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Reflections After The Petira Of Rav Ovadia Yosef ZATZAL

resized_DSC_8339Perhaps it is because I am still in shock from yesterday that I find myself penning my thoughts after the Petirah of the Great Torah Giant, HaRav Ovadia Yosef Zichrono Livracha. During his life he had larger than life personality. His greatness was peppered by controversy. Despite multiple obstacles, he was able to reach so many different goals, to achieve so much in his life. He was always on the move, striving for great accomplishments. The number of Sforim he wrote alone represents a signal accomplishment. All his writing was done while he held other full time positions and gave multiple shiurim on the side. He filled his life with more hours of accomplishments than the total number of hours in his life. This was the great man Am-Yisroel lost yesterday.

There is no doubt that upon Rav Ovadia Yosef’s petira there is a vacuum in the world. Someone of such magnitude and with so much influence is a persona that cannot go away without leaving a gaping hole.

Somebody once argued that when we celebratize our Gedolim we are essentially making them out to be larger than life. By doing so, this person claimed, we turn them into something none of us will ever be. There is a point to this argument, but the argument misses the point. What makes someone a Gadol?

Most religious Jews are good Jews. They fulfill the Torah’s Mitzvos and fear Hashem. Nonetheless most Jews aren’t ‘Gedolim’. They are, simply put, ‘Good Jews’. What is it that makes the difference between ‘Gedolim’ and ‘Good Jews’? after all aren’t they both fulfilling retzon Hashem?

Being a good Jew only demands that we do our best to do whatever Mitzvos we can. It doesn’t demand from us to transcend the boundaries of time. For example one should spend as much time as one can in Torah study, but that only means the time that everyone has. If one needs to fulfill Mitzvos and to do work, it won’t leave a lot of time for learning. Being a Gadol does require someone to transcend the boundaries of the norm. To be a ‘Gadol’ means to be larger than life.

Rav Ovadia Zichrono Livracha was larger than life. He accomplished more than time allowed. The question is: was he more than human, or did he just somehow know how to do more than possible?

The answer is the latter. Rav Ovadia Yosef did, did, and did. The secret was he kept up the momentum. He went from shiur to job and from job to shiur. He wrote whenever he could and he spent all the rest of his time learning. This is how he wrote so many Seforim. This is how he built shuls, schools and mikvaos. This is how he learned practically every sefer ever published.

We can all be inspired by the Gadol we just lost. We can all go in his motto of: do, do, and do. It is more than likely that none of us will actually reach the same heights of greatness as he did, but together we can definitely somewhat at least fill the vacuum.

Last night’s Levaya was a Kiddush Hashem. May we be Zoche to yet an even bigger levaya. To the levaya following Hashem’s shechting the Satan.

Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski

Rabbi Krakowski is the Rov Hamachshir for OU Kashrus in Eretz-Yisroel. He served as Rov of Kehilas Torah Vechssed. Rabbi Krakowski is a posek and Motz in Rechavia and Shaarei Chesed neighborhoods of Yerushalyim. Rabbi Krakowski learned in Beis Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore, Shaar HaTorah Grodna in Queens, South Fallsburg, and Brisk.

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