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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Funerals in Israel, Especially When a Sage Dies

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.

Jewish Press

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.

Baruch Dayan Ha'emet, Blessed is the True Judge

ב     עֵת לָלֶדֶת,        וְעֵת לָמוּת;
          עֵת לָטַעַת,        וְעֵת לַעֲקוֹר נָטוּעַ.
2 {S} A time to be born, {S} and a time to die; {N}
{S} a time to plant, {S} and a time to pluck up that which is planted; {N}
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 קֹהֶלֶת


anon said...

He was from Baghdad,Iraq not North Africa. He moved to Jerusalem at the age of 3.

Anonymous said...

the crowd behaved in a VERY unruly manner, not reverently. People were injured.

Speakers spoke of the man as being "un-replaceable".

This is cult of personality.

This is the true face of "Torah Judaism": North-Korea Lite.

This is the future of "Torah Judaism". Another Shabtai Tzvi.... waiting to happen.

The notzrim are not better, and the hilonim are not better. But they are also not worse.

Anonymous said...

i dont think this is a cult personality. some may have had very close contact with him or via relatives. its said, every jew born is a light to the world, yesterday a great luminary departed. within 24 hours!!!, its shocking such a statement is written. this is so unjewish. as for the crowd being unruly, the space was small and there must have been nudging and a bit of shoving. a vacuum has been left in the world. lets not pass judgement on anyone. least of all such a great tzaddik. the great sages would refrain from speaking ill of any fellow jew or non jew, unless its people like hitler.
people were not forced to attend his funeral. its shows the love and respect the jewish people have for their own.
May Hashem hold you to your words.

Batya said...

Anon, yes, but his many of his followers are of what's known as "North African" Jewry, which is a misnomer.

Anonymous, considering the amount of people, there were few injuries. The meaning of "un-replaceable" is like a parent. There's nothing cultish.

rainbow, thanks for understanding. Rav Ovadia influenced many and was accepted as an expert by Jews of all "stripes."