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March 4, 2015 / 13 Adar , 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Ovadia Yosef’

‘Amalek’ Comment More an Expression of Shas Despair than Hate

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Saturday night has been for years an opportunity for the Sephardi Haredi party Shas’ spiritual leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, to make headlines with some outrageous statements. In fact, as the Israeli media began to carry those statements, making them the focal point of many a Sunday morning conversations (Sunday is Israel’s Monday).

Initially, those statements were mostly against the Arabs, most notably the Palestinians, most emphatically the late Chairman Yassir Arafat. But as of Israel’s most recent elections, during the campaign and especially as it was becoming clear that the Jewish Home national religious party was going to be inside the coalition government while the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, were out—the great spiritual leader started frothing at the mouth cursing out his rivals.

He called them “Goyish Home,” he accused them of fighting and desecrating the Torah, he ridiculed their notion of being religious—how could they possibly be religious when they conspire, along with Yair Lapid’s burgeoning middle-class party Yesh Atid, to force thousands of yeshiva students into military conscription.

This past Saturday night, in Rav Ovadia’s synagogue in the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rav Shalom Cohen, dean of the Porat Yosef yeshiva, compared the national religious in Israel, whose noted symbol are the knitted yarmulkes—kippot srugot—to Amalek.

Just before Purim, many divrei Torah are said about the true identity of Amalek. Some say it is a real nation, whose goal in history is to negate whatever it is Jews are doing, because Amalek are the enemies of God, while we are the children of God. They see Amalek in every great enemy of the Jews, culminating in the Nazis and Ahmadinejad. Others talk about the Amalek within us, that fascistic component of our personalities that has no problem stepping on others, brutally if need be, just to get its way.

In that context, Rav Cohen’s note was blood curdling. Whether he had had too much of the glass of havdala, or truly believes it, he made the following clever spiel: “It says God does war against Amalek. So long as Amalek exists, the throne—kess is not complete. KS is an acronym for Kippa Sruga—knitted yarmulke. When will the throne-kess be whole? When there’s no longer a kippa sruga… Are these really Jews?”

Haredi journalist Israel Gelis says Rav Cohen’s poor choice of words should not be taken seriously. It’s part of a particular culture where heated expressions are thrown out with little consideration of their impact. Gelis says that on Shabbat he ran into Rav Cohen at the Kotel, and the latter said to him with a huge smile: “Did you see the name of the chief of the tribe of Naftali (as in Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett)? It’s Achira (Num. 1:15),” literally “brother of evil.” And he was very pleased with himself, adds Gelis.

Those things shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the total failure of Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to deliver on any of his promises, says Gelis, bears far more serious ramifications for the Haredi Sephardi party that relies on thousands of knitted yarmulke voters.

Having lost out in the coalition building wars to Bennett and Lapid, Deri has forged an alliance with leftist Meretz and the Arab parties, to the point where he is more likely to vote with them against the Zionist coalition government than not. His rival in the Shas leadership, deposed chairman Eli Yishai, is a regular secret visitor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chambers—so secret the entire Haredi world knows about it. Yishai has been a reliable, steady partner to Netanyahu and other secular, right-wing leaders. At this point he is waiting for his nemesis to sink deeper in the political mud.

Life in the opposition is murder on a party like Shas, which used to utilize its government ministries to favor its Sephardi sector. Now, unable to bring home the paella, Shas is standing to lose much of its support to the new powers that be in the ministries they used to control: Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home.

Add to that the fact that Maran Rav Ovadia Yosef is not getting any younger, and you’ll understand the Shas angst.

Eli Yishai to Not Run for Jerusalem Mayor

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

MK Eli Yishai, the former head of the Shas party has decided he will not be running for mayor of Jerusalem, according to a report in the Israeli, Chareidi La’Daat website.

Yishai was the political head of the Shas party until Shas’s spiritual leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, kicked him out and replaced him with Aryeh Deri. Following the completion of Aryeh Deri’s prison sentence, Deri had a cooling-off period before he could return to the politics.

Upon Deri’s going to prison, Yishai replaced Deri for 13 years, during which time Yishai ran Shas as a responsible and effective political party.

Associates of Yishai said that he had been considering challenging incumbant mayor Nir Barkat for the position in the upcoming race, but in the end Yishai has decided he wants to remain working in the national politics, and still within the Shas party.

As the Minister of the Interior in former governments, Yishai earned the reputation of being an honest person and a politician who did his job well.

Currently no candidates have announced their decision to challenge Nir Barkat for position of mayor of Jerusalem.

