YERUSHALAYIM - Tens of thousands of people participated in the levayah of Harav Yaakov Yosef, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Chazon Yaakov and Rav of the Givat Moshe neighborhood in Yerushalayim.
Harav Yosef, the son of, ybl”c, Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef, shlita, passed away after an illness at the age of 67. His students and admirers bemoaned the loss of a tremendous talmid chacham, who toiled in his own learning and taught others, in the prime of his life. They also expressed deep sympathy and condolences for his esteemed father, who is the Rosh Moetzes Chachmei HaTorah and the leader of Sephardic Jewry, on the painful loss.
The news of his passing late Friday afternoon spread quickly, and masses gathered at the Boruchov Shul, where Rav Yosef was Rav, from where the levayah departed to Har Hamenuchos. Harav Ovadia Yosef instructed that only those who planned to be in Yerushalayim for Shabbos should attend the levayah so that they will not risk desecrating Shabbos, chalilah, to return home in time.
The levayah began with the recital of Tehillim. Hespedim were delivered by Chief Rabbi Harav Shlomo Amar and Harav Eliyahu Bakshi Doron. Harav Yaakov Ades began his hesped with Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim and the Thirteen Middos of Rachamim, and then said that Rav Yaakov Yosef had asked him to announce two things before the stimas hagolel.
The first was that, since many in the National Religious community considered themselves his disciples, he wanted to make it clear that there is an absolute prohibition against girls joining national service in any form. He cited a letter from the Steipler Gaon, Harav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zt”l, on the subject.
The second point was that as a result of the painful saga in Emmanuel several years ago, and after closely perusing the matter, he wanted to make it clear that it is forbidden to involve the authorities in matters involving girls’ chinuch and the high schools. Everything should be done with understanding, without having to involve the authorities.
After the recital of Kaddish, the niftar’s son, Harav Ovadia Yosef, a Rosh Kollel in Beit Shemesh, spoke. He related that his father was always busy learning Torah and refused to go on vacation. Another son, Reb Yonatan Yosef, was also maspid. Harav Ben Tzion Mutzafi shared memories of learning with the niftar in Yeshivas Porat Yosef.
Once at Har Hamenuchos, the crowd listened with deep pain to the hesped of, ybl”c, the niftar’s father, Harav Ovadia Yosef, shlita, who described his son’s diligence in learning and the many shiurei Torah that he delivered. “Mah ahavti Torasecha, all day it is what I speak [about]. All his days he was busy with Torah, he was marbitz Torah, from one place to another.”
Harav Yaakov Yosef was born in Yerushalayim on Motzoei Simchas Torah 5706/1945, his parents’ second child. In his father’s home, he was imbued with the aspiration to grow in Torah and teach it to others.
He learned in Yeshivat Porat Yosef, where he became very close to the Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Yehudah Tzadka, zt”l, and later in Kol Torah, under Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l.
He married Rabbanit Nitzchiya, the daughter of the Gayan Harav Amram Azulai, zt”l. The mesader kiddushin was Harav Elyashiv, zt”l. After his marriage, he learned in Kollel Kol Yaakov and Mossad Harav Kook in Yerushalayim.
When Rav Yaakov was 26, his father became the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, at which time he was asked to take his place and deliver shiurim at the Boruchov Shul in the Bucharim section of Yerushalayim.
Rav Yaakov began his day davening vasikin at the kever of Shimon Hatzaddik near his home in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood. Throughout the week, he delivered dozens of shiurim to broad audiences. Even during his illness, he continued to give shiurim between rounds of treatment.
The niftar and his sons delivered shiurim in the framework of Torah V’Yahadut L’Am, founded by Agudas Yisrael. Several months ago, when he was aware of the seriousness of his condition, he asked to write a letter of recommendation for Torah V’Yahadut L’Am.
“I have been familiar with Torah V’Yahadut L’Am for decades. This organization has been given the great merit to increase the glory of Torah. We are witness to tremendous growth throughout the country, and many are drawing closer to our Father in Heaven. Those out in the field know that the organization has many merits in this awakening,” he wrote.
He was also very active in the public sphere, serving as a member of the Jerusalem Municipality on behalf of Shas, and then as the eleventh MK of the Shas party.
He founded Yeshivas Chazon Yaakov, named for his grandfather, Harav Yaakov Ovadia, z”l. He was also a member of the Badatz Yisa Brachah kashrus organization.
A bit over a year ago, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given three months to live. But he continued learning as masses davened for his recovery, and he defied their predictions. The name Chai was added, and he became Yaakov Chai ben Margalit.
Harav Yosef took a turn for the worse just before Pesach and was hospitalized, but was released in time for the Seder. Despite his serious condition, he insisted on eating all the kezeisim of matzah and drinking four cups of wine.
Late Thursday night some ten days ago, he returned home from a series of shiurim and collapsed. He was hospitalized, and his condition steadily deteriorated; on Friday afternoon he passed away.
There was a large crowd at his bedside, including Harav Yaakov Ades, Harav Shlomo Amar, Harav Reuven Elbaz, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim, and Harav Benayahu Shmueli, Rosh Yeshivas Nahar Hashalom, all of whom recited Tehillim and Pesukei Yichud, followed by Shema Yisrael.
Harav Yosef is survived by, ybl”c, his great father, his devoted Rabbanit, and eight children —his esteemed sons Rav Ovadia, Rav Amram, Rav Avraham Binyamin, Rav Yonatan and Rav Moshe, who are all marbitzei Torah, and daughters Margalit and Tziporah.
His brothers are Harav Yitzchak Yosef, Rosh Yeshivas Chazon Ovada; Harav Avraham Yosef, Chief Rabbi of Holon; Harav Dovid Yosef, head of the Yechaveh Daas beis medrash and Rav of Har Nof; and Harav Moshe Yosef, head of the Badatz Bais Yosef.
His sisters are Rabbaniyot Adina Bar Shalom, Malka Sasson, Yaffa Cohen, Rivka Chicoutai, Sarah Toledano and Leah Butbul.
Yehi zichro baruch.