Yosef Chaim (1 September 1832 – 30 August 1909) was a leading Hakham (Sephardic Rabbi), authority on Jewish law (Halakha) and Master Kabbalist. He is best known as author of the work on Halakha Ben Ish Chai ("Son of Man (who) Lives"), by which title he is also known.
Hakham Yosef Chaim was born in Baghdad where his father, Hakham Eliyahu, was the active leader of the Jewish community. Yosef Chaim's talents were evident from a young age (composing an anonymous responsum at age 14). When he was 7 years old he fell into a pit. He was very close to dying but a miracle saved his life. When he got out the community believed it was a miracle so he decided to dedicate his life to Torah.
He initially studied in his father's library, and, at the age of 10, he left midrash ("school room") and began to study with his uncle, David Chai Ben Meir. (Hakham David later founded the famed "Shoshanim LeDavid" Yeshiva located in Jerusalem.) In 1851, he married Rachel, the daughter of Hakham Ovadia Somekh. They had together a daughter and two sons; Hakham Yosef Chaim also studied under his brother in law, Abdallah Somech.
When Yosef Chaim was only twenty-five years old, his father died. Despite his youth, the Jews of Baghdad accepted him to fill his father's place as the leading rabbinic scholar of Baghdad, though he never filled the official position of Hakham Bashi. He was widely accepted as an authority on Jewish law throughout the Middle East, and his decisions were considered to be of religious legal significance, even outside Sephardi communities. The highly respected Sephardic yeshiva, Porat Yosef in Jerusalem, was founded on his advice by Joseph Shalom, of Calcutta, India — one of Rabbi Chaim's patrons.
Yosef Chaim was buried in Baghdad, but there is also a grave attributed to him on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. His son, Rabbi Yaakov Chai, continued his legacy. His main student was Rabbi Yehuda Fatiyah.