Rabbi Azaria Basis, the rabbi of Rosh HaAyin, was brought to rest on Tuesday at the age of 74. The rav, who was born in Rada, Yemen, made aliyah during Operation Magic Carpet and was active throughout his life in preserving Yemenite Jewry’s traditions and customs against ignorance, forgetfulness, and deliberate attempts at making them forget.
When he taught the story of the Exodus from Egypt, he dwelled on the moment the Israelites sang at the splitting of the Red Sea: “Zeh Keli v’anveihu, elokei avi va’aromemenhu – He is my G-d, and I will praise him; my father’s G-d, and I will exalt him.”
This famous verse is made up of two parts, he explained. G-d must first of all be yours, “He is my G-d.” A person cannot just count on his fathers’ merits and pedigree. He must learn, develop, toil, and attain a personal experience.
You cannot simply be satisfied with the second part of the verse, “my father’s G-d,” and say that your fathers were righteous and not do anything on your own. Even if you come from a glorious dynasty, you must find your own part, by yourself.
In an era when many are satisfied with saying, “My grandfather was a rabbi,” he asked: “And what about you? And what about your grandson?”