Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Forever My Rebbi

Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz

Rav Reuven Elbaz was just a bochur the first time he heard a shiur from Rav Ovadiah Yosef, but even then he knew he’d found his rebbi for life. Later, Rav Ovadiah would go out of his way to help his prized talmid — even traveling abroad to fundraise for Rav Elbaz’s yeshivah. Because for Rav Ovadiah, there was no hierarchy: it was all about more Jews learning Torah. With the approach of Rav Ovadiah’s first yahrtzeit on 3 Cheshvan, Rav Elbaz reveals little-known details of that most cherished relationship.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In  hindsight, it’s quite auspicious that the first encounter between two of the most influential figures in leading Sephardic Jewry back to its roots took place on Shabbat Shuvah. Reuven Elbaz, then a young teenager learning in an Ashkenazic yeshivah in Haifa, thirsted for a genuine yeshivah tefillah for Rosh Hashanah. Most of his peers went home and davened in their local shuls during the Yamim Noraim, but he wanted to experience the electrified atmosphere of a yeshivah during the holiest days of the year. His rosh yeshivah suggested that he daven in the Chevron Yeshivah in Geula, and arranged a seat and a place for him to sleep. The yeshivish davening did not let down. Some 55 years later, Rav Elbaz still vividly recounts the legendary Mussaf of the maggid Rav Sholom Schwadron and the sight of people davening Shemoneh Esreh for upward of an hour without peeking out of their machzor for a second. The next year, Reuven arranged to be in Chevron once again, and during Rosh Hashanah, which fell on a Thursday and Friday, he struck up a conversation with another Sephardic young man. “You want to see something really amazing?” the other fellow asked. “Go to such-and-such beit knesset tomorrow for the Shabbat Shuvah derashah.” Intrigued, Reuven walked to the beit knesset in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood the next day. “The rav, a youthful man in his 30s with a trimmed black beard, spoke about the halachot of chalak [glatt kosher meat],” he recalled at a hesped several days after Rav Ovadiah passed away. “He did not have as much as a single sefer or a note in front of him, yet his shiur, laden with sources from hundreds of seforim, poured from his lips as though from a script. “I watched in awe as he went from one point to another, his words coming in torrents, without a pause for breath or to consider what to say next. “I decided that come what may, this would be my rebbi.” Reuven returned to Haifa after Succos to resume his studies, but a few short years later, when he joined a yeshivah gedolah in Yerushalayim, he was able to realize his dream, regularly attending the shiurim of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, soon growing close to the man who would serve as his mentor and beloved partner in many kiruv ventures over the next five decades.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you