Judah Alkalai

Judah Alkalai

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Judah ben Solomon Chai Alkalai (1798 – October 1878) was a Sephardic rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 in Zemun
Zemun is a historical town and one of the 17 municipalities which constitute the City of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia...

 in the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

's District of Velika Kikinda
District of Velika Kikinda
The District of Velika Kikinda was an administrative unit of the Habsburg Monarchy between 1774 and 1876. It was an autonomous area mainly inhabited by ethnic Serbs.-History:...

 (in present day Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

) and one of pioneers of modern Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...


Alkalai studied in Jerusalem under different rabbis and came under the influence of the Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

. In 1825 he became Rabbi of Semlin.

He became noted through his advocacy in favor of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. By reason of some of his projects, he may justly be regarded as one of the precursors of the modern Zionists such as Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl , born Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl was an Ashkenazi Jew Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the State of Israel.-Early life:...


Herzl's paternal grandfather Simon Loeb Herzl, reportedly attended the Alkalai's synagogue Semlin and the two frequently visited. Grandfather Simon Loeb Herzl "had his hands on" one of the first copies of Alkalai's 1857 work prescribing the "return of the Jews to the Holy Land and renewed glory of Jerusalem." Contemporary scholars conclude that Herzl's own implementation of modem Zionism was undoubtedly influenced by that relationship.

His work, Goral la-Adonai (A Lot for the Lord), published at Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, in 1857, is a treatise on the restoration of the Jews, and suggests methods for the betterment of conditions in Palestine.

After a somewhat able homiletical discussion of the Messianic problem, in which he shows considerable knowledge of the traditional writers, Alkalai suggests the formation of a joint-stock company, such as a steamship or railroad trust, whose endeavor it should be to induce the sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

to cede Palestine to the Jews as a tributary country, on a plan similar to that on which the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 principalities were governed.

To this suggestion are appended the commendations of numerous Jewish scholars of various schools of thought. The problem of the restoration of Palestine was also discussed by Alkalai in Shema' Yisrael (Hear, O Israel), 1861 or 1862, and in Harbinger of Good Tidings (compare Jewish Chronicle, 1857, p. 1198, where his name is spelled Alkali).

In his Shalom Yerushalayim (The Peace of Jerusalem), 1840, he replies to those who attacked his book, Darhei No'am (The Pleasant Paths), which treated of the duty of tithes. Another work, Minchat Yehudah (The Offering of Judah), Vienna, 1843, is a panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 on Montefiore
Moses Montefiore
Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet, Kt was one of the most famous British Jews of the 19th century. Montefiore was a financier, banker, philanthropist and Sheriff of London...

 and Crémieux, who had rescued the Jews of Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 from a blood libel
Blood libel
Blood libel is a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays...


External References