Many people think of World War I as a European war, but, as its name suggests, the entire world was affected. In Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire at that time, the war meant exile for any Jew who was not a Turkish citizen. For 24-year-old Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh, even though he was born in Hebron, it meant relocating to Alexandria, Egypt.
A respected Torah scholar who had already published his first sefer (book of Torah scholarship) on the laws applicable to bar-mitzvah youths, Rabbi Chaim Naeh made the most of his time in Alexandria. There were many Jews similarly exiled, and Rabbi Chaim Naeh’s Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael (an advanced Torah study institute) attracted over 200 students . During this time, Rabbi Chaim Naeh wrote Shenot Chaim, which was meant to serve as a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (abridged Code of Jewish Law) for Sephardic Jews.
Following the war and the British takeover of Palestine, the exiled Jews returned. Rabbi Chaim Naeh moved to Jerusalem, where he served as the personal secretary of the Edah Hachareidis (a communal organization of Orthodox Jewry in Jerusalem) under Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld.
Rabbi Chaim Naeh continued his scholarship and communal involvement throughout his life. In 1948, he was involved in the creation of the Vaad Harabbanim (Council of Rabbis) of Agudath Israel. He also helped found both Kol Israel and Hamodia, two weekly newspapers for strictly Orthodox audiences.
One of Rabbi Chaim Naeh’s most notable contributions was his work on measurements. In his Shiurei Torah, Rabbi Chaim Naeh converted Biblical and Talmudic measurements into modern quantities. Much of his work was based on the views of Maimonides, during whose time the same Ottoman dirham that was in use in 20th century Palestine, had been a standard measure.
Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh’s yahrtzeit is 20 Tammuz. He passed away in 1954.