Iranian Jewish Culure
Mullah Or Sharga
Religious Figures

Mullah Or Sharga

a Religious Figure of Yazd

According to the Or Sharga ancestry — or as some may state, Or Shraga — centuries ago, during the Renaissance, Mullah Or Sharga’s ancestors and some other Jews left their birthplaces and took refuge in Poland, in order to save their lives and families from the widespread anti-Semitism throughout Europe. Later, toward the end of the 16th century C.E., as anti-Semitism further spread across the Eastern Europe, they were compelled to migrate to the southern regions of Russia with its more moderate climate. Awhile afterwards, Rabbi Kias “Ghias”, an ancestor of Or Sharga, immigrated southwards into Iran and settled in the city of Sabzevar.

To make a living, Rabbi Ghias “Kias” taught the Jewish religious subjects including the Jewish law. His son Rabbi Daniel and his grandson Rabbi Shemouel “Samuel” also followed his path and went on to teach the Torah to their fellow Jews in Sabzevar and the surrounding areas. When during the Safavid period, anti-Semitic laws were introduced and implemented in Iran, Mullah Or Sharga’s ancestors were forced to migrate alongside some of the other Jews from the north-eastern parts of Iran. They moved south to the desert areas of the country, the city of Yazd, in particular. This migration happened likely toward the end of the reign of Shah Sultan Hussein of the Safavid Dynasty.

Rabbi Shemouel fathered a son in Yazd, whose date of birth is not exactly known. He named his son “Or”. The Hebrew word or stands for “light”, while the Aramaic word sharga or shraga stands for “candle” or “light” — the combination of which suggested the eternal light of the holy Torah. Or Sharga began his education as a child at the traditional school of his father Mullah Shemouel, where he learned well about the many religious issues. He made quick progress and acquired a vast knowledge of the Torah. By the time he was 12, he knew more than his father in religious subjects; thus, he replaced him as a Chacham. Even as a young man, he began his cultural and religious activities at the Yohid Synagogue. He went on to speak to the public and offer sermons on the Torah, with his eloquent voice and rhetorical powers. His unrivaled commentaries and evident knowledge of the text of the Torah fascinated the community, so far as he was soon put in charge as the religious leader of the Jewish community of Yazd. Thanks to his wisdom and virtues, he left a considerable impact on organizing and improving the living conditions of the Jews of Yazd and the surrounding cities.

Soon enough, Chacham Or Sharga’s fame had spread to the other cities, and thanks to this spiritual character, Yazd became known as a Jewish religious center and the cradle of Iranian Jewish clerical leaders, so far as it was called the “Little Jerusalem”. It’s said that Chacham Or Sharga’s level of spirituality and mystical powers rose so far as he managed to pass on the Jewish religious law from the mouth of the Prophet Eliahu “Elijah”. Among his important initiatives, Or Sharga founded a yeshiva or “Jewish seminary”, i.e. a traditional religious school, wherein the Torah and other Jewish subjects were taught. This in itself transformed the lives of the Jews of Yazd wonderfully.

It should be noted that until the Or Sharga Yeshiva was established, only a limited number of the wealthy families could have afforded to hire private tutors for their children at home, or to send their kids to a maktab or“traditional school” to learn their religious obligations from a mullah. Often, the poor or financially stranded families had to keep their children at home, or else, they were forced to send them to work for income at the spinning mills or textile workshops. Consequently, a large portion of the Jewish community of Yazd had remained illiterate. Then, for the first time, a major enthusiastic movement, a rush to education began to mobilize the community. Many little children and youngsters went to the Chacham Or Sharga seminaries, a considerable number of whom came from the poor families. Next, students from the surrounding cities started to show up in Yazd to learn from the person of Chacham “Mullah” Or Sharga. Among them, Mullah Moshe “Moses” Ghabsi finished his studies with Mullah Or Sharga, returned to his hometown of Kerman, and founded a Yeshiva, similar to the Or Sharga School, in the Jewish neighborhood of Kerman. Later, his son Mullah Zion undertook the supervision of the Yeshiva of Kerman. The school went on to offer classes until 1947 C.E., when the Ganj-e Danesh a.k.a. Otzar HaTorah School, i.e. “The Treasure of Knowledge” opened a branch in Kerman.

Before long, Mullah Or Sharga, aided by some other Jews of Yazd, expanded the traditional school, and thus, the Yeshiva changed into the Mullah Or Sharga Midrash i.e. “School”. The new busy schedule forced Chacham Or Sharga to cut down on his relaxation hours, and even devote his spare time at night to educating the students.

Among his innovations, this spiritual and caring figure collected the budget of the Midrash “School”, as well as donations for the poor, by issuing a religious verdict or fatwa to collect 5% of the Jewish butchers’ income. Mullah Or Sharga paid special attention to the religious and social conditions of his fellow Jews in the other cities, and even beyond the Iranian borders, and he was quite sensitive toward their problems. Throughout his productive life, he helped the others without reservation, raised his own knowledgeable children, and educated many students in the knowledge of the Torah. He taught the knowledge and the laws of the Torah to his generation, but also he had a considerable influence on the thought and mindset of the following generation. Consequently, many Jewish seminaries bearing the Or Sharga name were opened in various places.

Chacham “Mullah” Or Sharga was young when he married his future wife Malkah. The couple brought two sons to the world. Both Shemouel “Samuel” and Moshe “Moses” followed their father’s path, were ordained as rabbis, and became two high-ranking sages of the Torah and Kabbalah. Before his death, Mullah Or Sharga reassigned the religious leadership of the Jewish community of Yazd to his two sons.

