Good evening all...
On the second day of the week, the third day of the month of Heshvan, five thousand, seven hundred seventy-four years from the dawn of creation, a light went out in Israel. The former Sephardi chief rabbi, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, died today. He was 93.
Within the world of Jewish learning, we speak of gedolei hador, the giants of the generation. Rav Ovadiah, in the mind of many, was gedol gedolei hador, a giant amongst the giants.
I have had the privilege of reading some of what he has written. His halakhic (Jewish legal) writings show a depth of knowledge unparalleled in this world. In a Jewish society more and more dominated by stringencies, he fearlessly wrote leniencies in every area of Jewish law. In one famous case, he allowed testimony that would otherwise not stand the test of Jewish law in order to free women whose husbands had disappeared in war.
He was also one of the few who had command of sources in both Jewish worlds. While he was clearly a Sephardi, his writings often ended with a statement about the customs amongst the Ashkenazim. Too many rabbis in either community ignore the goings-on in the other community. He did not do that.
He has been cited at least once in this blog.
Rav Ovadiah certainly had a couple of times when perhaps he might have followed a model of silence instead of a model of speaking. Nonetheless, over 800,000 people, fully 10% of Israeli society, crowded the streets of Jerusalem for his funeral today.
May we all seek to have a teaspoon of the amount of knowledge he had, and may his memory be for a blessing.