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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #138 - 10/13
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Eli Dahan

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Saying goodbye to Rabbi Obadiah

October 7th, 2013, Jerusalem, Israel - more than 850,000 people came from every corner of Israel to say goodbye to one of the greatest rabbis in the history of the Jewish people, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef - רַבִּי עוֹבַדְיָה יוֹסֵף.

Saying goodbye to Elijah

Rabbi Ovadiah spent 93 years in this world. For me and thousands of others, it seems he will continue to live on forever in our hearts. The souls of many Jewish people wept on this day and many of them quoted a famous verse from 2 Kings about the separation of Elijah from Elisha:

 

"As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.  Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces."(2 Kings 2:11-12)

"וַיְהִי, הֵמָּה הֹלְכִים הָלוֹךְ וְדַבֵּר, וְהִנֵּה רֶכֶב-אֵשׁ וְסוּסֵי אֵשׁ, וַיַּפְרִדוּ בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם; וַיַּעַל אֵלִיָּהוּ בַּסְעָרָה הַשָּׁמָיִםוֶאֱלִישָׁע רֹאֶה וְהוּא מְצַעֵק אָבִי אָבִי רֶכֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל וּפָרָשָׁיו, וְלֹא רָאָהוּ, עוֹד; וַיַּחֲזֵק, בִּבְגָדָיו, וַיִּקְרָעֵם, לִשְׁנַיִם קְרָעִים"

For so many, Rabbi Yosef was a spiritual father. At his funeral almost 15% of the Jewish population in Israel (which is a little more than six million people these days)  cried out the name above (Avi Avi, father of fathers), a name that usually refers to God.

What can I tell you about Rabbi Ovadiah? There’s just so much to say. I will share with you a few anecdotes from his life to give you a picture of how great a man he was. In Rabbi Yosef’s library there were more than 10,000 books. On one occasion when he needed one of them, he asked one of his assistants to bring the book to him, even though he knew by heart anything that was written on any page of every book he owned.

We all know the priestly blessing, one of the few remnants from the first Temple period until today. From Biblical times until today, it has been understood that if a Jew were to “lose their faith” that they could no longer utter this blessing. However, in the 20th century many Jews people became much less religious, so Rabbi Ovadiah suggested that they could say these words in the synagogue -

"יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ

 יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

 יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם." 

"The Lord blesses you, and keeps you; The Lord makes His face shine on you,And be gracious to you;The Lord lifts up His countenance on you,And gives you peace.’"(Numbers 6:24-26)

 

Rabbi Ovadiah permitted them to say this blessing and suggested that in this generation it's better that they say it there rather than the blessing not being recited at all. He said this even though he disagreed with their conduct, wishing they would be more observant, he understood that in this case "the house of Hillel" was a better option than "the house of Shamai.”

Rabbi Ovadiah helped many Yom Kippur war widows, whose husbands’ bodies were never recovered for burial, change their status from that of an agunah, a "chained woman" to that a free woman who could freely remarry.

When a Jew dies we recite the words that Abigail, David’s wife, used once when she tried to stop David from killing her evil husband, as written:

"…then the soul/life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living…"

"...וְהָיְתָה נֶפֶשׁ אֲדֹנִי צְרוּרָה בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים"

The “bundle” of Rabbi Ovadiah was an incredible human being, filled with knowledge, courage and modesty, whose legacy serves as a light unto the nations in this complicated life that we lead today. This newsletter is dedicated to him and I only wish that my words clearly describe the pain and sorrow that many people in Israel and worldwide, myself included, feel right now.

May we all have a peaceful week and may we not forget that to Torah is a gift for us all to enjoy and savor, every day and every night. For me, this is Rabbi Ovadiah’s legacy.

Eli

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

English

Transliteration

Hebrew

Modesty

tsənî'ût

צְנִיעוּת

Bundle

tsərôr

צְרוֹר

Permission

hettēr

הֶתֵּר

Rabbi

rabbî

רַבִּי

Sorrow

'etsev

עֶצֶב

Population

'uchlûsiyyāh

אֻכְלוּסִיָּה

Funeral

halvāyāh

הַלְוָיָה

 
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