Chacham “Mullah” Or Sharga is regarded as a Jewish religious authority of the recent era. Given his wonders and miracles, and his vast knowledge in the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah, he was respected by Jews and gentiles alike, as well as by the ruler of Yazd and other contemporary men of the state.

It’s said that the Chebra or “Jewish Association” of the time invited him to Tehran to lead the Beith Din, i.e. the Jewish Court of Arbitration. However, in all likelihood, Mullah Or Sharga preferred to stay in Yazd, and to serve and fulfill his religious mission. Two letters by him from 1782 and 1783 C.E., addressed to the Jews of Mash-had, have survived, the original copies of which are preserved in a museum in New York, while their replicas are kept in the library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was in contact with many of the Kabbalist thinkers and Jewish spiritual figures of the time, in particular, Mullah Moshe Ha-Levy, the outstanding cleric of Kashan, and Mullah Dariush, a cleric of Shiraz. Also, Mullah Simantov Melamed a.k.a. Toubia (died 1838 C.E.), the author of Harout, a collection of Judeo-Persian religious and mystical poetry that amounted to about 370 verses, mostly a resident of Mash-had, was among Mullah Or Sharga’s outstanding students.

Chacham “Mullah” Or Sharga ben Chacham Shemouel, a member of the 135th generation of the descendants of the Prophet King David, died on the 28th of Cheshvan 5554 of the Hebrew Calendar, 1172 of the Persian Calendar, 1793 of the Common Era.

The mausoleum of Mullah Or Sharga and his two sons Chacham Shemouel and Chacham Moshe holds a special place in the hearts of the Jews of Iran. Every year, in particular on the anniversary of his death, a large number of Jewish pilgrims from across Iran and abroad arrive at the city of Yazd to visit his grave and commemorate this great theological sage. They form intentions, make wishes, light candles, and ask him, who was known as a source of wonders and blessings, to pray for them. His followers, both in his lifetime and afterwards, have remembered him in the most endearing terms. The famous European Chassid Ba’al Shem Tov is cited to have said, “I’ve got a friend who lives far away, who’s called Chacham Or Sharga.”

Related Material:


A Strand From the Family Tree of the Or Sharga Lineage:


Mullah Kias “Ghias” > Mullah Ovadia > Mullah Daniel >
Mullah Shemouel “Samuel”
> Mullah Or Sharga “Shraga”
> (Mullah Shemouel and) Mullah Moshe “Moses” >
Mullah Ess-hagh “Isaac” a.k.a. Mullah Agh-Baba, the son of Moshe
> Mullah Or the Second
> Chacham Yousef Or Sharga.


The Mullah Or Sharga Family Tree
Below, a more complete picture of the Mullah Or Sharga pedigree and descendants is represented as a searchable Table and as an Image. Please click on the picture to be redirected to a larger image. You may also follow the link to a PDF version of the Table.

The Mullah Or Sharga “Shraga” Family Tree


Mullah Ghias “Kias”

An ancestor of Mullah Or, Mullah Ghias “Kias” left his birthplace of Poland due to widespread anti-Semitism in Europe. He sought refuge in the White Russia. Then, invited by the Iranian Jewish Chebra “Association”, he migrated south and settled in the Iranian city of Sabzevar.

Ovadia, the son of Mullah Ghias

Mullah Daniel, the son of Ovadia

Mullah Shemouel the son of Daniel.
Shemouel settled in the city of Yazd.

Mullah Or Sharga “Shraga”

Mullah Shemouel and his wife brought a son to the world. The child shone brightly like the horizon. He was named “Or”, the Hebrew word for “light”. Later, he learned the secrets of the Kabbalah i.e. the Jewish mysticism at the presence of the Prophet Elijah, who revealed to him that Mullah Or belonged to the 135th generation descending from the pure lineage of the Prophet King David. This famous mystic passed away in 1794 C.E.

Mullah Moshe “Moses”,
the son of Or-Sharga.

Mullah Shemouel “Samuel”,
the son of Or-Sharga.

Rabbi Ess-hagh “Isaac”, the son of Moshe “Moses”.

The son of Mullah Moshe wrote the book Chok le-Yisrael, i.e. “The Law of the Jewish People”, the manuscript of which he presented to the Jewish community in 1879 C.E. In recent years, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Shemouel Sharga, a 5th generation descendant of Mullah Or Sharga, the manuscript has been turned into a book in Hebrew. The book will be offered for free to the rabbis and to the well-known libraries around the world.

Mullah Moshe “Moses” a.k.a. Agha Baba, the son of Isaac.

The Mullah Agh-Baba Synagogue of Yazd was visited as a holy site on Rosh HaShanah by the current President of Iran to offer his greetings to the Jewish people.

Mullah Raphael, the son of Mullah Moshe.

Mullah Or the Second, the son of Mullah Moshe.

Mullah Yaghoub “Jacob”, the son of Mullah Moshe.

Sadly, Mullah Yaghoub left no children to the world of the Torah.

Mullah Moshe “Moses”,
the son of Mullah Raphael.

Chacham Yousef,
the son of Mullah Or the Second.

He was the religious leader of the Jews of Iran for more than 30 years.

Shemouel “Samuel”,
the son of Mullah Moshe.

Shemoul is an immunologist with the Hadassah Hospital of Jerusalem, the city where he lives. In recent years, he published Chok le-Yisrael, a surviving book by his ancestor.

Moshe “Moses”,
the son of Chacham Yousef.

Mosheh has studied law, and he lives in Cholon, the Holy Land.

 Click here for the PDF version of the Table. 

  Click here for the PDF version of the Table.





Related Links:

 1) The Mullah Or Sharga Mausoleum in Yazd, Iran.

2) The Rabbi Or Sharga Midrash “School”.