Prominent haredi figure and Holon Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef gave approval this week for copying university course work from someone else, in an online forum for questions and answers on Jewish law.

A woman posed a question to the rabbi on the Moreshet religious web portal, saying that her friend’s lecturer had set an assignment that he had given to all his students over the past few years. The woman said her friend had obtained the completed assignment work of another friend, but wanted the questioner’s help in rewording it so the lecturer would not be aware it had been copied.

“My friend needs to submit university work. She took the work from someone else and asked me to change the wording so that the work will not look like the same,” she said.

“Is it permissible for me to help my friend to reword the work?” Yosef gave a brief response: “[It is] permitted. And it is [fulfilling the] commandment of bestowing kindness, especially if she has a good command of the material.”

Yosef, son of the late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has a record of controversial statements and rulings.

He once ruled that civil judges could not be counted in a minyan (prayer quorum), and recently sought to have the rabbinical qualifications of Rabbi David Stav – chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization – revoked because of his stance on conversions.

He brought up the request in a meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, of which he is a member.

Yosef was also briefly a candidate for national chief rabbi, but his campaign was halted by a police investigation into allegations against him regarding breach of trust and a conflict of interests in a dispute over kashrut licensing in Holon.

A group of students belonging to the national-religious Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah organization wrote a strong letter of criticism to Yosef, condemning his university ruling.

“This is something [copying work] which is morally corrupt, and we don’t know how it is possible to find any justification for it,” they wrote.

“Apart from the fact that such actions are a serious breach of university regulations, we as students who work hard every day doing course work and exams are saddened to see the legitimization of cheating and unilateral abrogation of student assignments.”

Tzohar executive vice president Nachman Rosenberg also harshly criticized the rabbi for his halachic ruling.

“It is a sad wonder how, between police investigations, trash talking and immorality, Rabbi Avraham Yosef finds both the time and audacity to personally persecute Rabbi Stav,” Rosenberg said. “I do not doubt his expertise in the Jewish laws pertaining to Passover cleaning, but I think he can use a serious polishing up on the laws of slander and the desecration of God’s name.”

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