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 Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge

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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:20 am

Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge

It is no blessing for me to begin this New Year by posting the announcement that Rav Ovadiah Yosef, of saintly and blessed memory, left the world today, the 3rd day of the month Cheshvan (7 October 2013). It is especially difficult since in three more days it'll be the 35th anniversary of my coming to live in Israel. On the other hand, my years in Israel have deepened within me the understanding and comprehension of just how valuable Torah study is for the entirety of Am Yisrael and all of Creation and just how precious are the giants of the Torah.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef, of saintly and blessed memory, is one of these Torah giants. It is impossible to even begin to describe who and what these Torah giants are, and the only ones who even have a possibility of doing so are their own peers. It goes without saying that there aren't many peers for Rav Ovadiah Yosef, just at it goes without saying that I am abysmally incapable of saying anything that would approach being able to give over some essence of Rav Ovadiah.

The sole thing that I can say is that Rav Ovadiah was very, very positive regarding Gerim, so much so that he even traveled to NYC to plead with the Syrian Jewish Community to accept someone for conversion - the same Syrian Jewish Community who does not convert anyone. So great is the Syrian Community's respect for Rav Ovadiah that they acquiesced to his request and converted the person.

Most greatly, Rav Ovadiah's contributions to the rebuilding and sustaining of the Sephardic Jewish community and the reestablishing and sustaining of the prominence of Torah learning in the Sephardic community and his openness in receiving and returning so many Jews to being Jews are a measure of some of his great merit. It goes without saying his loss is a great loss for all of Am Yisrael, and our prayers are that the Holy One will console us and recognize that we need more Jews like him to lead us.

During the shiva, the seven-day period of intense mourning, when we console mourners as we depart from them we say, “המקום ינחם אתכם אתכם בתוך שארי אבילי ציון וירושלים” - “HaMakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sharei aveili Zion v'Yerushalayim.” The Place [of the World] will comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. In these lines, God isn't referred to directly, only as 'HaMakom', literally 'The Place', but the understanding is that God is The Place of all Existence, or, if we prefer, 'the Ground of All Being'.

The Hebrew word 'מקום' - 'makom' means place in normal way that we use it, just as by extension it carries the meaning of 'the place a person makes in life'. In this light, then, when 'hamakom' – 'the place' that a person makes in life is a 'makom laMakom' – a 'place for God', the result is that what we say to a mourner acquires a double meaning. One is that 'HaMakom' – The Place [of the World] will comfort, and the second is that 'hamakom laMakom' – the 'place that the person made for HaMakom' will also comfort, i.e. he of she made a life that of itself brings comfort to us.

When someone like Rav Ovadiah leaves this world, we are all mourners. May we all be comforted by 'HaMakom' and by 'hamakom laMakom' that Rav Ovadiah created with his life.

Daniel Eliezer
3 Cheshvan 5774
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:02 pm

I want to add a few comments regarding things you can't and won't know.

Rav Ovadiah, of sacred and blessed memory, left the world this afternoon around 1:00 p.m. Because of the sacredness of Jerusalem, people are buried the same day that they die, excepting when there are extenuating circumstances. When someone dies later or late in the day, then the leviah (funeral) takes place at night in order that the tumah, the impurity caused by a dead body, doesn't reside overnight in Jerusalem.

The word 'leviah' means 'accompanying', and it's intention is that we literally accompany someone who has died on this his or her last journey. Of all the mitzvot (commandments) we have, burying someone is the single one which called a 'Torah shel emet', 'true Torah'. The reason that it is is because there can never be any recompense for us from the one who's died.
In Jerusalem, it's customary to accompany the hearse on foot when possible, and for Torah personalities this is the rule, even when there is considerable walking to do. Rav Ovadiah's leviah began to be organized around one in the afternoon and at six or so in the evening (5 hrs. later) the eulogies commenced.

When important Torah personalities leave the world, the custom is to eulogize them at the yeshiva where they studied or of which they were the rosh yeshiva, the head of the yeshiva. Since Rav Ovadiah learned at the Porath Yosef yeshiva in the Geulah neighborhood of Jerusalem, the leviah began there, and his burial was in the Sanhedria cemetery in the Sanhedria neighborhood of Jerusalem, about a kilometer away.

There were an estimated 750,000 people at Rav Ovadiah's leviah (I was there), people who in the short span of 5+ hours came from all over Israel to accompany this great man on his last journey. Had it been possible to delay the burial a day or even several days, there is no doubt that masses of Jews would have arrived from the Diaspora for the leviah. Such is Rav Ovadiah.

