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Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

The campaign for Chief Rabbi has sunk to the depths even politicians have not reached. Rav Ovadia calls Rav Stav of Tzohar “evil” and Tzohar calls on the Torah sage to “repent.” Next up: Tisha B’Av.
Former Shas chiarman Aryeh Deri with the spiritual leader of the Shas party Rabbi Ovadia Yosef back in 1999, before Deri's jail sentence.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri with the spiritual leader of the Shas party Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir / Flash90

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

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23 Responses to “Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent”

  1. Is this what Yahweh, calls them to do?

  2. Larry Thomas says:

    ” Baseless Hatred ” towards Rabbi Stav . . . :(

  3. Dan Silagi says:

    Both of these guys are evil, as is the idea that Israel needs a chief rabbi in the first place.

  4. Lisa Kamins says:

    the saddest issue here is the sinat chinam that all of this is causing. our Am needs achdut, and for achdut we need to pull together, not tear each other apart. only that will help Am Yisrael regarding everything, including to help bring the Moshiach.

  5. Lisa Kamins says:

    the saddest issue here is the sinat chinam that all of this is causing. our Am needs achdut, and for achdut we need to pull together, not tear each other apart. only that will help Am Yisrael regarding everything, including to help bring the Moshiach.

  6. Lisa Kamins says:

    the saddest issue here is the sinat chinam that all of this is causing. our Am needs achdut, and for achdut we need to pull together, not tear each other apart. only that will help Am Yisrael regarding everything, including to help bring the Moshiach.

  7. Lisa Kamins says:

    the saddest issue here is the sinat chinam that all of this is causing. our Am needs achdut, and for achdut we need to pull together, not tear each other apart. only that will help Am Yisrael regarding everything, including to help bring the Moshiach.

  8. Lisa Kamins says:

    the saddest issue here is the sinat chinam that all of this is causing. our Am needs achdut, and for achdut we need to pull together, not tear each other apart. only that will help Am Yisrael regarding everything, including to help bring the Moshiach.

  9. Gil Gilman says:

    Seeds may be sown hither and yon, but won't take root and grow to fruition if the soil isn't fertile. The other day my wife said to me, "the ginnala flame maples we planted oh so many years ago should not have grown that tall." I responded that they love our acidic soil, and that it is perfect for them to thrive. So…

  10. Gil Gilman says:

    If we are waiting for agreement between Torah sages to usher in Moshiach it won't ever happen. The fact of the matter is that Moshiach needs no help. He will arrive and give one, both or all a solid spanking over his knee.

  11. Rabbi's please leave politics out of religion, pray for Israel, she must remain alert, ready and cautious. Rabbi's prayers are much needed, you are the spiritual heart of Israel.

  12. Ira L. Jacobson says:

    In fact, there are rabbis in the national religious camp that would make good chief rabbis. It is a great pity that the leadership did not pick one of them as its candidate.

  13. Steve Klein says:

    For one rabbi to call fellow faithful rabbi evil and a heretic, I do not think Moses would approve of that.

  14. Steve Klein says:

    We need some kind of religious authority to establish guidelines for conversion, marriage, divorce, etc., don't we?

  15. I reckon not a single person commenting even knows who Rabbi Stav is, much less what he stands for. Those commenters lamenting politicalisation of the Chief Rabbinate need to understand that the position IS a political position. It creates and implements govermental policy and influences Cabinet Ministers in their actions on vital issues- not just concerning religious Israeli Jews but all Israelis, including non-Jews. For example, mass transit shutting down on Shabbat, or Kashrut being an official state policy in everything to state dinners on down to IDF messhalls.

    Rabbi Stav is what Westerners would call Modern Orthodox, not Charedi. Charedim have always served as Chief Rabbis and when I say "always" I do not just mean since 1948 since the position is an Ottoman anachronism. Having a non-Charedi Rabbi as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, and a Charedi Sephardi Chief Rabbi will lead to infighting and the position will lose gravitas as well as effectiveness viz a viz creating and implementing policy.

    However, the opposition to Stav goes deeper than just niche labels like "Modern Orthodox" and "Charedi," Stav has actively sought this position by lauding his own accomplishments, this is a worrying issue because it shows a great concern for personal advancement as opposed to a desire to strengthen Israel's Jewish character. Even more worrying is how he has promoted himself. Stav has vowed to "simplify" Jewish identity. As of now, it is relatively easy to acquire Jewish ethnic identity in Israel, you merely need a single Jewish grandparent. To acquire a Jewish religious identity though is comparatively complicated, often requiring an appearance before a Bet Din (panel of rabbinical judges) and at times, an actual conversion if only your patrilineal line was Jewish. Stav is trying to appeal to those who want to blur the line between religious and ethnic identity and this is a very serious thing for a people that have practiced endogamy for hundreds of centuries. He has also made worrying comments on other issues as well, but for the sake of brevity I will not touch upon them.

    As for Rav Yosef lashing out against Stav, why should he not? If a rabbi finds it OK to bend Halacha to suit secularists' needs, he really isn't fit to serve as Chief Rabbi, Ashkenazi OR Sephardi. Judaism isn't a buffet table where you can pick and choose which mitzvot to uphold and wish to toss away because they cramp your lifestyle. Rav Yosef has devoted his nine decades to strenghening Israel's Jewish identity. His behavior is not in conflict with Halacha. In fact, he is abiding by it in drawing attention to a man set on undermining the tiny role played by the Chief Rabbinate.

  16. Moishe Sachs says:

    So, no one knows why he called him evil. We don't know if he's right or wrong, so it makes him evil for saying it. Of course, I'm not surprised. Yosef is the suicidal evil man who supported the Israeli government illegally immorally forcefully removing 10,000 innocent souls from their precious privately owned properties in Gaza. How any Jew could continue to follow or respect him after that is beyond me. He was wrong for so many Torah reasons that it's mind boggling. Also, to have such callous disregard for innocent people versus Israel's existential genocidal enemies, is deeply disturbingly evil.

  17. Dan Silagi says:


  18. Dan Silagi says:


  19. This is the inevitable result of the Talmud precept that Rabbis supersede God in decisions on this earth. We see here Rabbis fighting for the position of God on earth.

  20. How about dementia as a reason. Even the most brilliant people are not immune to this type of affliction in old age. Such a state would lead to unusual and uncharacteristic behavior that has no explanation. Extreme age can confer great wisdom, but it can also can see the end of such wisdom and a descent into poor behavior.

    Bless the Rabbi, and I hope that he will live out his life in peace and honor!

  21. Why is the need for an 'evil' thing? Tossing this word around in circumstances that are NOT evil is a disservice to all considered discussions. These rabbis are not evil, nor is the idea of a chief rabbi.

    Please, stop being a bomb thrower.

  22. Dan Silagi says:

    @Jacob. Did you see this morning's headlines? The Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel has been arrested for corruption, and is now under house arrest. I didn't throw that bomb.

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