talmid chochom,the Chida was appointed to the position that would come to be his legacy; Shaliach of Eretz Yisroel to the Jews in the Galus. The Shaliach would travel to various communties in Chutz La'Aretz collecting money for the needy in Eretz Yisroel. He was a representative of the people and of the land helping keep Eretz Yisroel in the forefront of everyone's mind. The Chida was admired and honored by all those who came into his presence whilein CHutz La'Aretz.

During his five year mission to countries in the Middle East and Western Europe, the Chida took full advantage of his opportunity, spending his spare time in libraries uncovering famous seforim not available to the public. Upon his return to Eretz Yisroel the Chida spent a number of years learning before becoming Rav in Cairo. After five years he returned to Eretz Yisroel until his Ahavas Yisroel led him back to his travels once again.

Aside from meeting many famous gedolim of his era, the Chida also met with Louis XVI in Versailles and the Sultan of Turkey. He made a strong impression on both of these personalities for the good of the Jews. In 1778 he settled in Livorno Italy where he spent the rest of his life immersed in Torah study and writing some of his famous works. The wealthy Michael Pereira de Leon, who took care of all the Chida's financial needs, made this possible.

His most famous works include the Birkei Yosef on halacha and the Shem HaGedolim which is a bibliography of tzaddikim and their seforim. Stories of his travels from his personal diary were later published under the name Ma'agal Tov. The beloved Chida was niftar at the age of 83 in 5567/1807.

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