Former Sephardi chief rabbi Shlomo Amar was subject to a harsh dressing down
from his former patron, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on Monday for having backed a
separate candidate for chief rabbi in the recent elections, against Yosef’s
Amar decided to visit Yosef in Hadassah University Medical Center
in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, where he is currently being treated for a persistent
back problem, although the visit was not coordinated with Yosef’s inner
The two have not met since the chief rabbi elections in July in
which Amar backed Rabbi Tzion Boaron, a rabbinical judge serving on the Supreme
Rabbinical Court, against Yosef’s candidate and son Rabbi Yitzhak
Amar’s support for Boaron represented a serious rebellion against
the authority of Yosef, who founded the Shas movement and is the political
party’s spiritual leader and ultimate arbiter on all major policy
As it turned out, Yitzhak Yosef won the election for Sephardi
chief rabbi with 68 votes to Boaron’s 28. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu received 49
votes, but Boaron’s campaign was relying on Eliyahu being forced to remove his
candidacy by either the attorney-general or the High Court of Justice, which did
First published in the haredi media but confirmed by The
Jerusalem Post, Yosef accused Amar of attacking him without cause, saying he had
“returned evil for good,” and the meeting lasted only several minutes before
Amar left without having appeased Yosef.
Amar was formerly considered
extremely close to Yosef and required his support in order to be appointed chief
rabbi back in 2003.
The Post understands that Yosef refused to even shake
Amar’s hand at the end of the meeting.
Amar had been hoping that
legislation would be passed allowing him to stand for a second term, but Yosef
withdrew his support for the Knesset bill at the urging of party chairman Arye
Deri who opposed a second term for Amar.
Amar, in what many viewed as a
form of revenge against Deri, campaigned heavily for Boaron in the elections and
refused to withdraw his support when requested by Yosef’s close
Before his visit on Monday to the hospital, Amar sent a letter
to Yosef in which he apologized, although did not specify for what exactly he
was apologizing, and said everything he did was for the sake of
“Now that it is told to me that there is anger toward me, he
should remember to be merciful in his anger and look on all the years that I
went before him with unparalleled humility and complete self-nullification, and
that this was for the glory of his greatness who is unique in this and other
“If I erred, then the mistake remains with me...,” Amar
continued, quoting from the biblical book of Job, “...and I will seek his love
and compassion all of my days. And [I offer] apology for all the pain that was
caused to the rabbi.”
Despite this letter, Yosef has not forgiven Amar,
as was made apparent by his angry response to the latter’s visit on
According to a source within Yosef’s inner circle, the Shas
leader is insistent that Amar’s apology be unequivocal and clearly acknowledge
that his behavior was wrong.
The source said that a full apology was
critical for Yosef because Amar’s actions undermined Yosef’s position as the
leading rabbinic authority and source of political power in Shas, and it would
take a “dramatic” display of penitence to heal the wound.
“It’s a point
of ideology and principle, which is important for the next generation as well,
to reinforce the notion that there is a gadol ha’dor, a generational leader whom
you cannot oppose, to whose word you must adhere in order for the party to be
able to operate,” said the Shas official.
“Rav Ovadia was deeply and
sincerely hurt by his actions.
When it’s someone on Rabbi Amar’s level,
it’s not something that can be overlooked, such as if an MK or other party
functionary were to act in this way.”
He said that the damage could still
be repaired, but it depended on Amar and his circle of advisers to take the
He added that Yosef, who is still being treated in the
hospital, is stable but that his situation has not improved enough for him to be
released from hospital. It is hoped that he will be released sometime this week.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!