HaRav Ovadia Yosef, ZaTza”L considered one of the greatest rabbis, experts in Torah, passed away yesterday at the age of 93. He had been suffering from extremely complicated medical problems of late. His followers had been praying for a miraculous recovery, but even the great sages are human and human bodies are frail.
Yesterday before I left for work, just after 1pm, the Israeli television news was a direct hook-up to the hospital where HaRav Ovadia was being treated. There was a split-screen. On the left were clips of the rabbi with all sorts of people, mostly when he was much younger. And on the right we saw the hospital corridor where dozens or hundreds of people were milling around waiting for news.
Soon after I got to work, Yafiz (of the Rami Levy company.), in Sha’ar Binyamin, I was told that we would be closing at 5:30pm because of the death of Rav Ovadia. The head of the company didn’t think it would be proper for us to be selling clothes when the great rabbi was being buried. I double-checked with the head office and our store manager, since the store was full of customers, and the Rami Levy Discount Supermarket was to remain open as usual. Apparently, it was different at the headquarters in Givat Shaul, near the Rabbi’s neighborhood of Har Nof. In the end we were given instructions to keep the store opened.
In all honesty, personally, I never had any direct contact with HaRav Ovadia, but I know of people who had. And considering all of his followers, he must have been amazing. HaRav Ovadia was Sephardic, from North Africa, but he had Ashkenazi followers too. And his followers turned him into a large charismatic group and successful Israeli political party, school system and more.
The Jewish custom is to have a quick burial. The body isn’t supposed to suffer waiting to enter the earth. Considering that a “quick burial” means not much notice, you’d be amazed at the size of Israeli funerals, even for ordinary people. Here in Shiloh you can have dozens or hundreds of people at the funeral of a neighbor’s parent or a young child. The estimated size of Rav Ovadia’s funeral is close to a million people, at least 800,000.
No doubt many businesses closed for the funeral, and I received reports that many schools took their students to the funeral. And these weren’t all schools that Rav Ovadia’s supporters had opened. Israeli culture isn’t afraid to go to funerals and cemeteries. It’s not considered just places for grown-ups.
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About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.
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