As a way of memorializing Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef zt”l and his teachings, לעילוי נשמת מרן הרב הגאון עובדיה יוסף זצ”ל, during the coming year I will try to write a post every week bringing a teaching from his book Halichot Olam. This book, whose origins go back to when Rav Ovadiah was a young man, is a commentary of Rabbi Joseph Haim of Baghdad’s compendium of laws the Ben Ish Hai. The book is organized around the weekly Torah portion in a two-year cycle.
The teachings in Halichot Olam began as classes that Rav Ovadiah gave on the Ben Ish Hai. They were, and continue to be, controversial, because Rav Ovadiah criticized the Ben Ish Hai for disagreeing with Rabbi Yosef Karo. This raised the ire of many people, and the short introduction consists of a defense of both accepting the rulings of Rabbi Yosef Karo as binding and judicial autonomy. Rav Ovadiah wrote that “we have accepted upon ourselves the ruling of Rabbi Yosef Karo, whether to be strict or lenient,” since he is the local authority in the Land of Israel. He also brought numerous sources that emphasize the freedom of halakhic decisor. A judge only has what his eyes see, אין לו לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות. For those who want to learn this more in depth, Rav Ovadiah referenced the following sources: Shu”t Ḥut ha-Meshulash no. 9; Bava Batra 130b; Shu”t Ḥakekei Lev YD, no. 42; Shu”t Avkat Rokhel no. 155; Shu”t Noda be-Yehudah Kamma OH no. 35; Shu”t Rabbi Yeshaya Detrani ha-Rishon no. 62.
Sometimes I will just summarize the halakhah as taught by Rav Ovadiah, while other times I will write about issues that he addresses in his copious footnotes.