Rabbi Michael Boyden

Unworthy spiritual leader

Rabbi Yosef exploits thousands of bereaved families to score political points

On the one hand, Rabbi Yosef's weekly words of hatred, uttered during his sermons, have turned into a meaningless nuisance a while ago, and are unworthy of exaggerated attention. On the other hand, we're talking about a rabbi followed by a large group of worshippers – a huge group that we must not disengage from or stand by silently while they follow their rabbi, without calling on them to find a new one.


I was thinking of my son Yonatan, may he rest in peace, who was a completely righteous man in my eyes and was killed in the first Lebanon War. Does my son, who fought as a soldier in the Israel Defense Force and was killed after being sent to defend this land, need Rabbi Yosef's approval?


And as a rabbi in Israel and a father who raised his son to follow the Torah and observe the mitzvot, do I now need to justify myself to the honorable rabbi for losing the one thing that was most precious to me? No thanks.


The rabbi's statements are distorted and lack any rational or religious basis. In fact, they are so baseless that one cannot even address them. Yet the political message behind them must be addressed.


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is unconcerned about Israeli soldiers – neither the ones killed in past wars, nor the ones to be killed, God forbid, in future wars. Had he been concerned for them, he would prompt his followers to join forces with young people like my son Yonatan, who combined Torah studies and military service.


The rabbi is interested in exploiting my bereavement and that of more than 20,000 families in Israel in order to score a few more leadership points among his followers and scare the general public. If you don't follow my way, you will be killed in war – this is the rabbi's message.


When faced with rabbis such as Yosef, I'm glad to be part of the Israeli public that is not among his herd of believers. According to my brand of Jewish faith, every person is a person, and every IDF soldier is a soldier, and I make no distinction between my son, who believed in God and observed mitzvot in accordance with the reform lifestyle, to his Orthodox or secular company comrades who believed in values they chose to believe in.


All of them fought together based on a sense of national mission in a war they were sent to by our leaders.


Secular majority at fault 

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has good reason to blame the deaths of soldiers in the Second Lebanon War on their personal conduct, rather than on the decisions of those who sent them to war. After all, the rabbi's emissaries in the government were full partners in managing the war.


The rabbi's latest declarations, which are the declarations of a politician under the guise of a spiritual leader, are incredibly outrageous. He shifts his own and Shas leaders' responsibility to the soldiers he sent to their deaths.


If his words worthy of a response, this is only in order to make clear that those are not words of Torah, but rather, words that constitute individual hatred, alienation from the soldiers of Israel, and detachment from the Israeli public who fights to defend the people and country regardless of religious orientation.


Yosef attempted to defame IDF casualties, but instead managed to disgrace himself and his followers. The blessed memory of my son Yonatan will not be affected in any way by Rabbi Yosef's words. The person who should be affected by them is Yosef himself, who should be condemned and denuounced, and we must realize once and for all that he should be treated like any other human being, and not like a spiritual leader.


Personally, I had the dubious pleasure of feeling the distinction between one kind of Jew and another when I was prevented from reciting the "El Male Rachamim" prayer in the official ceremony held in Hod HaSharon this year on Memorial Day eve, because I'm a reform rabbi. Then too it was the local neighborhoods rabbi, Reuven Hiller, who led the incitement and did not spare any Reform movement members, wherever they may be, his insults.


What amazes me is to see the government continue as usual in the face of such incidents and continue to pay people like Rabbi Hiller such respectable salaries. He too was a spokesman on behalf of Judaism, and as such allowed to defame and incite against such important parts of the Jewish people.


The fault does not lie with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef or Rabbi Hiller. It lies with the secular Jewish majority, which again shakes its head, clicks its tongue, and mostly maintains its silence.


The writer, a bereaved father, heads the court of the Progressive Rabbis' Council in Israel


פרסום ראשון: 08.28.07, 14:05
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