Fortunate to be one of the approximate million people who merited attending the Levaya of Hacham Ovadia Yossef zt”l, I can relate that it was truly an unbelievable historical event, unimaginable until realized. From the moment the news surfaced that the great Hacham had ascended to the Next World, Jewish people from everywhere throughout Israel began making plans to attend the Levaya to be a part of the respectful procession. Stores closed their doors, restaurants and cafes cleared their tables, taxi companies stopped taking passengers, and streets were barricaded by police blocking car passage, as people from all walks of life throughout Israel began filling up Jerusalem. Immediately, reporters were predicting at least half a million attendees. In a matter of only a few hours about a million people had gathered to acknowledge and recognize our overwhelming loss, and pay their respects in honor of the Torah.

Hacham Ovadia Yossef zt”l was a great Torah Scholar known throughout the world for his outstanding in-depth knowledge of the countless topics throughout the Torah. Through his clarity in Jewish Law, along with his understanding of fine details and circumstantial information, he passed judgment on numerous difficult cases and answered countless Halachic questions for the sake of the people. He authored many Halachic Seforim that are learned today throughout the world. Although he was blessed with a photographic memory, and he knew the Seforim he learned by heart, nonetheless he never stopped learning from Seforim, and devoted most of his waking hours to learning Torah.

Throughout this past week since his passing, many eulogies were delivered all over Israel and the US. Those who were closest to him related meaningful stories from his lifetime to large crowds which depicted not only his greatness in Torah, but also his outstanding love for every Jew, and how he sacrificed to help others in need. All major publications ran featured articles in respect and to commemorate his illustrious lifetime. One story I recently heard during a eulogy is a great example of his love for another Jew. One Shabbat morning, while Hacham Ovadia was passing by a group of teenage boys who were playing soccer in the street, one boy kicked the soccer ball at Hacham Ovadia as a joke. The soccer ball hit the Hacham in the head and knocked his hat off as well. The boy then disrespectfully asked the Hacham if he wanted to play with them. Instead of getting angry, and without screaming rebuke at the boy, Hacham Ovadia asked the boy if he had eaten a Shabbat Seuda that day. The boy replied that his parents were survivors of the holocaust who no longer observed Shabbat. Understanding that the boy was hungry, not just for a meal but also for spirituality, he asked the boy if he would come join him for a Shabbat meal. The boy was pleased to agree, and they both enjoyed the meal together. After the meal, understanding that the boy was tired, Hacham Ovadia gave the boy a place to sleep. The boy woke up Motzei Shabbat, ready to leave and enjoy his evening. The Hacham asked him where he planned to go, and he explained that he was going to the theater to see a movie. The boy did not have money for the movie, so the Hacham made a deal with him. If he promised to come back, then Hacham Ovadia would give him the money. This relationship grew stronger as time went on. Soon the boy started attending the weekly Torah classes given by Hacham Ovadia. Today this boy is a Rosh Kollel, leading a Rabbinical College.

For ninety three years Hacham Ovadia served Hashem by spreading Torah and raising the honor of our holy nation. It is impossible to summarize any part of his lifetime within a short column. We hope and pray that together we can improve our spirituality, become a little better and closer to Hashem, and in doing so, as a nation together, fill the large void that has been left behind with the passing of Hacham Ovadia Yossef zt”l. May his memory be blessed, and may his merits protect us, Amen.

by Simon Goldstein, of Oorah‘s marketing team

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  • David Hes

    The anecdote about the boy playing soccer is a reminder to all of us that every Jew has a Neshama that just needs to be stimulated to become a Shomer Torah Umitzvos. Rabbeinu Ovadia ZKvT”L understood that and it was a part of his greatness. We have lost a true Ish Kadosh. As for me, hopefully this tiny slice of his life will inspire me to remember to treat every Jew with dignity, because you never know who he(she) really is or who he(she) may turn out to be.

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