Ailing Rabbi Ovadia Yosef kept in dark on brother's death

Shas leader hospitalized after experiencing back aches, other ailments; family source says bad news was kept to avoid adding stress.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's children and his doctors decided not to inform him about the death of his brother out of fear it would deteriorate his health, a source in the rabbi's family said Sunday.
Yosef was rushed to the hospital late Saturday night due to back aches and other ailments that his family members said had left him crying in pain. The 93-year-old rabbi was also hospitalized over Rosh Hashana but came home in time to attend the ceremony in which his son Yitzhak formally accepted the title of Sephardi chief rabbi.
But in between the hospital visits, the Shas mentor's pain did not stop. So when his brother, Naim, died before the Succot holiday, Yosef's doctor, Prof. Yohanan Shtessman, and his children decided to keep him in the dark.
“We decided that hearing such bad news could cause him serious harm,” a source in the rabbi's family said. “His mental situation is not good. When he feels better, with God's help, we will let him know.”
The source in the family could not confirm an Army Radio report that when Yosef asked for a newspaper on the day his brother's death was reported, the rabbi was told incorrectly that newspapers had not been published that day.
The report was compared to a classic incident in November 1957 when the newspaper Davar published a special edition without the news that then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion's military attache Nehemia Argov had committed suicide. The special newspaper was printed to show Ben-Gurion, who was hospitalized after he survived an assassination attempt in the Knesset.
For years, Shas officials have denied charges that they have kept the rabbi in the dark about key news developments. But Sunday a source in the party revealed that Yosef had not been told that his grandson Yonatan had decided to compete for the Jerusalem city council on a list that will compete with Shas.
Officials in Shas asked the public to pray for Yosef's health. A special prayer was uttered by the masses who came to the Western Wall for the traditional Birkat Kohanim priestly blessings Sunday morning, and special services were held at Jerusalem's Bukharim synagogue and in Tzfat.