Rav Ovadia Yosef זצוק"ל
I was going to post a bunch of links as I often do when a great Torah leader passes away. But there is no point as all the Jewish news sites are filled with links, pictures, and videos galore.
I called the Tehillim hotline very late last night to offer my prayers and recited many chapters of Tehillim, hoping against hope that his condition would improve. But alas, our prayers would be used elsewhere and would not be used for Rav Ovadia ZT"L. After reading the bitter news this morning when I awoke, I was devastated along with the rest of Am Yisrael. Our nation has lost its captain.
I spent the last few hours listening to the funeral and crying. There are no words to describe the enormity of the loss we have just experienced. But the entire religious spectrum of Jews - and a good percentage of non-religious Jews - realizes it. This is shown by the fact that 800,000(!!!) people attended his funeral. That is a full 10% of the country. Kol Berama and Kikar put the figure at 1,000,000. I'm sure many were turned away too due to the enormous crowd. [See update below.]
אין תמורתו - he cannot be replaced. However, we can keep his legacy alive by doing what he loved doing: intensely learning Torah. Torah was the love of his life. You can see it in his Sefarim that he wrote and you can ask anyone who knew him well.
Rav Pinchos Lipschutz, in his most recent article, wrote:
Rav Ovadiah Yosef is known for his prodigious memory, yet, apparently, not everything came easily to him. When a yungerman, who was learning Maseches Bava Kama, asked him for advice on how to remember his learning, Rav Ovadiah told him to open the Gemara to daf 77a, which has only two lines of Gemara and one long Tosafos which fills the rest of the page. Rav Ovadiah proceeded to recite the Tosafos word for word by heart. The yungerman was puzzled. How was this to impart to him the secret of retentive learning? Rav Ovadiah then revealed it to him.That's but one thing we can take away from his life.
“I learned this Tosafos 200 times!” he declared. “Now tell me, after doing that, is there any way I could not know it by heart?”
One who constructs for himself a teivah of Torah and dedicates his life to its study and observance becomes blessed not only with unforgettable knowledge, but also with the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership for which Rav Ovadiah has earned international and eternal fame as a beacon of light.
Another lesson we can learn is that his concern for the less fortunate was legendary. Whether it came to his concern for the poor as the leader of Shas or his ability to free every single one of the Agunot of the Yom Kippur War, all exemplify his almost unparalleled care and concern for all of Kelal Yisrael. When his son became the current Rishon Letzion, he implored him with the task of taking care of the less fortunate, including the Agunot. At the funeral, if I understood this correctly, I believe Rav Aryeh Deri mentioned that many years ago, Rav Ovadia ZT"L didn't want to go to the hospital for chest pains since he was in the middle of writing a heter for an Aguna. He was more concerned about the Aguna than his chest pains.
What measures of dedication! How can we replace such a soul? We cannot. All we can do and should do is try to emulate him.
Many commenters have said that he is from a previous generation of Gedolim. He was given to us as a gift. We were blessed to have him in our generation.
In the YWN live blog, they note the following (emphasis mine):
10:00PM IL: While final numbers are not in, Israel Police are already calling tonight’s levaya the largest in the history of the State of Israel. Some are pointing out about 1 in every 10 residents of the nation is in attendance. YWN notes that this is the largest Levaya in Jewish recorded history.