RABBI REFAEL ENKAOUA
Born in Salé in 1848, died in 1935
Chief Rabbi, President of the High Rabbinical Court of Morocco and a renowned lawyer throughout North Africa and Israel, Knight of the Legion of Honour, highly esteemed by the French protectorate power as well as by the Moroccan authorities. He is the author of a large number of books of jurisprudence: Qarnè Réèm, legal consultations and decisions; Paâmonè Zahab, on the Shulhan Aroukh and the Hochène Michepat; Séfère Hadad wé-Tèma, writings on the Talmud.
In 1880, he was appointed Av Beth-Din de salé, i. e. President of the Rabbinical Court of the city, replacing his father-in-law who moved to Yeroushalaim to lead the Sephardic community there. Rabbi Refael Enkaoua during all these years, will never accept to receive any salary. He lives on a few financial matters and even goes out of his own money to found a Yeshiva in the city. At that time, he was already considered one of the greatest Rabbanim of the Sephardic world.
In 1912, Morocco was placed under French protectorate, headed by Marshal Lyautey. In their desire to reform and modernize local administration and justice while preserving their religious characteristics and specificities, the new authorities demand that Jews appoint a committee representative of their community, it was decided to establish a position of Chief Rabbi of Morocco to represent the Jews vis-à-vis the new government. This position is entrusted to Rabbi Raphael Encaoua zatsal despite his many refusals due to his great modesty, his deep humility and the respect he felt for Rabbi Chelomo Ben Danan, the Rav of the city of Fez.
From 1918 onwards, the Jewish community in Morocco was endowed with seven major Rabbinic Courts, with very broad powers for the largest cities, Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, Meknes, Marrakech, Oujda and Moggador as well as others with more limited powers in other cities in the country, Agadir, Safi, El Jadida, Setat, Beni-Mellal, Damnet and Ouezanne.
But it is mainly the establishment of a First Instance Rabbinical Court for appeals that is considered an exceptional event in the Moroccan legal landscape. Indeed, this high authority headed by Rabbi Raphael Encaoua is composed of Dayanim (judges) who not only have the status of state officials (and by the same token, receive a salary from the Ministry) but above all have the same prerogatives as those in force in the state legal apparatus.
Rabbi Raphael Encaoua's rabbinic and legal stature, his righteousness, his phenomenal scholarship, his strong ties with the leaders of the protectorate, the royal house and the Muslim scholars of his time, all contributed to further enhancing his glory and that of his people towards all.
His funeral in Rabat, the capital, was attended by the country's highest personalities. His influence and aura are such that the habits and customs of prayer, until then very discreet, will now be very open. The place where he is buried quickly became a place of pilgrimage also revered by the country's Muslims.