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INSPIRATION AND BLESSINGS FROM CHIEF RABBI HACHAM YITZHAK YOSEF

By: Frieda Schweky



Last month, our community was graced by the presence of Hacham Yitzhak Yosef, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. After first visiting Miami, Hacham Yitzhak spent six days in Brooklyn and then a day in Deal, New Jersey, during which time he visited numerous community schools, spoke
with students, and granted blessings.

In speaking to our community’s boys, Hacham Yitzhak blessed them that they should become Torah scholars, and that the wisdom and sanctity of the Torah should always guide them and elevate their conduct to lofty heights. Addressing the girls, the Hacham emphasized the great privilege they have to receive such a rich Torah education, learning the vitally important principles and halachot that they need to know to live as Jews. He also explained that women do not recite the same berachot as men because they are naturally blessed, and that they serve the vital role of forming the foundation of the home. The Chief Rabbi urged the young women to pay special attention to the laws of kashrut, as they bear the responsibility of maintaining a kosher home. He concluded by offering his blessing that the young women should grow to have great love and respect for Torah, find husbands who are learned and dedicated to Torah, and always support and encourage their husbands to devote time
for learning.

The Moshe Rabbenu of Our Time

As what was to be the end of his trip approached, the rabbi heard that the Deal, NJ branch of the Sephardic community was looking forward to his visit. In their honor, the rabbi decided to extend his trip for a day so he could visit Deal. The community in Deal quickly prepared for a “red carpet welcome” ofsorts, arranging a special event at Congregation Magen David in West Deal, sending out flyers urging everyone to attend – men, women, and children.

The excitement in the synagogue was brimming as the crowd waited in eager anticipation for the rabbi to arrive. And when he walked in, he was greeted by loud, joyful song at the front door.

The Chief Rabbi was seated at the platform alongside the esteemed rabbis of Deal. Rabbi Edmond Nahum of Deal Synagogue introduced Hacham Yitzhak, emphasizing how attached he was to his father, the great Hacham Ovadia Yosef, zt”l, and how devastating a personal loss he suffered with Hacham Ovadia’s passing six years ago. He also explained that every generation has a great rabbi to guide them along the path of Torah, and that leader has an element of Moshe Rabbenu in his soul. Our generation’s leader, Rabbi Nahum said, is Hacham Yitzhak Yosef.

After this beautiful introduction, the Chief Rabbi took the podium, and addressed the crowd, in Hebrew. He raised the question of whether Torah study itself suffices to bring somebody closer to Hashem. The Hacham observed that he has come across many students who study Torah in universities, but do not overcome their yetzer hara(evil inclination) and remain distant from Torah observance. He thus concluded that in order to draw closer to Hashem, one must combine regular Torah study with involvement in mitzvot.

Mastering Halachah

Hacham Yitzhak took this opportunity to stress the particular importance of studying halachah. He gave the example of somebody who was about to eat a dairy product, but immediately after reciting the berachah, he remembered that he had eaten meat less than six hours before, and is thus still prohibited from eating dairy foods. Should the person eat the food so that his blessing will not have been recited in vain? Or, must he refrain from eating the dairy food due to the prohibition against eating milk within six hours after eating meat? In order to determine the proper procedure in this case, the rabbi explained, onemust understand the nature and origin of both prohibitions. Since reciting a blessing in vain could constitute a Torah violation, whereas eating dairy food less than six hours after eating meat was prohibited by the sages, it is preferable in this case totake a bite of the food, in order to avoid the recitation of an unwarranted blessing.

The Hacham ended by extending his warm blessings to
the crowd.

The Chief Rabbi’s address was followed by a brief speech by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka of Park Avenue Synagogue, who spoke emotionally about how much it meant to him that the Hacham extended his trip to be able to visit Deal. Rabbi Choueka extolled the rabbi’s sense of responsibility and commitment to the entire State of Israel, and his inspiring dedication to Torah and mitzvot. The rabbi ended by wishing Hacham Yitzhak and his family much happiness and long life.

A special prayer was then recited by everyone in attendance for the Israeli soldiers who were at that time fighting to defend Israel from rocket attacks. Afterward, community members formed a line to receive a blessing from the Chief Rabbi.

The Hacham’s visit left everyone inspired to redouble their efforts to study and properly observe the Torah, and feeling forever grateful to the Almighty for blessing our generation with an outstanding Torah figure who is committed to disseminating Torah and uplifting us all through his blessings and guidance.