Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, and author Yalkut Yosef on Jewish law on Saturday night succeeded, not for the first time, in insulting multitudes of non-kosher and kosher Israeli when he stated during a class that secular Jews are miserable because their lives lack satisfaction and clarified that “A person who eats non-kosher, his brain becomes dull, it’s difficult for him to grasp things, he doesn’t get it.”
The chief rabbi has a low opinion of secular Israelis. He said that he sees “everything that happens in the secular public, they are miserable. They have no satisfaction in life. It’s all about lust… It’s unbelievable… You see the promiscuity in the secular public, all the problems it causes.”
“They envy us, you know, it’s all jealousy,” he continued. “You see the Haredi public, they have holidays, they have children, they go out with them on holidays… Everything stems from jealousy and this jealousy develops into hatred.”
The chief rabbi said nothing that isn’t stressed by Jewish tradition about the fact that sin leads to spiritual and mental dullness. The Talmud in tractate Yuma 39a teaches: “Sin stupefies the heart of a person who commits it, as it is stated: ‘And do not impurify yourselves with them so that you should not be thereby impurified (ve’nitmatem, you become tameh, unpure)’ (Leviticus 11:43) Don’t read the term as: ‘impurified’ (ve’nitmatem) but ‘stupefied’ (ve’nitamtem).
And Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s Mesillat Yesharim teaches (c.11): “And the forbidden foods exceed all the prohibitions because they enter the human body and become part of his flesh.”
The Netziv of Volozhin said in his halachic rulings that one must be careful not to allow minors to eat treif food more than watching their Shabbat observance.
Sefer ha-Chinuch suggests that “Impurity is known to the sages as weakening the intellectual prowess and mixing it up and separating it from the universal higher intellect and it remains separate until it is purified.”
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, 71, like his exulted father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Ztz’l, has no problem attacking behaviors and individuals he considers to be a negative influence on Israeli society, and he does it in a blunt and unpretentious style that has made him many enemies. In March 2016, after then-IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot demanded that soldiers not kill a terrorist who has already been subdued, Rabbi Yosef insisted that soldiers must kill anyone attacking them and disregard the military rules of engagement.
That same year, Rabbi Yosef also said that gentiles who do not observe the Noahide Laws must not live in Israel, and if they refuse to obey the Torah’s commandments for gentiles, they should be sent to Saudi Arabia. He also taught that the purpose of gentiles who live in Israel is to serve the Jews.
Some may not like it, but none of the above teachings is without a solid foundation in classical, mainstream Jewish tradition.
As expected, the good rabbi’s colorful teachings were great fodder for attacks on him and the Haredi sector by the usual suspects, most notably opposition leader Yair Lapid and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who have both built their political careers in part on hate for religious Jews. Both of them came up with the same response, almost word for word, namely that the only stupidity of secular Israelis is that they continue to pay the salary of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
But against the background of relentless, brutal attacks by several hundred very secular Israelis on Jews who pray on Yom Kippur in the public space, and more recently the demolishing of public sukkahs and attacks on Lubavitchers who offer passersby on city streets an opportunity to shake a lulav, the Sephardi chief rabbi’s blunt insults are refreshing.