Exactly 40 years ago, when he was 53 years old, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef began serving as the Rishon LeZion, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi. Now his sixth son Yitzhak, head of the Hazon Ovadia Ysehiva, is about to assume the same position.
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau began serving as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi 20 years ago, at the age of 56. His fourth son David, 47, will become Israel's youngest chief rabbi.
Rabbi Lau: I'll stay in Modiin
Shortly after the Chief Rabbinate election results were published, the victory celebrations began at the home of Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, who served until Wednesday as the chief rabbi of the central city of Modiin. Lau heard the results at his home, with his father by his side.
Father and son. Rabbis Israel Meir and David Lau (Photo: Yuval Chen)
Dozens of relatives, friends, city residents and other supporters began flocking to the house, where they were joined the singing and dancing. Modiin Mayor Haim Bibas, who headed Rabbi Lau's election campaign, proposed a toast in his honor and expressed his regret over the fact that he would be leaving his job as the city's chief rabbi.
Rabbi Lau said in response that he would not be leaving the city, and that as long as it depended on his children – he would continue living there.
"Just like I declared in the past few months, I will be everyone's rabbi and I don't belong to one sector or another, but to all the Jewish people," Rabbi Lau declared.
"Just like in Modiin we created a situation in which different people respect each other and try to see the light of Judaism, that model can be applied on the national level as well, building a society which cherishes and respects the Jewish tradition."
'I'll work in cooperation with Rabbi Stav'
Yerach Toker, Lau's media advisor, added that the rabbi planned to convene a special think tank in the coming days in a bid to mend the rifts among the Jewish people on the backdrop of recent political events and the Chief Rabbinate elections.
Four generations at Lau circumcision ceremony (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Rabbi Lau told Ynet that he had spoken to Rabbi David Stav, who was considered his main adversary for the title of Ashkenazi chief rabbi. He said they had known each other from the time Stav replaced him as the chief rabbi of the city of Shoham and have kept in touch over the years.
"I believe we can create a united nation with dear and good people from all shades of society," Lau said, "and I believe we will work in cooperation. Rabbi Stav told me that the Tzohar organization would stand by the Rabbinate and work with it, hand in hand."
The young rabbi has seven children aged three to 24 and two grandchildren. The youngest of them, only nine days old, was circumcised Wednesday morning. The excited grandfather's wished that the happy day would end that way too, and his prayer was answered.
'Mother is celebrating with us from above'
The election of Rabbi Yitzhakl Yosef as Sephardic chief rabbi was celebrated at his father's home in Jerusalem on the eve of the anniversary of his mother's passing. "She is celebrating with us from above," Rabbi Yosef said excitedly.
Father and son. Rabbis Ovadia and Yitzhak Yosef (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I respect the celebrated person, the chief rabbi," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef announced with his son sitting on his right and Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri – on his left.
"I have won," Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said. "It's a great honor to sit on this holy chair. The Rabbinate has suffered a jolt, and it is necessary to restore the Rabbinate's status. I hope all rabbis will work in cooperation to raise the stature of Torah."
Like his Ashkenazi colleague, Rabbi Yosef declared that he planned to be "everyone's chief rabbi, all the Jewish people."
He vowed to "do everything I can to make Torah lovable. I will accept every Jew as Aaron the High Priest did."
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef thanked God and advised his son "to love the Jewish people and have mercy on them." He asked him to do everything in his power to find a solution for agunot – Jewish women whose husbands are refusing to grant them a divorce.
Akiva Novick contributed to this report