Maybe some of us have visited Israel and Jerusalem and know the city a little, but for those of us who don't let me say this. As cities go, Jerusalem is on the provincial side and definitely not a sprawling metropolis that we envision international cities to be. Additionally, the older neighborhoods of Jerusalem were built prior to statehood and afterward, during years when everything was a veritable struggle for existence, both physical and livelihood Streets are narrow, neighborhoods predominantly religious, which means ultra-Orthodox, and when even a moderately large crowd gathers it more-or-less brings things to a standstill. In not even knowing that 750,000 would attend, by 2:00 p.m. the police had nevertheless closed a major portion of the city to private vehicles, including main entrance arteries.

When the eulogies ended at 8:00 p.m. I left, not wanting to wait to the end of the leviah which I knew would be late. Because of all the traffic problems caused by the parking of cars and buses on highways and every which where people could, leaving themselves to walk long distances to get to the leviah, I didn't arrive home until 10:30 p.m. My wife was watching the leviah on the Internet, and the hearse had only then just reached the cemetery!? The one kilometer distance had taken 2 ½ hours to walk. That's how packed the streets were with people who wanted to accompany Rav Ovadiah on his last journey.

The following links are some pictures from the news media. The 1st is mid-afternoon and already streets are mobbed. The 2nd is very late in the day at the start of the eulogies. 3-5 are pictures of the crowds while they were accompanying Rav Ovadiah on his last journey.

(1)[http://images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer3/2013/10/07/4900992/49009750990100640360no.jpg]

(2)[http://images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer3/2013/10/07/4901581/49015630991599640360no.jpg]

(3)[http://images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer3/2013/10/07/4901341/49013340100999640360no.jpg]

(4)[http://images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer3/2013/10/07/4901241/49012310990100640360no.jpg]

(5)[http://images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer3/2013/10/07/4901227/49011770993673640360no.jpg]

In closing, I want to say this. We don't...and I include even me for whom it has taken 36 ½ years of being a Ger and Jew to glean even this much understanding...we don't begin to comprehend what it means to be a Torah giant like Rav Ovadiah Yosef, of saintly and blessed memory, or of what it means to literally commit one's entire life to Torah. And if these are true, we absolutely have no means of comprehending how the lives of Torah giants affect and effect our existence.

The overwhelming majority of what God does for us is hidden from our eyes, but for those who struggle with their entire being to reach God he opens their eyes to the good they are capable of doing and of how much it is so genuinely needed and demanded in Creation. We have probably all heard the expression 'b'chirat hofshit', 'free will', i.e. being free to chose one's destiny. For those who totally commit themselves to God, they lose their 'free will', because once they reach that level their only desire is to do 'God's will'. This is as totally inexplicable as it is totally true. We cannot begin to be grateful enough that people like these - like Rav Ovadiah - 'exist for us'.

May Rav Ovadiah's name and memory forever be a blessing.

Daniel Eliezer
4 Cheshvan 5774
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:28 pm

Thank you for your moving text, Daniel. I don't really know what Jews say when somebody has passed...Personally, I'd express my hope he will go back into the endless light. Which I wish unto him, while hoping it isn't offensive.

I  read about rav Ovadiah, but I don't know much about him. But on a Dutch newssite I found these pictures, for those who are interested: http://www.nrc.nl/inbeeld/2013/10/08/diepe-rouw-in-jeruzalem-na-dood-rabbijn-yosef/
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Wed Oct 09, 2013 2:03 pm

Salvia,

What many...and maybe even most...people aren't aware of is that there are two aspects to when someone leaves this world.

The first of these is the niftar, the deceased, who is leaving this world, because his or her leaving isn't completed until the kever, the grave, is closed. From when the person dies until the grave is finally closed, everything is for the sake of the niftar, the deceased. As crazy as it may sound, there literally isn't yet even any official status of mourning, not for the specific relatives who are halachically declared mourners nor for everyone else who feels the loss.

This brings us to the second aspect aveilut, mourning. Aveilut is a mitzvah which applies to seven specific categories/people: son(s) & daughter(s), brother(s) & sister(s), father & mother, spouse. These seven are the only ones who are and who can be aveilim, halachic mourners, and it is these seven people who will observe shiva, the seven days of intense mourning. During shiva the halachic status and obligations of all seven categories/people are identical, and when shiva ends they remain so until the end of shloshim, the first 30 days of mourning, has passed. After shloshim has ended, mourning stops for all the aveilim, except for sons and daughters. Sons and daughters remain aveilim for an entire year until the first Yahrzeit, the Hebrew date when the niftar left this world. In practice, in merit of their parents, sons and daughters get up from strictures of aveilut, mourning, in the eleventh month, but it is only on the Yahrzeit when all vestiges of aveilut are removed.