Shas’s Attacks on the Jewish Home and Religious Equality

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is working very hard to ensure that Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews are all given equal treatment: Until recently, Conservative and Reform Jews had felt very alienated by the Israel Chief Rabbinate, but Orthodox Jews did not.

Recognizing the inherent unfairness in this, for the last few years, the Rabbinate has been taking dramatic steps to ensure that Orthodox Jews also feel just as alienated.

Jewish Week: Jerusalem — About 20 years ago, an infant girl (“Nina,” a pseudonym) from an Orthodox family underwent a conversion in New York that, by Orthodox American standards, was and still is beyond reproach.

The three converting rabbis, whose names The Jewish Week has withheld so as not to harm their reputations, are highly respected figures in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish world, according to Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

But that hasn’t stopped Israel’s Chief Rabbinate or Israel’s Ministry of Interior from questioning the conversion, evidently because it took place in a synagogue-based beit din (rabbinical court) that did not meet on a regular basis, and not in an external beit din dedicated solely to conversions, The Jewish Week has learned.

Read more of the world class treatment the Israel Chief Rabbinate in thisarticle by the Jewish Week.

None of this should be surprising especially in light of the blistering attacks from Shas on the “Jewish Home” (Religious Zionist party) before the elections by R’ Ovadya Yosef:

“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’ but this is not a home for Jews; it is a home of goyim [gentiles],” Yosef said. “They want to uproot the Torah, to institute civil marriage. It’s forbidden to vote for them. These are religious people? Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah.”

“They are all wicked, haters of Torah and mitzvot. They want to institute public transportation on Shabbat,” Yosef charged. “A Jew who wants to marry won’t have to go to the rabbinate — have you heard? How can they call themselves religious? How can we be complicit in this?” (Times of Israel)

Shas is so proud of these statements, that the official Shas party channel on youtube publicized the video (sorry it’s only in Hebrew).

And then, in case some misguided soul thinks this was only pre-election nonsense, the Shas party newspaper “Yom L’Yom” attacked the Jewish Home party:

Translation: The man with the kipa the size of an eye personifies how his kipa is the size of a “half shekel coin.”  The agreement he is working hard on creating with the chairman of the new-old hatred party [Yesh Atid party] shows that “something new is happening here [ "something new is happening" was the campaign slogan of the Jewish Home party]. Something Reform. Something “Goyish.” “Remember what Amalek did to you” which tried to weaken the Torah — this is an eternal concept.  Also in Israel. G-d forbid,  a new “Jewish Home” is being created.  Those who wish to weaken the Torah aren’t part of a “Jewish Home” — it is a house of “Goyim.”

The Torah and Judaism survived for thousands of years before the Shas party, and will continue to survive and flourish even if the Shas party is not a member of the government.  In fact, based on the situation above, Torah will probably flourish more with Shas out of the government, and hopefully the Chief Rabbinate will revert back to a Rabbinate for all of Israel, with tolerance and justice for all.

And until R’ Ovadya Yosef publicly apologizes for lambasting the “Jewish Home,” the “Jewish Home” party should ignore Shas completely.

Editor’s Note: Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai called Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel to apologize about the attack in the publication, but Yosef has made no apology for his remarks.

Visit The Muqata.

Shas Spiritual Leader Yosef: Jewish Home is for ‘Goyim’

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Shas party spiritual leader and former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef is urging Israelis not to vote for the party headed by Naftali Bennett, the Bayit HaYehudi Jewish Home party, calling it not a home for Jews but a home for gentiles.

Rabbi Yosef slammed the party after Ayelet Shaked, fifth on the party’s list, indicated that she supports civil marriage in Israel. Bennett and his party have also vowed to ease the arduous conversion process, raising the ire of Shas and other Hareidi parties by questioning conversion’s placement under the exclusive jurisdiction of “ultra-Orthodox” groups and raising suspicion that corruption has tainted the system.

“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’, but this is not a home for Jews – it is a home of ‘goyim’ [gentiles],” Rabbi Yosef said. “They want to uproot Torah and institute civil marriage. One cannot vote for them… Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah”.

“They are all wicked people who hate Torah and its commandments,” he said.
Bennett called Rabbi Yosef an “important spiritual leader”, who is loved and respected, and said attacks by Rabbi Yosef and leaders from the post-nationalist and anti-religious parties show that the Jewish Home is “on the right path” to being a bridge between the diverse sectors of Israeli society.

Q & A: Al Achilat Matza (Conclusion)

Friday, May 9th, 2003

QUESTION: I have noticed that when we eat the matza at the Seder on Passover, we recite the blessing of Hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz, followed by Al achilat matza. Why don’t we say Al achilat matza when we eat matza during the remainder of Passover?

