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The Radiance of Maran HaRav Ovadiah Yosef

There are few Rabbis whom we can say truly made Torah their one and only occupation in life. One of them was, without a doubt, HaRav Ovadiahh Yosef, who’s also one of the most beloved figures of modern Sephardic Jewry.

It’s particularly difficult to understand how much he attained. One of the reasons because it’s hard to find Rabbis that had the entire Torah in their hands. Maran Ovadiahh was certainly one of them, knowing about 40.000 books by heart. This happened when a certain reporter wrote he was losing his memory and was called to Maran’s apartment, filled to the brim with bookshelves. He was then challenged to pick up any of them and start reading so that the great Rabbi would continue by heart, without assistance.

Maran Ovadiahh was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1920 and in 1947 was invited to serve as teacher in the yeshiva of Rabbi Aharon Choueka, in Cairo, Egypt. Because of his firms stance to fix the broken Kashrut system, he left back to Eretz Yisrael and in 1973 he was appointed Rishon L’Tzion.

From a very early age, it was almost impossible to find a moment when Maran Ovadiah was not learning from a book. It doesn’t matter if he was going to school, eating his lunch or in his old age, holding a baby during brit milah, waiting or travelling. Every free second was spent learning Torah and that’s how he grew to be one of the leading halachic authorities of modern Israel. Learning Torah during the meals is also extremely beneficial, according to the Zohar, as that helps elevate the Neshama of the souls that were reincarnated in the food.

But he also cared deeply about every single Jew and left no stone unturned in Halacha to help them out. When he participated in a celebration to give Semicha (rabbinic ordination) to a close friend, he firmly remarked “I’m giving you this in order that you find leniencies, not stringencies for other Jews”.

There truly is no shortage of stories that illustrate how much Torah meant for Maran Ovadiah. In one instance, he underwent laparoscopy without anesthesia due to his advanced age. Instead, he learned the Talmud throughout the surgery without feeling anything, to the doctors’ astonishment. When he fell from the ladder of his house and broke his hip, he kept learning on the floor until morning. His son was shocked to see his holy father laying there with a book and asked why he didn’t call anyone. The answer was “I tried calling but no one answered, so what else was I supposed to do? I just kept learning!”.

The Jew who buried the soaps

There once was a certain Jew who succeeded in making a living well after the Holocaust. He was not particularly a distinguished individual but learned that a certain individual was selling soaps made out of people who died in the Holocaust. For whatever reason, something compelled him to buy as many soaps as he could and give them a proper burial. It happened that once, he had an opportunity to meet Maran Ovadiah who promptly asked him “You smell like Gan Eden. What did you do to deserve that?”.

Shocked, the man wished to deflect and reply that he did other things like giving tzedakah and praying, but Maran kept insisting. Finally, the man was forced to reveal his amazing feat, and Maran Ovadiah said “that explains why these souls came to you”.

The Kabbalah behind it

We see here a very deep secret. A person submerged in Torah receives many different powers, one of which is the capacity to see, hear and even smell from the supernal realms. His entire body receives a Supernal Light, as R’ Chaim Vital writes in Sha’arei Kedusha and, provided the person continues strong on his path, he can become like an angel.

The above story also helps us understand what the Sha’ar HaGilgulim from R’ Chaim Vital, which writes that sometimes souls can come down to help a person in what is called Ibbur (pregnancy). These souls can come then, not only when someone does a certain ritual that the soul used to do, but also when he actively benefits that soul!

We see also that when a person dissociates himself from the allures of this world, he is able to learn Torah probably, and remember it.

In Maran Ovadiah’s funeral, an estimated million people attended. Literally one sixth of the whole country of Israel stopped to pay their last respects to this great Torah sage who continues to illuminate Sephardic Jews with his rulings. May we follow his path and his memory be for a blessing!

This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!

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