Rabbi Haim Ovadia Yosef: 1920–2013


UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Tuesday, October 8 2013:

*The scenes from the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef yesterday are still etched in your humble servant’s mind this morning: hundreds of thousands of black-hatted, black-coated orthodox Jews surging through the streets of Jerusalem as tears streamed down their faces, clinging dangerously to ancient balconies overlooking the streets and peering precariously from rooftops at the passing procession as Yosef’s body was transported inch by inch through the crowd to the cemetery.

It was, perhaps, a once in a lifetime scene that one will never forget. See today’s blog below for more details.

*Two arrests were made yesterday in the case of the nine year old Noam Glick who was wounded in the terrorist attack in Psagot on Saturday. Security forces conducting search operations in the Palestinian settlement of Al-Bireh near Ramallah captured two brothers who were apparently involved in the crime. No information has yet been released about the arrests.

*The unrest in Egypt continues to grow. Six Egyptian soldiers were killed in a shooting east of Cairo yesterday, and a car bomb was detonated near a tourist resort in the Sinai killing three more Egyptian security personnel and wounding at least 30.

TODAY’S BLOG:

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Rabbi Haim Ovadia Yosef 

September 23, 1920–October 7, 2013

Rabbi Yosef died at 1:20 pm yesterday afternoon and was buried last night around midnight in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem–after his body had been accompanied through the streets of the city by a tumultuous throng of more than 850,000 people. It was the largest funeral in the history of Israel.

His was a name virtually unknown outside of Israel. But to the Sephardic orthodox who crowded into Jerusalem yesterday he was a spiritual leader who inspired a Sephardic renaissance in Israel by instilling a great sense of pride in his followers.

As a Torah and Talmudic scholar, he was unparalleled in this generation and is given credit for making “lenient” rulings which allowed halacha to, in some ways, accommodate the modern world.

The rabbi continued studying Torah right up until the end of his life--even in his hospital room.

The rabbi continued studying Torah right up until the end of his life–even in his hospital room (picture source: Jewish press).

As the founder of the Shas party in 1984, he became critically important in the world of Israeli politics often being the kingmaker insofar as who was able to form a coalition to govern the country.

Perhaps by reading  a few of the encomiums given Rabbi Yosef yesterday, you, can get some sense, dear reader, of what he meant to so many people:

“You were the Moses of our generation.”

“Rav Ovadia was a giant in Torah and Halacha.”

“The Jewish people lost one of the sages of our generation.”

“His greatness wasn’t measured, but rather it was felt as a spiritual wind in every corner, lighting up the darkness in unexpected places.”

“When I think of the chain of generations of scholars from Babylonia to Spain to Rabbi Karo, that is Rav Ovadia’s legacy–another link in the chain of of love and learning Torah throughout the generations.”

“He blazed trails with wisdom and sensitivity and united people with one another and Israel with the Creator.”

“He was a symbol of Halachic sensitivity, and he had the privilege of making Halacha accessible to the masses; his absence leaves a great hole in the world of Torah.” 

But it wasn’t just wisdom, spirituality, and knowledge of the Torah that distinguished Josef--it was his down-to-earth bluntness that oddly seemed to endear him to the very people he castigated, including many in the current government. Josef called Netanyahu “a blind goat”, Yair Lapid “a scoundrel”, and Naftali Bennett’s Beit Yehudi party “a house of goyim.”

As for the Arabs, Yosef-who was born in Baghdad and served in a rabbinical capacity in Egypt–regularly referred to them as “terrorists and murderers”, and in one of his most famous sermons did not mince words: 

“It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. […] The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.”

But none of this really catches the charisma of Rav Yosef–or his sense of humor. Over the years his trademark “sign of affection” at the conclusion of discussions or conversations, was his slap across the face of whomever he was talking to. Everyone felt and looked forward to that slap–from Benjamin Netanyahu to Shimon Peres.

What follows are pictures from the funeral:

Netanyahu and Peres paying their respects to Rav Yosef yesterday.

Netanyahu and Peres paying their respects to Rav Yosef yesterday.

Some small sense of the huge crowd:

funeralprocession

Other pictures:

funeral procession funeral 5

The final picture at Sanhedria cemetery:

Rav Yosef is laid to rest in Sanhedria (picture source: www.vosizneias.com ).

Rav Yosef is laid to rest in Sanhedria (picture source: www.vosizneias.com).

Rabbi Haim Ovadia Yosef: may his memory be blessed.

 

 

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