Thousands attend memorial rally for Rabbi Yosef

Former Shas party chairman Eli Yishai: No words to describe leadership void left by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s death.

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November 5, 2013 22:40
3 minute read.
Thousands attend memorial for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

thousands of haredim at yosef memorial 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Several thousand people turned out in Jerusalem for a memorial service marking the end of the 30-day period of mourning for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who acted as the spiritual leader and ultimate authority of the Shas movement.

The memorial rally was an opportunity for Shas chairman Arye Deri to continue to mend bridges and soothe bruised egos within the party by granting political rival Eli Yishai an opportunity to eulogize Yosef publicly.

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At a memorial service marking the end of the seven-day shiva period, Yishai, the former party chairman elbowed aside by Deri earlier this year, had been conspicuously omitted from the list of people who spoke.

On Tuesday night Yishai made full use of his platform and delivered a passionate but dignified tribute to Yosef, with whom he was close, speaking articulately and with eloquence.

When rising to the podium, he was treated to appreciative applause from the crowd.

“Every moment we miss the rabbi, every day we miss him. The Jewish people misses him,” he said. “The void he has left is huge, the fracture [in our lives] is terrible.”

The Shas MK said he felt the rabbi’s passing and absence on a personal level as well, and missed praying with and taking advice from him.

“There are no words to describe the rabbi’s absence; there are no words to describe the lack of understanding and the lack of leadership for the path [ahead],” Yishai declared.

Speaking at the end of the memorial was Yosef’s son, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. He spoke of his father’s dedication to Torah study and how at every opportunity, even during his final weeks in the hospital, he would open a book of Jewish law to study.

Yitzhak Yosef also used the occasion to declare that the Knesset was being disrespectful to the Chief Rabbinate by passing laws without consulting it.

He mentioned legislation on marriage and conversion that had been passed or was shortly to be brought before lawmakers. He also appealed to the assembled crowd to honor his father’s legacy by dedicating more time to Torah study and specifically to learn from the works written by the Shas mentor.

“Eat quickly on Friday night, sing just a few songs and then go and study,” Yosef said.

Among the other speakers were Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, son of the famed Kabbalist, Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, who was popularly known as the Baba Sali; Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, founder and dean of the Migdal Ohr educational institutions; and Rabbi Yehuda Deri, chief municipal rabbi of Beersheba and brother of Arye Deri.

Last week, the Shas chairman and Yishai held a faceto- face meeting to ease tensions that had been building since Yosef’s death last month. A public attack on Yishai in a TV interview two weeks ago led to unprecedented public criticism of the party chairman by Shas MKs Nissim Ze’ev and Ya’acov Margi, which prompted Deri to patch things up with Yishai in an attempt to preserve party unity.

In addition, two weeks ago Deri met with Rabbi Tzion Boaron, a rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court who ran for Sephardi chief rabbi against Yitzhak Yosef. Boaron had the strong backing of former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar, who was furious with Deri for undermining his efforts to be reelected chief rabbi.

Deri in recent weeks also sought to repair his and the Yosef family’s relationship with Amar in order to bring some form of reconciliation and unity to the Shas movement as a whole.


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