Rabbi Solomon Eliezer Alfandari, also known as the Saba Kadisha (“Holy Grandfather”), was a distinguished rabbi, kabbalist and rosh yeshiva in his native home of Constantinople, and later served as Chief Rabbi of Damascus, Syria, and Safed, Israel. He was known for his stringent interpretation of halacha and his uncompromising dedication to Torah values. One of Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s most distinguished students was Rav Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini, the Sdeh Chemed. All of Rabbi Solomon Eliezer’s responsa and halakhic rulings were published posthumously.
Rav Shlomo Eliezer was so humble that he not only refused to accept a rabbinical post, but also recommended his student, Rav Yitzchak Akarish, for the position of Istanbul’s chief Rabbi. Rav Yitzchak, author of Kiryat Arba, was one of Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s most outstanding students, and he devoted himself solely to Torah study. When his family’s financial situation became desperate, however, he sought Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s advice. Rav Shlomo Eliezer promised to find Rav Yitzchak a rabbinical post – on one condition: he had to accept any position offered to him.
Rav Yitzchak agreed to Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s terms, but was startled when Rav Shlomo Eliezer secured him a position as Rav of Istanbul. How could he serve as a rav in the very same city in which his illustrious mentor lived? But he had already accepted Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s condition, and couldn’t renege on his word. Istanbul’s Jewish leaders were likewise reluctant to appoint Rav Yaakov – for the very same reasons. However, they couldn’t disregard Rav Shlomo Eliezer’s directive or his demand that Rav Yaakov receive a respectable salary. From then on, whenever questions were addressed to Rav Shlomo Eliezer, he would refer them to Rav Yitzchak, stressing that he was the city’s rav.