Moshe Jakobowitz
Brooklyn, NY

ANSWER: We began our discussion with Rambam’s comments regarding the eating of matza on the first night of Passover, when it is obligatory. The mitzva of eating matza, unlike maror, is independent of the paschal sacrifice and it is a biblical requirement even today. One of the explanations of ‘lechem oni,’ as matza is called, is bread of the poor. The poor have only broken pieces instead of whole loaves. At the Seder we bless Hamotzi on two whole matzot and a broken piece (from the middle matza that has been broken in two). It is the broken matza, which symbolizes the uniqueness of eating matza on this night, that requires the blessing of Al achilat matza.

* * *

The Gaon R. Ovadia Yosef, shlita, was asked the following question: “On whom do those who have a custom to recite the blessing of Al achilat matza (“Asher ki’deshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al achilat matza – [G-d] who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat matza”) during the seven days of Passover [in Israel], in addition to the Hamotzi blessing, rely? Or might this be a beracha levatala [lit., a blessing said in vain with the mention of G-d's name] and therefore we must abolish the custom” (Yechaveh Da’at Vol. 2:22).

Had R. Ovadia Yosef not been asked this question and included it in his responsa, I am sure that we would agree that this query is highly unusual, especially in light of all that we have discussed previously.

One may ask, to begin with, why this beracha is not recited each time, and the person who addressed the question to R. Ovadia Yosef has actually met people who do utter the blessing Al achilat matza on the entire seven days (eight in the Diaspora) of Passover, a very unusual custom.

In his answer, R. Yosef quotes the commentary of Rabbenu Zerachya HaLevi (known as the Ba’al Hama’or) at the end of Tractate Pesachim, who actually asks your question, and I assume your reasoning was the same as his: “There are those who ask, What is the reason that we do not utter the blessing Al achilat matza for the entire Passover, just as we say the blessing ‘Leishev basukka - to sit in the sukka’ for the entire seven-day period of Sukkot [even in the diaspora. The eighth day, however, is considered to be a separate holiday, a ‘regel bifnei atzmo,’ and we refer to it as Shemini Atzeret, a day on which we may, but are not
commanded, to sit in the sukka].”

The Ba’al Hama’or explains the reason for this question: “In the Gemara (Sukka 27a) we derive the mitzva to eat in the sukka from the mitzva to eat matza on Passover. [It says regarding Sukkot (Leviticus 23:39) '...on the fifteenth day of the month...' and it states regarding Passover (Leviticus 23:6) '...on the fifteenth day of the month...'. Thus we derive that] Just as matza on the first night is a requirement (chova) and from then and on it is optional (reshut), so, too, on Sukkot the first night is a requirement and successive meals are optional. We conclude regarding both mitzvot that they are similar in that the first night is a requirement and from thereon the mitzva’s performance is optional.”

The Ba’al Hama’or continues: “We might say that [there is a difference, as] it is possible for a person to survive the duration of the other days of Passover without consuming matza by satisfying his needs with rice or millet [these are not consumed by Ashkenazim on Passover according to our custom; Sepharadim, however, do use them] or various types of fruit. But as
regards Sukkot, since a person cannot possibly go for three days without sleep, and he is obligated to sleep in the sukka and ‘go for a walk’ (i.e., spend his leisure time) there, as the Gemara expounds (infra 28b) from the verse (Leviticus 23:42), ‘Basukkot teshvu… – In
sukkot shall you dwell…’ ‘shall you dwell’ implies that just as you dwell in your normal abode, in the same manner shall you dwell in the sukka. Therefore one is required for the duration of this holiday to recite at all the festive meals the blessing of Leishev basukka.

R. Ovadia Yosef notes: “We surmise from the style of his question that there is a mitzva to eat matza on all seven days of Passover, similar to the requirement of sitting in the sukka, and that which the Gemara states that the first night is a requirement while afterwards is optional, this does not mean completely optional. Rather, this is similar to what Tosafot explain – s.v.
‘Ve’ha’amar Rav, tefillat arvit reshut’ (Yoma 87b). [The Gemara notes Rav's statement that the Ma'ariv prayer is an optional prayer, which the Gemara finds to be contradictory to a previously stated halacha that one who prayed Ne'ila on Yom Kippur will thus have fulfilled his obligation of the Ma'ariv prayer that follows.] The rule that Ma’ariv is reshut applies only in
regard to allowing it to be superseded by a mitzva overet (lit., a mitzva whose time will pass by quickly, and one will not be able to accomplish it later on); but in ordinary circumstances we may not nullify its performance, as it was the Patriarch Jacob who instituted it and he did not institute it for naught, for it was created to correspond with the burning of remains of the burnt offerings and the fats, the ketoret ha’evarim vehapedarim, which lasted the entire evening. (Tosafot note the dispute in the Gemara – Berachot 26b – as to whether the Patriarchs established our daily prayers, or whether they were instituted only later as a replacement for the sacrifices, following the destruction of the Holy Temple. Even though the burning of the remains and fats is not a hindrance to the performance of the sacrificial reqirement, it is nevertheless a mitzva to burn them, and likewise the Ma’ariv prayer is a mitzva.

