Rabbi David Stav, who on Saturday night was attacked viciously by Rav Ovadia Yosef, who said Rabbi Stav was a wicked man, on Sunday night responded to the attack via his Facebook page, saying he is “torn up by the divisive atmosphere.”
Rabbi Stav’s complete message was:
I want to personally thank the thousands of emails, texts and phone calls I received today from rabbis, community leaders and many of you, to strengthen me and my family in light of the personal attacks against me. I do not take this hug for granted, and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.
I’m torn by the divisive atmosphere that has been craeted around the Chief Rabbinate election, but when I chose to go on that path, I did not seek to promote myself, rather I was thinking of the path of the Torah and the mission of returning to the Chief Rabbinate the path of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook zt”l.
These are not easy times for me and my family, so I thank you for the strength and the support. I will continue to do everything in order to connect the nation of Israel with its heritage and its Torah, and to ensure bringing together the hearts of religious, secular, Haredi Ashkenazim, Sephardim and the entire house of Israel.
Rav Ovadia Yosef attacked Rabbi Stav’s nomination for Israel’s Chief Rabbi and said: “He has no piety at all, he has no fear of Heaven. They say he is learned—what is it worth? Doeg the Edomite was a great Torah sage in King Saul’s time, and yet our sages said he had no part in the world to come.”
“His friends, from his own party,” Rav Ovadia continued, “testified to me that this man is dangerous to Judaism, dangerous to the Rabbinate, dangerous to the Torah. And I should keep silent? Therefore I had to do, and did, and everything I did was for the sake of Heaven.”
On May 25, a conference of Religious Zionist rabbis that was held at the home of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, demanded that Rabbi Stav withdraw his candidacy to allow the selection of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel—although the latter is too old for the job, and his election would have required special Knesset legislation.
During the campaign between the two rabbis, Rabbi Stav’s PR team was accused of threatened to discredit Rabbi Druckman if he acted against Rabbi Stav’s candidacy. Rabbi Stav denied the charge.
Rabbi Stav is considerably more liberal in his views than any of Israel’s chief rabbis, with the exception of the Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who ran into much the same opposition as Rabbi Stav is experiencing today. According to online sources, Rabbi Stav is less demanding than some on conversions, has a broad cultural background—as opposed to the prevalent Haredi cultural “bunker”—and employs a benign approach to many halachic issues—hence Rav Ovadia’s cursing rampage.
Rabbi Stav’s organization, Tzohar, has done a lot to repair the damage caused by a chief rabbinate that has been alienating Israelis, both secular and religious, in crucial areas, such as marriages and divorces.