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Monday, June 17, 2013 

Ovadia Yosef attacks non-Haredi rabbi whom he's never even met

Shas's spiritual leader has crossed the line yet again, attacking rabbi David Stav because he doesn't like his beliefs in ensuring that Judaism will be more welcome for everybody:
Religious-Zionist leaders slammed Shas on Sunday after Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual head of the Shas movement whose rulings on halakha (Jewish law) are widely respected, unleashed harsh invective against Rabbi David Stav, one of the candidates for the past of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

Choosing Rabbi Stav would be “like putting an idol in the sanctuary of the Temple,” Rabbi Yosef declared Saturday night, during his weekly Torah class.

“Anyone who appoints a religious judge who is not worthy is like someone who brings an idolatrous offering upon the alter of the Temple. Putting an idol in the Temple – a person who isn’t worthy… He has no fear of Heaven,” Rabbi Yosef said.

“They say he was tested, what is that worth? Doeg the Admoni was a great scholar in the time of King Saul, and our rabbis say he had no part in the world to come,” he added.

“They testified before me that [Rabbi Stav] is dangerous to Judaism, is dangerous to the Rabbinate. Should I keep silent?” he asked.

Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein runs the Tzohar rabbinic group along with Rabbi Stav. He said he respects Rabbi Yosef – but that the venerable religious leader has been misled by those close to him.

“What the rabbi said pains me. I respect Rabbi Yosef and his rulings are important,” Rabbi Feuerstein told Reshet Bet. However, he continued, “A Byzantine court controls his words; after all, Rabbi Yosef has never met Rabbi Stav.”

“A group of uncultured ‘businessmen’ surrounds Rabbi Yosef,” he added.

However, he said, there is some good in Rabbi Yosef’s harsh criticism. “The cat is out of the bag. The criticism of Rabbi Stav makes the conflict clearer to the Israeli public.”
True, it shows just how poor the approach some of the Haredi leaderships have to disagreement.

The disappointment didn't end there. Shortly after this tirade was launched, several Haredi lunatics tried to assault Stav in Bnei Brak:
A group of youths shoved Rabbi David Stav and hurled epithets at him at a wedding on Sunday evening, a day after Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef unleashed a scathing verbal attack on the candidate for the post of Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Stav was at the wedding of the daughter of Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, when the incident occurred. [...]

During the wedding, when Stav joined the celebratory dancing, Shas MK Ariel Atias immediately left the dance floor, the report said. Some of the youths then reportedly tried to trip up Stav while cursing him. According to one person who was at the wedding, when Stav later left the hall, “dozens of people surrounded him” and called him names. Others were embarrassed by the behavior of the youths and apologized to Stav, who “quickly left the premises,” one wedding guest was quoted as saying.

Stav serves as head of Tzohar, an organization that says it seeks to make Judaism more accessible to all Israelis, religious and secular alike. His candidacy is opposed by the ultra-Orthodox and conservative religious Zionist camp on the grounds that he is too liberal. Stav has cultivated an image as an alternative to a rabbinate dominated by the ultra-Orthodox, and is waging a public campaign that has won him a strong base of popular support. He also enjoys the backing of MKs in the coalition and in the opposition.

On Sunday, Education Minister Shai Piron, himself a member of the Zionist religious camp, questioned the place of Yosef’s statement and whether it was even allowed under traditional Jewish law. “Why? Why does Rabbi Ovadiah have to curse [Rabbi Stav],” he wrote on Facebook. “Does he think that that this will bring people closer to Torah and to Judaism? Does he think that to speak this about a person he has never met is moral? Halachic? Jewish?”

In a statement, Tzohar called Yosef’s remarks a testimony to “the urgent need for change across the rabbinate” and said he should “repent and ask forgiveness.”
I fully agree there. Yosef has long been a major embarrassment, a pinnacle example of how isolated Haredi communities like his are from the rest of society here. It makes no difference whether he's been misled by his other colleagues or not, his attitude is horrific and a textbook example of how not to lead a career as a rabbi.

The attack on Stav has brought him a lot of support, and he made the following statement on his Facebook page:
I want to personally thank the thousands of emails, texts and phone calls I received today from rabbis, community leaders and many of you, to strengthen me and my family in light of the personal attacks against me. I do not take this hug for granted, and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

I'm torn by the divisive atmosphere that has been created around the Chief Rabbinate election, but when I chose to go on that path, I did not seek to promote myself, rather I was thinking of the path of the Torah and the mission of returning to the Chief Rabbinate the path of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook zt"l.

These are not easy times for me and my family, so I thank you for the strength and the support. I will continue to do everything in order to connect the nation of Israel with its heritage and its Torah, and to ensure bringing together the hearts of religious, secular, Haredi Ashkenazim, Sephardim and the entire house of Israel.
The sad part is that thanks to all this horror, he may not have much of a chance now at being elected chief rabbi, because of a rift this has created, and because the government cabinet appointed a panel for electing the chief rabbis. At least that's what one writer for Israel Hayom feels. David Weinberg's also lamented how anyone can desecrate the beliefs in the Torah for the sake of a vile diatribe. So too has Dr. Haim Shine. And the Jerusalem Post editors say this is the latest in a long history of quarrels among rabbis who can be highly opinionated.

The point's been made by all those op-ed writers that Yosef represents the worst in how to approach dissent in his determination to keep hold of the chief rabbinate. He would do well to apologize and not act like he never has to say he's sorry.

Update: the Rabbinical Council of America has voiced its support for Stav too.

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