Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s Funeral

Mourning for the head of the family.

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Largest Jewish Funeral?

By Aish.com’s Ask the Rabbi

I saw on the news that the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was attended by 850,000 people. What amazed me even more is that funeral was held just 4 hours after he died!

I was wondering – when was the last time that a Jewish funeral was this large?


Certainly this is the largest recorded Jewish funeral in modern times – i.e. since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. To find a larger funeral, believe it or not, we may have to go all the way back 3,300 years to the Jewish wandering in the desert.

When Moshe died, his burial was private and the location remains an everlasting secret. Similarly, after Aharon died on Mount Hor the Jewish people were shocked to discover he did not return to the camp; he also had no public funeral. Yet given that that all the Jewish people encamped and traveled together, there was no doubt total nationwide mourning at the time of their deaths (as well as Miriam's) – which hasn't been possible again till modern times. (Deut. 34:5-8; Numbers 20:29 with Rashi)

So how many people mourned? The Torah states explicitly that the entire nation mourned Aharon's passing (Numbers 20:29). Considering the count of 600,000 men aged 20-60, and adding the men under 20, the women, the Levites, and the elderly, the total would have been a few million mourning the death of Aharon. (See Numbers 1:46.)

Beyond that, we find no mention of a large funeral in the biblical books of Judges, Samuel and Kings. (Though it does mention “large eulogies -- Zechariah 12:11; Talmud Moed Kattan 28b.)

It is also logical to assume there has been no larger Jewish funeral through the ages. After the Jewish people’s settling in the Land of Israel (3,300 years ago), if a person died, it took quite a while to notify all the Jews throughout the country about the funeral. It would have been too much to wait with any deceased person without refrigeration, and against our long-standing custom of burying the dead quickly.

Today, with SMS and Twitter, the word about the passing of the great sage Rabbi Ovadia Yosef made it possible for so many people to travel to Jerusalem on such short notice.

Comments (11)

(10) rachel, March 11, 2014 11:11 PM

chacham Ovadia Yosef A"H was more then a spiritual leader and giant, he was a legend of all times, NoONE can replace what we have lost, my heart tears from pain when I think of who we lost, may His soul pray for the rest of klal yisrael!

(9) Anonymous, October 18, 2013 11:31 AM

First Time

This is the first time I heard Lori speak. It was about R'Ovadia Yosef. I would have liked to hear something about him since the headline reads "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's funeral"

(8) rachel, October 15, 2013 4:06 AM

why do you say it is very sad?

The great rav lived a long life filled with torah and tzedakah. I do not understand why you say his return to Hashem after such a life is very sad. We would all be very blessed if we lived and died so well.

TC, October 15, 2013 11:05 AM

when someone great dies it is sad

It may not be tragic, but it's still sad. For a nation to lose such a great leader, who is possibly unreplacable, is sad.

(7) Paul Barricklow, October 15, 2013 12:23 AM

Great commentary

I love the way she said we are family and hope this is the spark that starts us all to return to Torah.

(6) Dena, October 14, 2013 12:52 PM

Well Said!

Well said, Lori!!!

(5) Kelly Rebekah ben Maimon, October 14, 2013 11:59 AM

The Legacy of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Last night, was fortunate to attend a memorial service for Rabbi Yosef Ovadia, arranged by Sephardi community of the United Kingdom in London. It was a mesmerising affair, listening to the speakers, (Rabbi Levy) including members of the Beth Din. What came over was the kindness for others, humility and love for Torah this great sage possessed. Have to agree with Chava, and do not think SMS or twitter had much to do with word spreading. A far higher power was at work. Never had the pleasure of meeting him myself but fortunate to read some of what he had written over the years. Thankfully his work will continue, as we are fortunate that a dynamic member (Rabbi Joseph Dweck) of his family is coming from New York to lead Sephardi community here. You just get a feeling that miracles are going to continue to happen. This great sage's light was not extinguished but continues to live on... He showed us the way, as have other tzaddicks and for me personally that means holding on to Torah with both hands, tightly. London, England

(4) Donna Perel, October 14, 2013 11:59 AM

Baruch Dayan Emes

Thank you for putting into words feelings that I was unable to identify. The Rav was a gadol and a Gaon, yet the Rav was a real person. He was able to relate to everyone. Many years ago I realized that there were two "types" of families. There was the family that you were born into and the family that you chose. I am grateful that after I became frum more than two decades ago I was able to chose my family of Kal Yisrael. When a member of the family is niftar we mourn.

(3) Sidney, October 14, 2013 12:45 AM

Well Said

What the World does not know (maybe for the good also) and unfortunately many Jews do not either is that we are indeed a family, a nation, an ethnic group whether we were born into Judaism - or sincerely converted into it by accepting the commandments. This is regardless of where we live and/or are citizens.

(2) chava, October 13, 2013 5:23 PM

Word gets around --- without sms or twitter

Much of the hareidim don't use SMS or Twitter. And yet, they knew and they were there. In Yerushalayim, in Israel, word "gets around." People had been saying t'hilim and had been davening for him. They knew. Like in a family as Lori said, word gets around. 850,000 people were there. How many more hundreds of thousands were there spiritually if not physically.

(1) Moshe isenberg, October 13, 2013 5:12 PM

Yasher koach mrs palatnik

Rav Yosef was not only great but humble. Recognizing that his views on "land for peace" wasn't working with some arabs (intifada) he changed his views. If possible I'd like to email mrs. palatnik


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