Hayyim Habshush: Prominent Yemenite rabbi (1833 - 1899) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Hayyim Habshush
Prominent Yemenite rabbi

Hayyim Habshush

Hayyim Habshush
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Prominent Yemenite rabbi
Was Rabbi
From Yemen
Field Religion
Gender male
Birth 1 January 1833
Death 1 January 1899 (aged 66 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Rabbi Hayyim Habshush, alternate spelling, Hibshush (Hebrew: חיים בן יחיא חבשוש‎‎ also Hayyim ibn Yahya Habshush) (ca. 1833–1899) was a coppersmith by trade, and a noted nineteenth-century historiographer of Yemenite Jewry. He also served as a guide for the Jewish-French Orientalist and traveler Joseph Halévy. After his journey with Halévy in 1870, he was employed by Eduard Glaser and other later travellers to copy inscriptions and to collect old books. In 1893, some twenty three years after Halévy's jaunt across Yemen in search of Sabaean inscriptions, Habshush began to write an account of their journey, first in Hebrew, and then, at the request of Eduard Glaser, in his native language, the Judæo-Arabic dialect of Yemen. His initial account was scattered in three countries (Israel, Austria and Yemen), copies of which were later pieced together by Habshush's editor, S.D. Goitein. Habshush's most important contribution to science is that he helped scholars Joseph Halévy and Eduard Glaser decipher the Sabaean inscriptions which they had come to copy in Yemen, having made transliterations of the texts in the Hebrew alphabet for easier comprehension.

While Halevy was detained by illness in Sana'a, Habshush went alone to Gheiman, some miles south-east of Sana'a, where, despite difficulties arising from the suspicion of the people, he copied many inscriptions and excavated part of the pre-Islamic city-wall. Later, Habshush would write about his friend and companion, Joseph Halévy: "My home I have forsaken, and unto a land rife with [harsh] decrees have I gone with you. My delightful children, my pleasant brothers and my good friends have I left behind, but for the love that I have for attaining your wisdom, I am bound withal; and to be somewhat of a scout, while assuming upon myself a little of the wisdom of my lord, I have put my life into mine own hands, by traversing a land that is not cultivated, a land of wild men, just as your eyes have seen, all the hardships that we found along the way, until my return unto my own house."

Family background

As a prominent member of the Jewish community in Yemen, Rabbi Habshush served as one of the principal leaders of the Dor Deah movement alongside Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ, and Sa'id 'Arusi.

The Hibshush family is one of earliest known Jewish families to have settled in Yemen, as he mentions the family living in Yemen before the advent of Islam, and who, along with four other Jewish families (al-Bishārī, al-Futayḥī, al-‘Uzayrī and al-Marḥabī) served the illustrious Sasson Halevi who had recently moved to Yemen from Iraq (Babylonia). Sasson Halevi is the progenitor of the renowned Alsheikh Halevi families, as well as the Yitzḥaq Halevi families, the former of whom rose to prominence after the Mawza Exile, and the latter of whom produced one of the last judges of the rabbinic court at Sana'a, Rabbi Yiḥya Yitzḥaq Halevi. The Hibshush family was originally called by the surname al-Futayḥī. In Yemen, however, Jews would address the family by the name of "Hibshush," while Muslims would say "Habshush."


One of the important revelations arising from Hayyim Habshush's expedition with Joseph Halevy to the city of Saadah and in the regions thereabout is that, in his book Masa'ot Hibshush (Travels of Hibshush), he mentions the city of Tilmaṣ as being the old city of Saadah. He brings down an old Yemeni rhymed proverb: אדא אנת מן מלץ פאנא מן תלמץ = "If you are evasive (Ar. malaṣ), then I am from Tilmaṣ" (i.e. Saadah). The importance of this revelation lies in the fact that scholars were heretofore uncertain about the place called "Tilmas" in Benjamin of Tudela's Itinerary, mentioned alongside Tayma, and where two Jewish brothers were allegedly the princes and governors over those places in the 12th century. The one is in present-day Saudi-Arabia, while the other in Yemen.

Man of justice

One of the special traits with which Rabbi Hayyim Hibshush was gifted was his deep sense of justice and his natural abhorrence of evil. In 1895, Ya'akov ben Hayyim Shar‘abi, the Jewish treasurer of the heqdesh (monies raised for the poor of Sana'a) was found murdered in his house, and the money which was placed in his charge was stolen. An investigation conducted by Hayyim Hibshush revealed the identity of the murderer, who was imprisoned. Once, when a Jewish newcomer to Sana'a by the name of Yosef Abdallah ("the servant of God") declared himself to be the herald of the coming Messiah, and who made his living by selling amulets and poultices and who lured the simple and naïve and unsuspecting persons by his words of deliverance and by his prophylactic talismans, and having aroused the suspicions of the leaders of the community who suspected him of being an impostor and one who harbored impure motives, besides being suspected of revelry and of lechery with women and of possibly causing harm to the community by their dissimulation (owing to such promises) and by a perceived threat to the government, Rabbi Hibshush closely watched the man, and on one occasion he had his house placed on surveillance. When the evidence became clear as to his impure motives, at the insistence of Rabbi Hibshush who persuaded the magistrates of the city, the man was cordially asked to leave the city by order of the governor (Ar. wāli) of the city.

Published works

  • Masot Habshush (Hebrew: מסעות חבשוש lit. "The Journeys of Habshush" ) The travels of R' Hayyim ben Yahya alongside Joseph Halévy in Yemen and the life of Arabs and Jews living there (published in 1941, and republished in 1983; edited by S.D. Goitein).
  • Korot Yisrael b'Teiman (Hebrew: קורות ישראל בתימן lit. "The Annals of the Israelites in Yemen") A history of the Jews in Yemen during the 17th and 18th Century CE, believed to be a recension of an earlier work composed by chronicler, Yahya b. Judah Sa'di, and to which Hibshush added his own chronologies. The work is most noted for its detailed description of the Exile of Mawza (Galut Mawza) in 1679-1680.
  • Shelomo Dov Goitein, The Yemenites (History, Communal Organization, Spiritual Life), Ben-Zvi Institute: Jerusalem 1983, p. 162 (Hebrew). David Solomon Sassoon attributes the writing to [the son of] Sa‘īd, based on the author’s own remark that he is “the son of Ḥazmaq the younger” (= Sa‘īd, or Se‘adyah), the usual rendition for this name given in the reversed order of the Hebrew alphabet. See: David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid (vol. 2), Oxford University Press: London 1932, p. 969, s.v. דופי הזמן

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