Israeli leaders personally touched by passing of Chief Rabbi
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and founder of the Shas party has passed away at the age of 93.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has expressed his deep sorrow over the passing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
“I heard with profound grief of the passing of [former] Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, among the greatest rabbis of our generation. Rabbi Ovadia was a giant in Torah and Jewish law and a teacher for tens of thousands. He worked greatly to enhance Jewish heritage and at the same time, his rulings took into consideration the times and the realities of renewed life in the State of Israel. He was imbued with love of the Torah and the people. I very much appreciated his convivial personality and his directness. In my meetings with him, I always learned very much. The Jewish People have lost one of the wisest men of this generation. I send my condolences to his family, his students and his many devoted followers,” the Prime Minister said.
President Shimon Peres had this to say: ”A few hours ago I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my teacher, my rabbi, my friend Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. It was a difficult time. Tears filled my eyes and my throat was choked with emotion. I held his hand which was still warm and kissed his forehead. When I pressed his hand I felt I was touching history and when I kissed his head it was as though I kissed the very greatness of Israel. Immediately after the fall of the Second Temple there were two greats of the Torah – Yohanan ben Zakai and Yehuda HaNasi. I mention them because they came to the conclusion that for the Jewish people to survive we need to study. Rabbi Yosef symbolized that and acted upon it, he was simply a great man. His greatness wasn’t measured but rather it was felt as a spiritual wind in every corner, lighting up the darkness in unexpected places. When I met him I sensed he was a great man with an unbelievable memory and the wisdom to share his knowledge with others. His contribution was his love for Israel and he solved problems no-one else could solve using his wisdom and spirituality.”
Praise for the former Chief Rabbi also came from Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency which is partially funded by the UIA. He said: “Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was one of the greatest rabbinic authorities who built the nation of Israel in the Land of Israel. Entire Jewish communities returned to Israel thanks to Rav Ovadia’s rulings. His rulings on conversion reflected first and foremost the importance of building the nation in an era of ingathering the exiles. May his memory be a blessing.”