Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has publicly attacked the Tzohar religious-Zionist rabbinical association, accusing the organization of employing a female rabbi, allowing women to perform parts of wedding services and being too lenient in its attitude to Jewish law.
Yosef made his remarks this week during the Torah lesson he gives every Saturday night.
“To our great dismay, Tzohar rabbis do the most severe things,” he said. “They fund a female rabbi who needs to give a [Torah] lesson in front of the entire congregation on Friday night, may God have mercy.”
The chief rabbi also accused Tzohar of allowing women to say one of the seven blessings under the wedding canopy and mockingly joked that they change one of the blessings from referring to God “creating man” to God “creating animals.”
Yosef also criticized what he described as a culture of leniency in rulings on Jewish law.
“Everything in Jewish law has a boundary,” he said.
Tzohar issued a statement rebutting Yosef’s claims, and strongly denounced what it described as slanderous comments against the organization.
The group said it did not know to whom Yosef was referring when he claimed that Tzohar funds a female rabbi.
Yosef’s office did not respond to a request for clarification as to whom the rabbi was referring.
“Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef is destroying the status of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in his attack against hundreds of rabbis who sanctify God’s name in public and [who] try to amend the desecration of God’s name that he is causing to the Torah,” Tzohar responded.
“His baseless words are totally forbidden, according to the Jewish laws on slander and the commandment of ‘keep far from a false charge,’ [and] cause massive damage to the Torah and to the honor of the rabbinate in Israel,” it said. “It is impossible to understand how someone who was elected chief rabbi of Israel, even though he didn’t pass the rabbinate exams, can insult so many rabbis among the Jewish people, who dedicate their lives to Jewish law, Torah and the entire Jewish people.”
Tzohar’s comment regarding rabbinate exams referred to the fact that Yosef received his advanced rabbinic ordination after taking an oral, instead of a written exam, and was ordained by the two chief rabbis at the time, one of whom was his father, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
During the elections to the Chief Rabbinate in 2013, in which Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav was a candidate for the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, the elder Yosef called Stav “an evil man” who was “dangerous to Judaism and the Torah.”
Stav passed written exams for his advanced rabbinic ordination, as well as the written exams to serve as a rabbinical judge, but was defeated in the election by incumbent Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.
Yosef does not have ordination as a rabbinical judge but is currently serving as the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, by virtue of his position as Sephardi chief rabbi.
Tzohar has some 800 member rabbis and is known most widely for its marriage-service program, in which it helps couples navigate the religious bureaucracy and provides them with a rabbi to conduct their wedding ceremony if they request.
Its marriage service was established in 1996. More than 50,000 couples have married through the service, which is frequently used by secular Israelis, with more than 5,000 couples currently marrying through Tzohar every year.