Who Is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef?

The JPost’s Anshel Pfeffer gives us a brief biography:

…His recent bout of illness notwithstanding, the followers of the rabbi – who will today be celebrating his 86th birthday in a hospital ward, after also spending Yom Kippur there in his third hospitalization in as many weeks – cannot even begin imagining what life without him will look like. It’s not only the sanctity of life that makes them insist that Yosef will live to 120, nor is it the awe in which he is held, but the total absence not only of a credible successor, but of an entire substrata of spiritual leadership in the haredi world.

The almost total vacuum that will be caused by Yosef’s absence will not be because of the depth and breadth of his Torah learning or the audacity of his halachic rulings, unrivalled perhaps in generations, but the particular brand of leadership he has exhibited for five decades.…

…Unique among other senior rabbis, he wasn’t the scion of a long-established rabbinic dynasty, pampered and nurtured in a Torah environment from infancy. Instead, his father Ya’acov, a poor grocer with a weakness for arak and singing, did everything in his power to end his son’s nascent yeshiva career and set him to work dragging flour sacks.

Even after his father was thwarted, Yosef still had to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles of poverty and position before he managed to establish himself as a professional rabbi and dayan. None of his siblings managed to travel his route; most of them are still secular.

When addressing the spiritual needs of a fragmented Mizrahi community, buffeted by the challenges of poverty and eroding parental authority, Yosef knew exactly where they were coming from. That rapport, together with his prowess in Torah, was the secret of his success. Those strengths enabled him to forge diverse groups into a social force, long before it first took political form when Shas ran in the 1984 elections. It is also what commanded wide respect – not only from Israeli haredim – both within and outside the Mizrahi community.…


Filed under Israel, Jewish Leadership, Sefardim

5 responses to “Who Is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef?

  1. Franji

    Thanks for this posting. A similar article, appears in NRG Yahadut.
    Rabbi Yosef has often been maligned by people of the left who saw in him a threat to the socialist paradise they thought they created, being described as Haredi in addition to being Sefardi made him so much more dangerous in their eyes.
    To make matters more complicated,Ashkenazim, not only Haredim (mainly Chabad-who possessed, or were possessed by a “moschiach”, dali’m, hardal’im and Rabbi Shach z’l) saw in him a threat to their hegemony.
    When the sum of all religious parties excluding Shas could hardly muster 7 to 8 MK’s Shas brought in 17 , after election rules were changed, Shas still has 11 MK’s.
    The interesting thing about Shas, is that it is not a Haredi party, it is really a Jewish Sefardi Party. There is no way that there are enough Sefardi Haredi voters for 11 Knesset seats, never mind 17.
    If a Sefardi says haredi, it is not a label. He means: Yere Shamayim, with a small ‘h’. Sefardis never had denominations. No reforms or conservatives or reconstructionists.
    Many Sefardis are not religious in the affiliated Ashkenazi sens, but mourners among us are likely with very rare exceptions to pray for 11 months to say qaddish, observance of Jewish holidays is Universal, you are not likely to come across Sefardis who eat on their balcony in Tel Aviv on yom kippur for the sake of spite, as many ashkenazim do there.
    Rabbi Yosef is a Talmid Chacham of the first order. One needs only look at some of his books and see the command of the subject as well as a sea of cross references including intimate knowledge of material written by Ashkenazi Rabbis not only the Rosh but also the Vilna Gaon and the Rabbi of Munkatch and many others .
    Those who like to hear him, can do so on lectures available on line.
    Finally, R’ Yosef is “loved” by his followers, secular “modern” Israelis have lost their innocence and are unable to love this way.

  2. Franji

    Check the comments counter R’ Shmarya !

  3. Anonymous

    A shame that a vast % of R.Yosef’s Olam Habo will be eroded (cf Shevna Cohen Godol), maybe even all of it, by his “Land for Peace” ruling, without which we would never have had Oslo and its 1000s of korbonos.

  4. Franji

    to the nameless responder passing judgement on the maran ovadia yosef shalita.
    let’s call you the nobody accordingly!
    why leaving your posting nameless?
    maybe nitqayem in you the words of:
    תהלים קט
    יג יהי-אחריתו להכרית; בדור אחר, ימח שמם.
    yehi ratzon that yitqayem in you and in your spiritual guides too:
    יד יזכר, עון אבתיו–אל-ה’; וחטאת אמו, אל-תמח. טו יהיו נגד-ה’ תמיד; ויכרת מארץ זכרם
    as well as: יכרת ה’ כל שפתי חלקות לשון מדברת גדולות …

  5. allison

    I just want to know if ALL gum is kosher or does it have to be marked?

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