Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ZT”L
(Translation of what was written in Hebrew by his grandson, Rav Yaakov Sasson, who compiles the halachot for the Halacha Yomit website)
Together with all our brethren of the house of Israel, we are mourning the passing of Maran our father our king – the greatest of the giants – Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, הרינו כפרת משכבו, for besides all his great deeds, the Halacha Yomit project was established in his merit.
It is hard for us to write in this difficult hour, but nevertheless, we will write a little bit of what our heart feels after the awful day that just transpired.
Our rabbis said in the gemara (Rosh Hashana 18b) “The death of the righteous is equal to the burning of the house of our G-d.” In other words, it is as hard for us when a righteous person passes as the day that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. In the Midrash, it is brought down that it is ever harder than when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed.
Normally, when great leaders of the generation pass away, we should try to give various explanations in order to explain the matter. What is the great implication of the passing of the righteous? Did we think that they would live forever?! Especially those that already merited to live a long life and reached old age, did we think that they would live forever?!
However, really, regarding Maran Rabeinu ZT”L, there is no difficulty understanding the matter [of why we give explanations]. This is because we would not exaggerate if we would say that in all the generations of the world, there has never been a tragedy as great as this like the passing of Rabbeinu. This is because in previous generations, when a great leader passes away, he left over someone who was close in stature to him. When Moshe Rabbeinu passed away, he left Yehoshua after him, and so on and so forth. With all the decline in stature throughout the generations, nevertheless, there was at least someone close to the greatness of the great leader who had passed.
However, in our numerous sins right now, when the light of our eyes was removed from us, being that he was the giant of the giants, we were really left as spiritual orphans, and the phrase “שוטטנו בארבע פנות תרופה לא מצאנו
” (we have wandered in the four corners of the earth and have not found a cure) has been fulfilled in us. We are not merely mourning the passing of our beloved rabbi, we are pained for our general status that we are left without him and we have no trusted shepherd, a man who possesses such a strong soul like our rabbi.
Besides the unparalleled greatness of Maran in Torah, a greatness that to a certain degree was not found like it for hundreds of years (and we have now lost it, causing us to be stricken doubly), but also in his special conduct, Maran ZT”L was special in his generation. He was great in Torah, humility, faith, and holiness. He was strong in his diligence in Torah study – for over 85 years, he was diligent in Torah with devoutness and yearning, while sometimes, his diligence was over and above what is humanly possible.
Still before Maran ZT”L became ill with his final illness, as was publicized, he suffered a stroke which left his left hand paralyzed. (This was caused by his concern for the public.) And definitely, any man in this situation would sink in pain as he lost his left hand. This is not true of Maran ZT”L, as when he returned from the hospital the day after the incident, and he was very weak, and he required various unusual treatments, he sat to learn Torah with real joy in good spirits, thankful to Hashem that the harm caused him was not more serious. This is how he sat diligently all the days of his life, even when he lost the sight in one eye and the hearing in one ear and the feeling in one hand, nevertheless, he diligently sat and wrote more and more, and learned Torah and added insights with joy and happiness. Fortunate is the generation that this righteous man was found in it, and woe is to the generation that his passing occurred in his days.
The Rav ZT”L was the strongest of the strong on one hand while on the other hand was as soft as a reed. When there was a need to knock on the skull of the world’s outlook or path, Maran would stand like a roaring lion and would stand with an abundance of strength against that outlook. And on the other hand, he would truly and completely be pained at the pain of Israel and at the pain of each individual. Not once or twice did we see him with tough men, the simplest of the simple, and sometimes even with those who were not mentally healthy, and he listened to their pain, cried with them, joined in their pain, and prayed for them.
Many times, when we came before him to request that he bless a certain man that has a problem, he immediately answered us that he is already praying for him every day and would immediately mention the name and the mother’s name of the one needing the salvation.
Whoever merited to know Maran ZT”L immediately would feel that he’s standing before a great man. (And as the President of Israel explained nicely on the day of the funeral in the words that he spoke that even though he wouldn’t be categorized as a “religious” man, nevertheless, he felt that Maran ZT”L was a great man. And we also saw this with the doctors at the hospital who showed great
honor for Maran and conducted themselves with him with real holy reverence even though they are not categorized as “religious”.) This greatness is unfortunately no longer with us.
The prayers of Maran (which stemmed from a heart that loved the entirety of Israel, and that were accepted in heaven like a servant who sinned before his master), Maran’s blessings for every ill person and for every barren woman, his encouragement for the broken and downtrodden, his saving the Agunot from the chains of Iggun with Mesirut Nefesh, all these and everything like it are no longer. We lost a beloved vessel
, "וי להאי שופרא דבלי בארעא
" (woe to that beauty that is worn into the ground).
Woe to us that we are broken, we are orphans without a father, our dejection is as great as the sea! Who will heal us?
All we can do is to accept upon ourselves to continue to go in the path of Maran ZT”L – to go in his path, to increase Torah in Israel, to increase the learning of Maran’s Torah, and to keep the Halacha according to all its details as our rabbi has bequeathed to us. And with the light of Maran that affected us, we should merit to affect great influence on the upcoming generations until Mashiah Tzidkenu and the resurrection of the dead, speedily in our days, Amen.