Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Lech Lecha/Hesped for R' Ovadia Yosef ztl

The following is a brief summary of some thoughts said over by R' Frand this evening. The vorts have some connection with the parsha, but were mostly geared towards being a hesped for R' Ovadia Yosef ztl. I have attempted to reproduce these thoughts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand began the parsha portion of this week's shiur by making reference to a pasuk in Bereishis 15:5 wherein Hashem tells Avraham to look at the sky and see the stars. The basic explanation for this direction is that Hashem is promising Avraham that his children will be numerous as the stars in the sky. However, R' Frand quoted Rabbeinu B'Chayei who explains that the direction to look at the stars was actually meant to advise Avraham that the same way that each star differs from all the other stars in the heavens, so too the Chachamim/Gedolei Yisrael are each unique and different from each other.

R' Frand then stated that this would be a proper vort to use as a starting point for the hesped of R' Ovadia Yosef ztl. But before beginning the hesped, R' Frand gave an interesting introduction. R' Frand noted that times have changed. No longer when a person visits his doctor, does the doctor take notes and a history on a pad. When taking clothes into the dry cleaner, the dry cleaner no longer uses carbon paper. When a car has problems, it is taken to a mechanic who hooks up a diagnostic tool to see the problem.

R' Frand remarked that now when he prepares his shiur, he makes reference to computerized collections of seforim. But before he had the computer programs, R' Frand had his own computer - the Yabia Omer, written by R' Ovadia Yosef. R' Frand said that when he used to prepare his shiurim in the pre-Bar Ilan library times, if he could find a reference in the Yabia Omer to the particular question, he knew that he would be OK. The two most important sources in the early days of the shiur were the Yabia Omer and the Tzitz Eliezer. Having given that introduction, R' Frand remarked that he and anyone who has ever come to his shiur and anyone who has ever listened to a tape of his shiur, are all talmidim of R' Ovadia Yosef, because R' Frand could not even count how many times he has referenced R' Ovadia Yosef.

R' Frand told a story about how years ago, there were only six volumes of the Yabia Omer, but R' Frand could only get the first and sixth volume. R' Frand tried and tried to get the complete set, but they were out of print. But a student in the yeshiva from Brazil had a complete set. So R' Frand sent the talmid down to a copy shop so that he could photocopy every page of those missing volumes. R' Frand said that he kept them in boxes so that he could refer to them, because they were so invaluable to him and no one had them. R' Frand remarked that the encyclopedic knowledge in these seforim was mind boggling.

R' Frand then stated that one could remark that the biggest talmid chacham in the world died this week. And whether you agreed with every psak is irrelevant, because everyone who learns halacha needs to be aware of R' Ovadia Yosef's psak.

R' Frand said that 32 years ago, R' Ovadia Yosef came to Baltimore to give a shiur. One of those attendees was R' Shternhill who was a great talmid chochum in his own right and a chassid who was anti-zionist. But when R' Ovadia Yosef came to Baltimore, R' Shternhill put this aside and went to see him, because R' Ovadia Yosef was a great talmid chochum. When they were introduced and one person told R' Ovadia Yosef that R' Shternhill was the author of a sefer, R' Ovadia Yosef knew of the sefer and was able to discuss one of the teshuvas with the author.

R' Frand next said that R' Ovadia Yosef was a transformative figure, much like the Ba'al Shem Tov, R' Yisrael Salanter and R' Aharon Kotler. R' Ovadia Yosef was a transformative figure because he transformed Israel by resuscitating Sephardic Jewry in Israel. Where the Yeshivos in Israel used to be all Ashkenaz, now there are tens of thousands of Sephardic boys learning. But more than that, R' Ovadia Yosef reached out to non-frum Sephardim as well. This is attested to by the fact that nearly 1 million people came to R' Ovadia Yosef's funeral - 15% of the Jews in the entire country came to the funeral.

R' Frand talked about how there was a live broadcast of the funeral and you could see that there were Ashkenazim and Sephardim, but also people who came who even did not wear kippot, because they felt connected to him. R' Frand said that everyone felt connected to R' Ovadia Yosef, because he cared for them and went to them, he gave them money and prayed for them. And they knew how he felt.

R' Frand told a story which had been said at the funeral. 14 years ago, R' Ovadia Yosef had suffered a heart attack and needed a bypass procedure. He told the doctors that he needed to go home for three hours before the surgery. Why? Because he was in the middle of writing a teshuva that would allow an agunah to remarry and he was concerned that if he did not make it through the surgery, the woman would be unable to remarry.

R' Frand then called R' Ovadia Yosef the father of the Sephardic world. He remarked that although there are sayings at funerals about how people have lost their crown, or the ship has lost its captain, this time it was true and not an exaggeration. Because this was a gadol who comes along once in three hundred years.

R' Frand closed by quoting from Koheles 12:9 and in so doing, R' Frand compared R' Ovadia to Shlomo HaMelech. The pasuk states that more than being wise, Koheles taught the people - he made the Torah accessible. R' Ovadia Yosef made the Torah accessible to the people and he listened and helped and assisted.

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