R. Ovadia Yosef thus leaves us with the impression that, indeed, one should utter the blessing Al achilat matza for the duration of Passover. However, he goes on to cite Sefer HaMichtam (Sukka 27a) and Orchot Chayyim (Hilchot Sukka 36), who both refer to R. Shakli. R. Shakli explains that the eating of matza is not for the sake of accomplishing the mitzva of eating (achilat matza); rather, since one is not allowed to eat chametz, one satisfies one’s hunger by eating matza. This is similar to one who eats the meat of a kosher animal - for surely he may not eat the meat of a non-kosher animal – and he does not specifically recite the (hypothetical) blessing, “asher ki’deshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu le’echol besar behema tehora – He (G-d) who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat the flesh of a kosher animal.”

R. Shakli then concludes: “However, as for sitting in the sukka, one does not do so to satisfy a personal need, but rather for the purpose of accomplishing the mitzva of eating in the sukka. Therefore he is required to utter the blessing Leishev basukka.

R. Yosef reasons that according to R. Shakli’s responsa there is no mitzva whatsoever to eat matza for the remainder of Passover, for it is just like one who eats kosher meat. R. Yosef refers to the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 639), who also reasons similarly.

R. Yosef cites numerous other poskim who offer opinions on this matter. Notable is the Gaon R. Elijah of Vilna (HaGra), who took extra and loving care in the mitzva of eating matza all seven days of Passover, as the verse states, “Shiv’at yamim tochlu matzot.” We refer to it as reshut, or optional, only in comparison to the first day’s eating of matza which is obligatory
(chova); nevertheless, the eating of matza throughout Passover is a mitzvat aseh from the Torah.

The Gaon R. Isaac Palagi, notes R. Ovadia Yosef, discusses this in his Yafeh Lalev (vol. II 475:7). He states, “The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 31:3) writes that according to those who say that we do not don tefillin on Chol HaMoed, the Intermediary Days of the festival [which are not considered a full-fledged Yom Tov not because of a prohibition regarding labor but rather because tefillin are considered an ot or a sign, for it states in Deuteronomy (6:8), '...u'keshartam le'ot al yadecha... - ...you shall bind them as a sign on your hand...'] because these days are themselves considered an ot, a sign. On Passover [this is accomplished] by
eating matza, and on Sukkot by sitting in the sukka.”

It would thus seem, as R. Yosef observes, that the eating of matza is a requirement all seven days of Passover, just as the donning of tefillin on weekdays [which it seems to supersede]. Therefore it would follow that we bless Al achilat matza every day of the seven days of Passover [eight days in the Diaspora], just as we recite a blessing each time we sit in the sukka and as we do when we don the tefillin every day.

However, Orchot Chayyim and the Kol Bo as well as many Acharonim note numerous reasons explaining why we do not make such a blessing on matza for the remainder of Passover, and conclude that indeed one should not do so. R. Yosef also cites Tosafot (Menachot 36b) s.v. “yatz’u,” who state, “The [distinguishing] sign of Passover is abstaining from eating chametz.” There is a physical and notable difference on Passover that serves as a distinguishing sign (ot), but a positive command to eat matza is not what is inferred. It is,
rather, the negative command not to eat chametz that serves as a sign. Thus surely we should not say Al achilat matza.

Interestingly, the Chatam Sofer (whom R. Yosef does not refer to) states (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 639): “The rule is ‘in sukkot you shall dwell seven days,’ which means that one dwells in one’s sukka as one does in the house, and only one who does not live in a house
all year long, such as a watchman in the fields (see Sukka 26a), would be exempt from sitting in the sukka. However, one who dwells in a house is required to sit in the sukka [and bless Lesheiv basukka]. We should say the same regarding [Passover, about which we know
that] ‘Seven days you shall eat matzot’; every day you are required to eat [and bless as well], but were it not for [what we learned in the Gemara, Pesachim 120a], “Six days shall you eat matzot…”

Thus it is clear to us – and R. Ovadia Yosef concludes similarly as well – that we do not recite the blessing Al achilat matza on the remaining days of Passover. R. Yosef points out that where this custom exists, it should be abolished.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/q-a-al-achilat-matza-conclusion/2003/05/09/

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