The Year In Israel
By Max Fruchter
On Monday evening of October 7 (eve of 4 Cheshvan), an estimated 800,000 Jews gathered to mourn the tragic loss of one of the most revered Torah scholars of our time, Maran HaGaon Chacham Ovadia Yosef, zt’l. Venerated by all, Rav Ovadia was a world-renowned Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel whose wisdom and knowledge were appreciated by all and contested by none. The astonishing number of Jews present at his levayah bears testimony to the greatness of this tzaddik.
The news of Rav Ovadia’s passing traveled quickly, leaving the entirety of Israel in a state of turmoil and distress. Large groups of Jews could be seen making their way to the levayah on foot, by taxi, or by bus. As the hours passed and the levayah approached, the latter mode of transportation became less and less accessible. With no ability to foresee this inconvenience early on in the day, I waited patiently with many others at a bus stop directly outside of my Yeshiva in Bayit V’gan. As 15 minutes of waiting became 30, and 30 quickly doubled to an hour, the usual 10-minute interval between buses seemed nothing more than a hopeless desire. With the reality of this unsuitability settling in, the simple solution finally dawned on me: start walking.
Joining hundreds of others, I made my way to the levayah, with the sadness prevalent among all corroborated by the weeping children and adults I passed along the way. What astonished me most, however, was the sincerity displayed by such an enormous group of people for a man whom many had no close relationship with, if any relationship at all. Despite this seemingly essential element of having to know someone, to some reasonable degree, in order to mourn his passing, the people of Israel tore their clothing and cried out in sorrow for one of the greatest rabbanim of our time–a rav whom many, such as myself, unfortunately did not have the opportunity to meet.
That evening, as I managed to squeeze into a crowd of thousands of Jews bustling to get within earshot of those eulogizing Rav Ovadia, the severity of our loss truly hit me. I myself was incredulous over the magnitude of the assembly, only able to grasp its immensity in the following days. For anyone absent from this gathering, it must be unfathomable. Rabbanim recalled the levayah as “the largest levayah ever to be held in Israel,” not to mention the honor provided by Jews outside of Israel. In the following days, communities throughout the world expressed their reverence and admiration for the brilliant and pious rav, in the form of lectures, visual compilations of his life, open forums, and other events.
What is incomprehensible to me is how much one man could and did achieve in his lifetime. The amount of knowledge he absorbed, built upon, and subsequently dispersed throughout the world is quite a thought.
As I returned to my yeshiva that night, all of the faces running towards the levayah breezed through my mind in one quick image. Some wore black and white; others, jeans and a polo shirt. Whether one knew him well or hardly at all, everyone would agree that a Jew who dedicated his 93 years in this world to growing in his Judaic beliefs and sharing them to one and all would surely bask in happiness at the thought of such an eclectic group of Jews gathering to honor the life of a fellow Jew. v
Max Fruchter, a recent graduate of DRS Yeshiva High School in the Five Towns, is now attending yeshiva in Jerusalem.