|Hakham Yosef Hayim (1834-1909)|
The US National Archives and Records Administration has recently published online much of the 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents that were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters, as part of an exhibition being held in Washington.
As expected, the central value of this collection is the memory of this once vibrant, multi-millennia old community, which certainly justifies the great effort invested in its preservation. When compared to the collection of Jewish books and manuscripts held by the Iraqi National Library (838 items here and here), it appears that the INL collection was taken from a Yeshiva or clerical library, while the NARA collection tends to contain more laymen's books, featuring an abundance of siddurim and humashim.
Nevertheless, we have been following the publications about the IJA since its discovery ten years ago, and have been in contact with the preservation staff, with the hope that there may be important findings among the manuscripts. Here are some of the more outstanding ones. The items identified as autographs of Hakham Yosef Hayim (1834-1909) are based on comparison to the autograph drafts in the Benayahu collection.
IJA 37: found in a Miqraot Gedolot volume of Shemot, on page 243 (parshat Terumah), a group of handwritten folia related to R. Yosef Hayim's Ben Ish Hai (BIH) on the latter part of Shemot.
37/1 a draft of a letter in Judeo-Arabic to R. Yaakov, son of the BIH.
37/2 Autograph BIH. A baqashah prayer for the 7th of Adar, invoking the memory of Moshe. This is not among the prayers in BIH's Tiqun for this day, Livorno 1874. Transcript here.
37/3 a 13 folio manuscript version of Ben Ish Hai, Sermons for Sabbath portions Ki Tisa and Pequdey, as printed in Baghdad 1898, pp. 29-30; ibid, 33. From 11b l. 6 onwards, the text diverges from the printed version, into a story (ma'aseh) brought to illustrate the point.
The story, that starts "מעשה באשה אחת צנועה וכשרה", was published separately in the anthology NiflaimMaasekhah (Jerusalem, 1912 pp. 109-111). Apparently, the manuscript reflects the original sermon, attended by a vast audience that included simple people and children, so the folktale was an integral element. Only upon printing was it separated.
37/4 BIH, the Halakhot vol. II Sabbath Pequday. 4 folios.
37/6 BIH, the Halakhot vol. I Sabbath Terumah. Possibly an autograph, although more formal than the other autographs.
393 A single page in secondary usage as binding material. From a treatise on the introductory article of Zohar. Mostly erased, only a few legible words are extant.
981 bound in a copy of BIH's original prayers and poems Lashon Hakhamim (Jerusalem vol. II 1910) owned by Avraham b. Nissim Eliahu. Manuscript folia of additional poems and prayers, unpublished in printed version. Some of these are autograph drafts, including one for invoking the memory of the Tanna R. Meir, possibly composed for his Hillulah (15th of Iyar).
988- a Collection of Piyyutim, 128 folios,dated 1826. Arranged by Maqam, including list of contents. Folios 4-5 are a collection of signatures of Rabbinic figures in Baghdad (all in the same hand). Includes R. Eliahu Sulaiman Manni, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron.
1404- found in a Humash (Livorno, 1831 vol. I). Letters in Judeo Arabic by Mordechai b. Yosef Rahamim Mahleb.
2668- An autograph draft, at least 10 folios, of the BIH's sermon delivered on the date of passing (yahrzeit) of his father, 7 Heshwan (15/10) 1907. The author later published this sermon in the rabbinic Journal Hameasef XIII (Jerusalem, 1908) item 18.
Much of the newly found Ben Ish Hai material have been published in two volumes titled ברכת הרי"ח. A third volume is on the way.