It will soon be five hundred years since Rabbi Moshe Alashkar, outstanding Talmudic scholar and Rabbi, was born. But, as with our other great Rabbis, his memory has not been dimmed by the passing of time.

Rabbi Moshe Alashkar was born into a prominent Rabbinic family in Spain. His father's name was Rabbi Yitzchak. The name of his city of birth is not certain. But it is known that in his youth he lived and learned in the city of Zamora, and his teacher was Rabbi Shmuel Valenci, who was also the teacher of the famed Rabbi Yaakov ben Habib (author of "Ein Yaakov"). Both Rabbi Moshe and Rabbi Yaakov were about the same age.

In the year 1492, when Rabbi Moshe was about 26 years old, the Jews were expelled from Spain. Rabbi Moshe suffered many hardships and dangers, together with the other Jews who were driven out of Spain. He nearly lost his life when the ship on which he was sailing from Spain sank. Later, he was captured by pirates, but he managed to escape. Finally he reached the shores of Tunis, together with Rabbi Abraham Zacuta. Here Rabbi Moshe Alashkar was received with much honor by the Jewish community, and he remained in Tunis for about 18 years. Since Christian Spain began to extend its power over the shores of North Africa, and with it the dreaded Inquisition, Rabbi Moshe had to take to the road again. Once more he suffered the perils of travel, both on land and at sea. At long last he reached Patros, in Greece. Here he became the head of the Yeshiva, and he came in contact with other Rabbinic authorities of his time, on questions of Jewish law. Later he made his way to Egypt and was Rabbi in Cairo. His fame grew, and many Rabbinic authorities turned to him for his opinion on points of Jewish law. Among the better known authorities with whom Rabbi Moshe corresponded were Rabbi David haKohen of Corfu, Rabbi Moshe of Padua, Rabbi Yaakov Berab, Rabbi Levi ben Habib (son of the above-mentioned Rabbi Yaakov ben Habib), and Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi.

Towards the latter part of his life Rabbi Moshe Alashkar went to live in Jerusalem. When the controversy started between Rabbi Yaakov Berab, who wanted to reinstate the ancient law of Semichah (special Rabbinic ordination), and Rabbi Levi ben Habib, who oposed it, Rabbi Moshe Alashkar at first took the side of Rabbi Yaakov Berab, but then changed his view, finding himself at variance with him, also, on other matters.

Generally, he followed the earlier decisions of the Rabbinic authorities, whom he considered the true giants of Torah knowledge. "Our generations can compare to them no more than an ape resembles man," he wrote in one of his Responsa (opinions), and he was most critical of those Rabbis who were inclined to follow later decisions.

Rabbi Moshe Alashkar is the author of a collection of 121 Responsa. In them we find much information about the problems which confronted the Jews in those critical days, as a result of the Expulsion from Spain, refugee prob­lems, broken families, and the like. These Responsa were first printed in 1554. Rabbi Moshe Alashkar also wrote a defense of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, against the critical notes of Rabbi Shem Tov ibn Falaquera. This defense, or refutations (Hassaqoth), was published with his Responsa (sec. 117), and also at the end of Rabbi Shem Tov's Sefer Haemunoth, printed in the year 1557.

In addition, Rabbi Moshe Alashkar wrote two other works, one called Geon Yaakov, on Tur Orach Chayyim, and the other - a commentary on Aboth. Both remained unpublished.

Besides being an outstanding scholar of the Talmud, as well as of Kabbalah and Jewish philosophy, Rabbi Moshe Alashkar was a noted Paytan, a composer of sacred poetry and prayers, some of which were recited in certain congregations.

Rabbi Moshe Alashkar died in Jerusalem, in the year 5302 (1542), but he continues to live in his great works he left behind him.