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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Avraham Yosef’

Rav Ovadia’s Son to Netanyahu: You Hurt Dad’s Feelings

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived at Hakablan 45 Street in Jerusalem around noon, Tuesday, on a shiva call to the children of the departed Rav Ovadia Yosef, and was greatly surprised when the sons of the great man exploded at him, saying their father had been hurt by him, Kikar Hashabbat reported.

While Netanyahu was in the middle of his visit, one of Rav Ovadia’s sons, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, turned to him, and in a voice choked with tears said: “Half a year ago you were here, by us, you were present near Dad… Dad asked you very much… The world of Torah was very dear to him… It was like his last will…”

Rabbi Avraham Yosef was referring, of course, to the “decree” of drafting yeshiva students to the IDF, which Rav Ovadia fiercely opposed.

“We’re begging,” Rabbi Avraham Yosef told Netanyahu, “we’re asking, all of us, with our hearts, do what you can…”

At that point, another son, Rabbi David Yosef, exploded at the prime minister, saying: “Dad asked for your answer and didn’t receive it, he was very much hurt by that.”

Rabbi David Yosef continued: “Dad was very hurt by the fact that he did not receive a response to his request. All he heard [from you] was ‘I didn’t come [to discuss] this, only those words, and he was very hurt by it. He spoke to me afterwards and he was very much hurt.”

And Rabbi David Yosef continued, relentlessly: “We anticipate, we feel that this was the most important request for him. He told you in these very words, ‘I lost a son, but this pains me more.’”

Later, during Netanyahu visit, Rabbi David Yosef returned to the subject, saying: “He voiced some very harsh words on this topic, the yeshiva students’ draft, and he did not receive a response. We’re still waiting.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who appeared deeply embarrassed by the unexpected onslaught, responded: “We’re making efforts to unite the nation, to preserve the nation.”

To which Rabbi David Yosef responded: “To preserve the world of Torah, that’s what he asked.”

Earlier, Netanyahu told Kikar Hashabbat how much he would miss his visits to Rav Ovadia’s place, and how much he would miss Rav Ovadia himself, “a special man with a big heart, a great soul, a good spirit.”

Netanyahu also mentioned that the departed was a member of the association commemorating his own late brother, Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed during the hostage release in Entebbe, Uganda.

‘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.

Dirty Politics: Govt. Targeting Candidates for Chief Rabbi

Friday, July 12th, 2013

For the record, I have to state that I don’t think Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, currently the chief rabbi of Tsfat and a major candidate for Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, will make a good chief rabbi. He just doesn’t have the sophistication and familiarity with the culture at large that’s a crucial prerequisite for the job.

I also vehemently disagree with his position on Jewish-Israeli relations. Rabbi Eliahu has famously ruled that people should not rent their apartments to Arab students in Tsfat, and that people should also not sell land to non-Jews. “In Tsfat the halachic ruling worked, praise God,” he was recently quoted in Ha’aretz, adding that “neither the religious nor the secular” sell apartments to Arabs in his city.

I disagree with the good rabbi because I don’t think Torah forbids selling or renting to non-Jews. I think he is doing damage to the reputation of religious Judaism by substituting his own nationalistic thinking for our tradition of protecting the monotheistic stranger.

Having said that, I am appalled by the notion that a rabbi, or any person, really, would be summoned to an interrogation of his views by the state’s attorney general, in order that the latter decide whether to approve his candidacy.

This week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein sent Rabbi Eliyahu a letter stating, “It appears that your choice to serve at the highest level is likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties.”

Among the quotes appended to the AG’s letter was one from an interview with Arutz Sheva: “The Arab students at the Tsfat Academic College must be thrown out,” Rabbi Eliyahu told the website. “Yes I am saying this explicitly and I’m not afraid of anyone – only someone who has shifted his loyalty to the State of Israel has the right to learn.”

A week ago, Weinstein announced that he would hold a disciplinary hearing, should Rabbi Eliyahu decide to run for the chief rabbinate, because it’s a government position.

Mind you, it is well within the purview of the AG’s authority to vet a candidate for high office for whatever crimes and misdemeanors said candidate may be dragging behind him. But to disqualify a candidate for their opinions? What neighborhood of Moscow sprouted this particular gem?

I’ll be very sad to see Rabbi Eliyahu become chief rabbi, because I believe he will play right into the hands of the anti-Haredi media, and just add more reasons for secular Israelis to be disenchanted with the institution of the rabbinate altogether. Anything he will say will be misinterpreted without the benefit of context. He will do harm to the image of Judaism in the public at large, enhance the chasm between secular and religious Jews, and will still not understand what’s all the commotion. This is why I’m delighted that Jewish Home Pensioner Affairs Minister Ori Orbach and MK Nissan Slomiansky are against his nomination. But, alas, the rest of the faction supports him, because they figure that’s what their settler constituency wants. I’m not so sure it’s true.

But the intimidation of candidates for the chief rabbinate is getting not just to Rabbi Eliyahu. On Tuesday, Holon Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, also a leading candidate for the office, and the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was questioned on suspicion of breach of trust in granting kashrut certificates of the mehadrin type to businesses that aren’t so mehadrin.

They kept him for eight hours in an interrogation room over that one.

I’ve no idea how the lost honor and reputation of the Israeli rabbinate can be restored. Maybe they should bring back Rabbi Israel Lau, the last chief rabbi who was also a popular figure with the public at large. I think Rabbi David Stav can do a fine job on the Ashkenazi side, but I’m not sure he has the votes.

These are unhappy times for religious and secular relations in Israel. Add to the criminalization of the rabbinate vote the fact that Haredim have taken to attacking their own kind should they dare don a uniform, and you’ll have to ask yourself why would a secular Israeli have any sympathy for things rabbinic. Of course, one can also stop reading the news.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dirty-politics-govt-targeting-candidates-for-chief-rabbi/2013/07/12/

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