Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef , Zt"L 1920-2013

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Rav Ovadia Yosef, the former chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel made the passage yesterday at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He was 93.

Rabbi Yosef was born in Baghdad and emigrated with his family to Palestine Mandat at the age of 4 receiving his ordination at the age of 20.

His main teacher was the famous Rabbi Ezra Attiya.

The story is told about how Rabbi Attiya helped keep the young Ovadia Yosef in Torah studies. When his young student missed several days of study in a row, Rabbi Attiya went to the Youseff home, where the family was living in poverty. The father explained that he ran a small grocery and needed Ovadia's help, since he could not afford to pay a helper.The Rabbi was unable to convince him to let Ovadia return to school.

The next morning, when the father entered his store, he found Rabbi Attiya standing there, wearing a work apron. The Rabbi explained that he had come to the store early that morning when Yosef was opening up, told him that he had found a substitute worker who would work without pay, and sent him back to yeshiva.When Ovadia's father protested against the noted Rabbi working as a grocery helper, Rabbi Attiya replied, "You said that you needed someone to help and could not afford to pay. I am that someone. Your son's learning is more important than my time!"

Ovadia's father relented and allowed him to return to yeshiva.

Ovadia became the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel in 1973, after a long career of incisive and erudite Torah commentary and the establishment of a number of yeshivot with the help of his sons. (He had 11 children). Among his other many accomplishments, he was a strong advocate and a major force 
behind Israel's rescue of Ethiopian Jews.

In later life, he settled in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof, and became active and involved in politics from a Torah perspective as the spiritual leader of the Shas party. He was known for his criticism of the Israeli Supreme Court, his love of Zion and his outspoken comments on what he believed. He was a fierce opponent of the disengagement from Gaza and of Oslo, (Shas voted against both Oslo I and Oslo II), although he said that Torah supported the trading of land..but only for a genuine peace.

Yosef's funeral procession began at 6 p.m.Local time at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood and continued to the Sanhedria Cemetery.An estimated 560,000 people marched in his funeral procession, an unbelievable 9% of the entire Israeli population. The equivalent in the U.S. would be 22,000,000 people turning out for a funeral.

Rav Yosef was a giant and a man of unbelievable spiritual power, who was addressed by his peers with the honorific Maran, master. Yet he always remained humble and never lacked the common touch, or stopped caring about ordinary people. He was noted even by those who disagreed with him as one of the greatest Torah scholars and authorities on Jewish law of his time.

Zt"L.

UPDATE: It appears that the number of Israelis mourning at the funeral of the great man is now estimated at 850,000

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