Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A legacy

I wasn't expecting the arab vegetable vendor to start chatting with me about Rav Ovadia Yosef. We've never talked about anything more personal than the price of sweet potatoes. But there we were, in the rare early-morning quiet of the shuk. We stood and talked about the Torah giant whose Jerusalem funeral yesterday drew over half a million mourners.

He knew the rav personally; he told a long and winding story of their acquaintance that I could barely follow, his arabic-accented Hebrew a challenge to my American ears.

I nodded to show I was listening as I filled my bag with cucumbers. He kept saying about Rav Ovadia, "hu haya ben adam tov," he was a good person.

Rav Ovadia has been eulogized as a brilliant Torah scholar and teacher, as a pioneering political leader, as a controversial religious figure. "A good person." The simplest of compliments, as though this man was praising the Jewish fishmonger in the stall next to his. Then he put a finer point on his anecdote, "Rav Ovadia didn't distinguish--Arab or Jew, it didn't matter. He was a good person."

I selected a couple of green avocados, their thin skins wrinkling around the place they were cut from the tree. Did I have children, the vegetable seller wanted to know. Yes, four of them. And him? What? Teenagers? But he is a young man himself! And twins on the way? I have twins! Twins are the best. May they be born b'shaa tova, in a felicitous time.

A good person. What higher praise can there be? To be remembered as good and to inspire us to be good to each other.


inspired to be a good person said...


chana@jewishmom.com said...

thanks chaya...I noticed that the Palestinian Authority send consolations to the Yosef family.

Unknown said...

Perhaps he was good conditionally. He would have admonished my family.

Chaya said...

Maybe, Robin. I think we are all conditionally good. My intention here is not to smooth over the complexity of who Rav Ovadia was, but to share another contour.

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