Rabbi Ovadia Yosef addressed the great phenomenon of our generation of thousands of Jews embracing Torah learning and mitzvah observance in his book Anaf Etz Avot. “In our days, to our great happiness many became ‘Baalei Teshuva’ that come with all their heart to embrace Torah, Mitzvoth and good deeds. However there are those that became extreme from one end to the other and because of their lack of Torah knowledge and their extreme conduct they bring about domestic strife in their homes. Especially those who have no time to learn Halacha and take on unnecessary stringencies” Rabbi Ovadia wrote in pain.
“This is not the way. That’s why we pray and say “return us our Father to your Torah and bring us close our King to Your service and bring us back in complete repentance before You.” Because only through learning Torah and Halacha can a person make balances just decisions and live in peace and the straight path.”
Rabbi Ovadia then recounted a story from the rabbinical court of the Admor of Apta. “A man came to the court of the holy Rabbi Avraham Joshua Heschel of Apta after Passover asking to divorce his wife. The Rabbi asked him: “Why do you want to divorce your wife?” The man answered: She gave me matzo soaked in water over Passover which is against our family’s tradition.”
The Rabbi requested his wife come into the court and asked her in front of the man: “Please tell me truthfully which matzos did you give me on the Seder night?” The Rabbi’s wife was somewhat uncomfortable so the Rabbi reassured her: “Don’t worry about it at all just tell over the truth.”
The Rabbanit said: “I gave you regular non Shmura unwatched matzos and this is how it happened: The special matzos you baked on the day before Passover for the mitzvah I put in a special cloth in the closet. Being busy with Passover preparations a poor man came to the door and someone unknowingly gave him those special matzos. On Passover night, when I went into the closet I found the matzos were gone and I was afraid to tell my husband so I took regular matzos and made believe I didn’t know anything. Those were the matzos the Rabbi used for the Seder.”
The Rabbi turned to the man who wanted to divorce his wife and said: “My son, please see that I myself ate simple unwatched matzos on the Seder night and I made believe everything was fine so I wouldn’t come to anger and strictness all for the sake of keeping peace. And you want to divorce your wife just because she gave you soaked matzos which is only a custom? This is not proper at all?” The rabbi helped them make peace and they went home happy”.
This helps us understand the priorities according to the understanding of the Torah and that was the message Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of blessed memory wants us to live with.