The book of Genesis presents us with different people, among them Noach and Avraham. One common description of these two men is that they walked before God.
What is the meaning of walking before God? Both Noach and Avraham were in generations that did not believe in God, who were corrupt, far away from any spirituality and morals.
Noach and Avraham had the courage to “swim against the stream” and strive for truth. Even though the entire world was mocking them and turning against them, that did not deter them from continuing on. They were fully committed to God.
Last week, we commemorated the death anniversary of Hacham Ovadia Yosef, zt”l. Rav Ovadia was someone who, from a very young age, understood that he would “swim against the stream” by revolutionizing the world of Halacha and bring back the Sephardic pride that Sephardim have lost. He was not afraid to express his opinion and take a position even if it was contrary to other great rabbis of his generation. He wrote thousands of responses to questions he was asked, ruling in a clear and precise way.
Among his famous rulings and accomplishments were proclaiming Ethiopians as Jews, a phenomenon that caused the mass aliya of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, permitting thousands of agunot to remarry, educating the masses about Sephardic Judaism, its relevance and its contribution to society.
One famous story about him is that when he became a dayan in Petah Tikva at a young age, he found out that all the gittin that were given were done according to the Ashkenazi tradition, even for the Sephardic couples who were coming. The first time it happened, Rav Ovadia did not say anything. However, when it occurred a second time, Rav Ovadia protested to the other rabbis even though he was much younger than they were. When the rabbis tried to convince him not to make such a big deal of it, he resigned, jeopardizing his source of livelihood. When Rav Reuven Katz, who was the head of the Petah Tikva beit din, saw that, he rehired Rav Ovadia and appointed him as the head of the gittin beit din of Petah Tikva.
Let us all take the example of Noach, Avraham and Hacham Ovadia and always do our best to get to the truth.
Rabbi Ilan Acoca is the spiritual leader of the Sephardic Congregation of Fort Lee.
By Rabbi Ilan Acoca