In 1996, my father, of blessed memory, had an audience with Rav Bakshi Doron, of blessed memory.
‘HaRav,’ my father pleaded, ‘we need you to find a halachic solution for the agunot [women whose husbands refuse to give them a religious divorce]. They are suffering’
A sincere and genuine man, Rav Bakshi Doron listened, and indeed, tried to help, albeit his efforts came to nought.
In 1997 the Rav unexpectedly and quietly honored my late father by attending his burial in Jerusalem. He arrived without fanfare and in no official capacity.
On Monday night, on Chal Hamoed Pesach, Coronovirus claimed Rav Bakshi Doron and I resolved to honor him, in the merit of my father.
In the comfort of my living room, (no traffic jams or crowds, no striving to hear) I attended his funeral via a mouse click on my computer. While physical participation was restricted to 20 people, thousands attended online and we could all hear the many eulogies which continued for over two hours.
While eulogies are normally forbidden during funerals held on Pesach, this ruling was waived due to the special circumstance — the funeral of a senior rabbinical leader in the middle of a plague. One after another, both physically present and through the phone line, rabbis eulogized their esteemed colleague and mentor.
Two issues struck me.
Firstly, the absence of women. At the beginning of the funeral, I glimpsed the back of a woman, whom I presumed was his daughter, but she quickly disappeared from view. Rabbi after rabbi described the wonderful sons and male descendants of Rav Bakshi Doron and the yeshivot that he had founded. I was almost convinced that Rav Bakshi Doron only had male descendants and started a quick google search on my computer that did not yield any immediate results.
The mystery was solved at the end of the funeral when Rav Bakshi Doron’s son, son-in-law, and brother spoke. All three mentioned with love, their affection and gratitude for Rav Bakshi Doron’s wife, Rabbanit Chana and his daughters. They even spoke about the seminaries that Rav Bakshi Doron established for women’s learning. Clearly, in their family women were included and counted. What a contrast to some sections of today’s Haredi world where even the faces of a woman are routinely blotted out of any publication.
Secondly, the notion of suffering. Rabbi after rabbi pleaded with Rav Bakshi Doron to use his influence and his merits to end the plague, to end the pain and the suffering They emphasized the horror of the closed synagogues and the empty study halls and the deaths of Torah scholars. Not a word about the tens of thousands of families who are crowded into tiny apartments. No highlighting of the closed old age homes where the disease runs rampant.
Rav Bakshi Doron was a brilliant, modest and devout family man, who began his senior rabbinical career as the Chief Rabbi of Bat Yam and then Haifa before becoming Sephardi Chief Rabbi between 1993-2003. He rose every morning at dawn to pray and was first and foremost a community rabbi who understood that his first job was to be approachable to all members of his community and to do so would travel or walk to where he was needed.
This kindness and compassion was reflected in his final will, Rav Bakshi Doron where he asked that he be accompanied by Psalm 91 describing how”no evil will fall and no plague will come near.” Paraphrasing verse 15, Hashem has called the Rav and the Rav will answer and when you answer, Kvod Harav, my respectful request is to invoke your many merits and plead not only to end all suffering but also to grant wisdom, understanding and sensitivity to our Rabbinical Leadership.
For the plague we need Divine Intervention, but to solve the suffering of Agunot, the solution is in the hands of man.
May the family of Rav Bakshi Doron and indeed all of the many mourners be comforted together with all of the Mourners of Zion.