In 1995, I attended the funeral of the great Torah sage of Israel Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. An estimated 300,000 attended. I thought there would never be another funeral like it.
Tonight, I participated in the funeral of the great Sephardic Torah sage Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. Police estimate that 600,000 people attended. Can you imagine one tenth of the population of a country attending a funeral? One tenth of Israel’s Jews made their way to Jerusalem to pay respects to one of the greatest Torah sages of the generation.
Rabbi Auerbach was a Rabbi of yeshivas, of learners of Torah. Rabbi Ovadiah touched the common man - the working class. While his Torah writings and halachic decisions are studied in every yeshiva in the world, he spoke to “amcha” – the people on the street.
That’s why amcha came out this evening to attend his funeral alongside all the yeshivas which emptied out to honor Rabbi Ovadiah’s last journey to his final place of rest.
One of his sons told the following story:
“When Abba (Dad) was 79-years-old, he suffered his first heart attack.