We've explained all this so that we can understand that consoling aveilim, mourners, doesn't officially commence until they are officially mourners, and this status begins (barring extenuating and exceptional circumstances) when they leave the grave . Once the grave is closed and the Kaddish and Kel Moed Rachamim prayers are said, the aveilim remain at the kever, grave, while all non-mourners leave to some place outside the burial area (where depends upon physical circumstances) and form two parallel lines between which the aveilim must walk. As they approach the place where you are standing and are passing you, you say: “המקום ינחם אתכם אתכם בתוך שארי אבילי ציון וירושלים” - “HaMakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sharei aveili Zion v'Yerushalayim.” The Place [of the World] will comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

In the religious world, this is, of course, ritual, but of itself it is comforting because you are not left in abandonment of your grief. From the cemetery the aveilim and close relatives and friends go to where the aveilim will be sitting shiva, preferably the home of the deceased, i.e. the place he or she made in this world, and for seven days the aveilim will sit there receiving mourners. All who come to console, when they depart from the aveilim they will speak the same sentence that is spoken when the aveilim left the cemetery.

This is what is standard in the Ashkenazi community. Obviously mourning will be affected by many factors. The purpose of mourning and consoling mourners is to speak about the deceased or to sit in respectful silence if the mourners are incapable of speaking. Grief IS supposed to touch them and to touch us, too. Aveilut and being an avel [sing.], mourner, is meant to be cathartic, meant to bring out grief and all that's involved in it. In today's world, we are tremendously estranged from ourselves and from each other, and we have little capacity for those aspects of life that can only be intimate. What often passes in practice for mourning today, even in the religious world, is better left unsaid. May we blessed to have the courage to be true consolers and comforters or true mourners when the time comes, should God decree.

I'll close with this story. A woman I know from my days in NYC is the wife of one of the rabbaim on my beit din for conversion. She grew up Orthodox religious, and she is an only child. She tells, “When my father left this world, I didn't want to sit shiva. I didn't want all sorts of people coming to talk with me; I wanted to be encapsulated in my grief and agony and emotions. Of course I could not 'not sit shiva', and I sat shiva. I am so very, very grateful that I did. Not only family and friends and neighbors came to console and comfort me, but people whom I never knew existed literally came out of the woodwork to tell me about my father. Sitting shiva taught me what shiva means, taught me what it means to me, and taught me what it means to my father. People came because of him to console and comfort me.”

Daniel Eliezer
6 Cheshvan 5774
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Wed Oct 09, 2013 2:19 pm

Thank you very much Daniel, for your explanation. It is a great answer to my question.
I can imagine the importance of sitting shiva. In my family we have the habit of, when a dear one dies, to sit together the same evening and have a drink and talk about the deceased and everything we have been through together with this loved one. It is consoling to be together in the first phase of mourning and to talk of memories... Being alone at such a time is not advisable, however tempting it may seem.
The Jewish ritual is beautiful....as all Jewish rituals seem to be. They make sense.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Baruch HaDayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge   Wed Oct 09, 2013 2:57 pm

Things I admired about Rav Ovadiah Yosef:
He wasn't afraid to rule leniently. He engendered increased respect for Sephardic traditions and practices. And as mentioned by Daniel Eliezer, he had a positive attitude toward conversion and converts.

Of interest to me was Rav Ovadiah's ruling regarding the daughter of a woman who had converted with a Conservative beit din. The daughter had become Orthodox and undergone a "Giyur leChumra" (a kind of "just to be sure" conversion) and wanted to marry a Cohen which would be forbidden if she was not a legitimate "Jew by birth" since traditionally a Cohen is not allowed to marry a convert. Rav Ovadiah did not simply dismiss the mother's conversion as invalid due to the non-Orthodox affiliations of the members of the beit din (which is a typical response by most Orthodox rabbis), but rather investigated the case carefully and concluded that the mother's conversion was valid and that the daughter was therefore born as a Jew and eligible to marry a Cohen. This case was discussed on the old JBC website in which someone provided a scanned version of the original ruling which was in Hebrew of course, and a Conservative rabbinical student translated part of it. [In general, Rav Ovadiah had rather harsh things to say about Conservative Jews and their institutions, but I see that in light of the fact that many Sephardic communities are simply more inclusive with respect to a range of observance so that they do not have the same issues of non-Orthodox Jews who are excluded from frum Ashkenazi communities.]
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