Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of the prestigious Porat Yosef Yeshiva, injected politics into the memorial service held Sunday night for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef z”tl, announcing that before his passing, Rabbi Yosef appointed Shas chairman current Aryeh Deri as the personality to lead the party into the future
“He believed in Aryeh Deri and gave him the strength and power Aryeh needs to do his job,” Cohen said. “May G-d help us, the members of the Council of Torah Sages, to continue to work together. Rabbi Yosef left behind him a Chief Rabbi, his son Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, and many students. He also appointed his son, Rabbi David Yosef, to the Council,” Cohen said.
Cohen, it will be recalled, termed religious Zionist Jews “Amalek” last summer, before the elections for the Knesset. His statement came during the Nine Days that precede the fast day Tisha B'Av, one of the grimmest days of the year on the Jewish calendar, on which both Holy Temples were destroyed, it is said, for the sin of "sina'at chinam" – baseless hatred -- and the day on which other painful tragedies befell the Jewish People as well. During this time, Jews are exhorted to avoid at all costs anything that would draw negative attention from Above especially during the Nine Days, a time in which even swimming and distant travel is avoided.
“Amalek” refers to the evil nation that attacked the defenseless Jewish people in the desert, after the exodus from Egypt. Amalek is also traditionally associated with Haman, the prince that sought to destroy the Jewish people, who were saved by the Purim miracle, as elucidated in the Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther).
Earlier, in a letter to top Shas officials, Rabbi Meir Scheinwald, head of the Meir Harel Hesder Yeshiva in the city of Modi'in, warned that using the memory of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef z”tl for “political purposes” could only serve to cheapen his standing – exactly as happened with Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
Playing politics with Rabbi Yosef's legacy, he said, would “cheapen” it – exactly what happened to the legacy of former Prime Minister Rabin, who was killed by a gunman in 1995. Today, he wrote, a large part of the nation does not mourn Rabin too deeply, because leftists used his legacy to justify their political positions. It's not an honorable use of a leader's memory, Rabbi Scheinwald wrote – and it would be a shame if it happened to Rabbi Yosef. “You must learn the lesson of Rabin's legacy,” he added.
Speakers at the memorial included the top rabbinical leaders of the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in Israel, including Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau, former Chief Rabbis Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Shlomo Amar, the deans of several top yeshivas, including Ponovezh, Ateret Yisrael, and Nahar Shalom, and Rabbi Moshe Maya, a member of the Council of Torah Sages. All praised Rabbi Yosef for educating tens of thousands of students, and for helping Sephardic Jewry to reach new heights.
According to police, over 100,000 people attended the event, which was held in the Geulah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Streets leading to the event were closed hours before it began at 6 PM, although traffic was much better than it was last week, during the hours leading up to the funeral.