The Words of Maran zt”l During the Month of Elul-Maran’s Final Rosh Hashanah

Every year during the month of Elul, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”lwould travel from city to city across Israel in order to strengthen the ideas of Torah learning and fear of G-d among the nation. Even in his advanced age, Maran zt”l would trouble himself to go to three or four places nightly.

Approximately two years ago, a mass Teshuva gathering was planned to take place in the “Yad Eliyahu” stadium in Ramat Gan on Erev Yom Kippur. For whatever reason, shortly before the gathering was to be held, the event was cancelled.

That day after Mincha services, Maran zt”l called over his devoted grandson, Rabbi Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, author and coordinator of the Hebrew Halacha Yomit, and told him worriedly that since the event was cancelled, he would be missing a prime opportunity, for they were in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance and he would be able to influence and uplift countless people. Maran therefore requested that he be found an alternate venue to speak at. (Thanks to the intervention of Maran’s trusted aid, Rabbi Tzvi Hakak Shlit”a, Maran zt”l spoke words of Torah, Mussar, and inspiration in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav.)

If only we would pay attention to how much one’s heart is open to repentance during these days. Every individual must exert the maximum amount of effort in order to strengthen one’s self and others during this time and not, G-d-forbid, to become lax in one’s service of Heaven. Hashem who listens to all prayers and desires repentance shall surely accept our prayers and guide us along a path filled with goodness and kindness as well as granting us a sweet new year.

One of the main topics Maran zt”l would discuss during Teshuva events in far-out cities was the issue of educating one’s children. Let us quote some of his precious teachings:

“Ladies and gentlemen! It is a great and holy obligation for us to educate our children specifically in Yeshivot, as the verse states, “And you shall teach them to your son” and only after this shall we merit fulfillment of the verse, “And all your children shall be taught of Hashem and great shall be the peace of your children.”

Just look at what our Sages tell us about King David: Rav Avin said: We cannot be certain of King David’s character, for sometimes he refers to himself as ‘poor and downtrodden,’ as the verse states, ‘Turn your ear, Hashem, and answer me, for I am poor and downtrodden’ while other times he refers to himself as a king, as the verse states, ‘Hashem, through your might shall a king be glad and through your salvation shall he be exceedingly glad.’ How can this be? Rather, when King David saw through divine revelation that righteous kings would descend from him, such as Assa, Yehoshafat, Chizkiyahu, and Yoshiyahu, he was joyful and would refer to himself as a king. However, when he would see through divine revelation that wicked kings would emerge from him, such as Achaz, Menashe, Amon, and Yehoyakim, he would refer to himself as ‘poor and downtrodden.’” This comes to teach us that there is no happier man on earth than one whose children are righteous Torah scholars and, on the other hand, there is no one poorer and more pitiful than one whose children have strayed from the path of our forefathers and from the holy Torah and Mitzvot by desecrating Shabbat, holidays, and doing any other things Hashem despises.

The guarantee for righteous children is educating them in institutions filled with fear of Heaven, as the verse states, ‘Educate the lad according to his own way; even when he grows old he shall not stray from it.’”

Maran zt”l was certainly true to his own word. Last Rosh Hashanah was the last Rosh Hashanah of Maran’s life and the day it was decreed that he would be taken from us. Maran zt”l lay weak and infirm in a hospital bed and it seemed that he only had several days remaining. Nevertheless, when his great-grandchildren, who toil in Torah and fear of Heaven, came in to visit him, another rabbi came in to discuss a public matter with Maran. Maran leaned against his chair and exclaimed, “Whatever you are telling me is not that important at the moment. Look how happy I am to have a great-grandchild who studies and delves in Torah! He causes me such joy!”

As always, nothing brought Maran zt”l more joy in the entire world than Torah study and seeing his children and grandchildren following the Torah’s path. May Maran’s merit serve to protect us and may he pray for us on high that Hashem speedily redeem us for eternity. May we soon merit being reunited with our great leader, Maran zt”l with the Resurrection of the Dead and may the world be filled with the knowledge of Hashem like the waters that cover the seas, Amen (see Ma’or Yisrael-Derashot, page 20).