Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (ZT”L) Leaves Behind Mixed Legacy
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Z”TL), the late spiritual leader of Israel’s Sephardic community, passed away yesterday at the age of 93. His funeral was one of the most attended events in Israel’s history. Some 850,000 people (roughly 5.7% of Israel’s population) from all sides of Israel’s political and religious spectrum gathered in Jerusalem to mark the Rabbi’s passing and his life accomplishments.
Rabbi Ovadia leaves behind a mixed legacy. On one hand, he was a father figure to many both in Israel and abroad. He inspired thousands with his writings and lectures and made halachic decisions that paved the way for a new way of approaching the world we live in. On the other, he was often quoted (albeit by the maniacally left media) as saying things that go against the grain not only of Judaism–but of the human spirit.
Under Rav Ovadia’s leadership, Shas supported Yitzhak Rabin’s treasonous Oslo Accords that directly led to the murders of thousands of Jews and many more Arabs. While Rav Ovadia was extremely critical of Sharon’s decision to expel Jews from Gush Katif, Shas remained in the government, allowing the tragedy to take place. It left many of Israel’s best and brightest homeless overnight and allowed the Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip.
The Rabbi was known for his sharp criticism of Russian and Ethiopian Jews, many of whom he considered “below his standards.” At one time, he blamed the Ashkenazik community for the Holocaust. During the last year of his life, even as he struggled with health issues, the Rabbi continued making absurd, racist statements condemning large segments of the population. Either that, or he sat in on Shas political sessions where religious Zionists were compared to Amalek.
I believe that even though Rav Ovadia made decisions and said things that were completely out of place according to almost anyone’s standards, there was always a reason for these. Russian non-Jews, for example, are indeed a huge problem for Israel and her future. They should never have been allowed into Israel and continue to be a thorn in our side. They give Russian Jews a bad name.
There were reasons to go along with Rabin on Oslo. It did, after all, bring about a peace agreement with Jordan and strengthened our ties to some of the more liberal-inclined Arab states. It strengthened Israel’s economy. And as painful as this is to say, transferring Jews from Gush Katif did hold some value. As Sharon noted, it was impossible to maintain a steady army presence in Gaza. There were solid reasons for Shas leadership and Rav Ovadia to lash out at Jewish Home leaders as well. These have continued siding with Yair Lapid on his anti-religious, (one may claim) “anti-Semitic” agenda.
The Rabbi was a thinking man, who cared deeply about the Jewish people and whose life was a testament to the fighting spirit of the State of Israel. He will be sorely missed. May Hashem console you, the people of Israel, along with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.