The great Jewish cleric and scholar Chacham Haim Moreh no doubt left an astonishing and constructive influence on the Iranian Jewish culture through his Judeo-Persian writings — Persian texts using the Hebrew alphabet — translations, and commentaries on various religious subjects. And despite being blind, his broad influence reverberated much farther in the Jewish cultural chambers all around the world.
Haim Moreh was born in 1872 C.E., the 18th of Nissan 5632 of the Hebrew calendar, in Tehran, Iran. Alas, at the age of two, he suffered a small pox infection, which due to the lack of advanced medical facilities cost him the gift of sight. At the age of seven, his father Haj Mordechai Ben Eliahoo Shirazi passed away. Consequently, his maternal uncles and his grandfather took over the guardianship of Haim and his little sister Mandani. They sent the little child to Mullah Dayyan, a Jewish clerical authority in Tehran, to study Judaical subjects. Haim set out to learn the lessons by the ear with an extraordinary perseverance. His manifested genius and his flair for learning the holy books made it clear that the child needed more teachers.
At the age of 20, the young Haim Moreh married Lena Bolandian, and the couple brought one son and three daughters to the world. His son Ebrahim would grow up to become an erudite man with an affection for the culture akin to his father. He would be appointed as the Vice Chair of the Tehran Jewish Association.
As the first Alliance Israélite School was opened in Tehran in 1898, Haim Moreh was invited to teach religious subjects and Hebrew language at the new school. Thus, at the age of 26, he began his work as a teacher. He not only taught at the Alliance, but also he used the opportunity to learn the French language. His high intelligence, solid memory, and learning gifts were simply incredible. He committed to memory all the texts of the Holy Torah, the Psalms, Zohar, Daily Prayers, as well as the Prayers for Holidays and other occasions. He also expanded his personal studies into Jewish, Christian and Islamic mysticism. He was fully familiar with the Western and Eastern philosophers, had an amazing mastery of the Persian literature, and wrote poetry on occasion. He was especially fond of the works of Sohrevardi, Hallaj and the Rumi, among the greatest figures of Iranian thought and literature. His writings were often in the two languages of Hebrew and French. Also, as with such erudite Jewish figures as Shahin and Omrani, Haim Moreh’s works were transcribed by his aides in the Judeo-Persian style, i.e. in Persian language using the Hebrew alphabet. The title of his first work was inspired by his own name, Derekh Haim, (The Way of Life). It was published in 292 pages in the year 1921. The book was about religious commandments, the principles and peripheries of the religion, and the history of the world since the times of Adam to modern times, with brief reference to Jewish history and the lives of the prophets.
In 1924, he published Gedolat Mordechai (The Greatness of Mordecai) in 494 pages, the title of which was inspired by his father’s name. The book was divided into three parts. The first part, similar to Derekh Haim, covers such subjects as the Jewish religion and the prayers. The second part consists of the Hebrew calendar from 1924 to 2240 C.E., that is, the year 6000 of the Jewish calendar. Thus, by calculating and authoring the Hebrew calendar, Chacham Haim Moreh recorded his name for more than 300 years as the founder and author of the first Hebrew calendar in Iran. The third part of the book, however, contains some original poetry in Persian and Hebrew by himself. Although deprived from the gift of sight, he was certainly able to reflect his thoughts and words on paper fluently via the assistance of his pupils and friends, the best known of whom included Sulayman Haim, Soleiman Kohan-Sedegh, and Monsieur Brasseur, the director of the Alliance Israélite.
In 1928, he published his last work entitled Bayanat-e Moreh (The Words of Moreh). Unlike his other books, this was written in Persian, and its subjects stemmed from his beliefs and ideas on moral advice and matters of guidance.
Despite his handicap, Chacham Haim Moreh never showed weakness in the face of life’s hardships and calamities. He loved his country, he didn’t hold back his love from anyone, and he loved to teach. Moreh was a calm and serious man, self-confident, with an awesome and bright spiritual countenance. He used to advise, “Appreciate what you have, and be thankful for what you’ve been endowed with.”
One day in the May of 1943, Chacham Haim Moreh felt sick while teaching before the class, and he asked permission from the principal to leave and rest at home for the day. At home, he said his evening and night payers, blessed members of his family, and died at the age of 71, in the month of Iyyar 5703 of the Hebrew calendar.