Musings on the death of Ovadia Yosef zt”l from an “intermarried” Israeli

5 Nov

By Mihal Indyk

I thought I was a feminist for a while, having vowed not to have children at an early age, after having seen three friends become young mothers. One is now a proud grandmother.

Working as a career-driven woman in the tourism industry, my future seemed promising. Leaving behind a great career, I decided to climb mountains, sail the Mediterranean Sea, and board trains bound for exotic destinations. I visited the Taj Mahal and Varanasi in India, went to Liverpool – birthplace of the Beatles’ – to discover The Albert Dock, the site where convicts had departed to Sydney Cove years before my birth, climbed Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, and saw Mount Everest after trekking in Nepal.

At the age of 26 I returned to Israel to start over – with no help and with only one married friend from my childhood who I had not seen in eight years.

Hailing from Eastern European descent and having been warmly welcomed in Israel by my childhood friend, who is Sephardi, I was exposed to an entirely new Jewish culture, including its unfamiliar, and enticing, food. Ultimately, I ended up marrying a Sephardi man.

I was soon to learn the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions. My Sephardi in-laws explained to me that it was an honor to name a child after a living relative, something unheard of in Ashkenazi tradition. In deference to my husband’s wishes I agreed the night before the brit milah (circumcision) to name our firstborn after his living grandfather, thinking that tradition should be respected. Twenty-two days later, my husband was granted leave for 24 hours from miluyim (IDF reserve duty), to attend our son’s pidyon ha’ben (redemption of the first-born). How ironic that only a few years earlier, I had thought that I would marry for security, without any thought of becoming a mother. Our son has brought us such immense joy!

Four years later, after an extremely difficult pregnancy, my twins were born. And, after researching both Ashkenazi and Sephardi customs from around the globe, my twin daughters were to be named! We named one after my late grandmother, the other, after two aunts of the same name who were still alive.

As an Ashkenazi woman, married to a seventh-generation Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite) Sephardi man, I was deeply affected by the death, at age 93, of Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l.  Rav Yosef, who passed away one month ago today, was responsible for many significant Halachic (Jewish legal) rulings. It was already clear that Rav Yosef was a prodigy when he started learning at Jerusalem’s Yehivat Porat Yosef – at the age of 12!

As Israel’s Rishon Lezion (Sephardi Chief Rabbi), he recognized the Jewish ancestry of Beta Yisrael, opening the country’s gates to Aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry, masses of who arrived around the same time that I made Aliyah. He also determined that missing IDF soldiers who served in the Yom Kippur War were dead, rather than missing, thus enabling their wives to remarry. In addition to his ruling allowing women to recite kaddish for their parents under certain circumstances, he also gave his blessing to his eldest daughter, Adina Bar Shalom, to establish the Haredi College of Jerusalem, an Ultra-Orthodox women’s college.

At the age of 44 I welcomed our fourth child – another son – into the world. As an Ashkenazi woman, I too, mourn for the loss of Rav Yosef zt”l. His key Halachic rulings can serve as a beacon for a brighter future, in which people from different sectors can learn from one another, and try to build a better future together.

Mihal Indyk is an Israeli tour operator living in Modi’in.

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2 Responses to “Musings on the death of Ovadia Yosef zt”l from an “intermarried” Israeli”

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  1. 30 יום למורשתו של עובדיה יוסף | אני נגד. ככה. הבלוג של זיו. - November 6, 2013

    […] Musings on the death of Ovadia Yosef zt"l from an "intermarried" Israeli (teachingisrael.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Something different from contriversal rulings in Israel | OZITWINS- Australian Duo journey to the Meditteranean - November 6, 2013

    […] This entry was posted on November 6, 2013, in Family Expectations. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment  https://teachingisrael.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/musings-on-the-death-of-ovadia-yosef-ztl-from-an-inte… […]

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