Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef Shlomi Cohen

Following the furor surrounding comments made last week regarding graduates of hesder yeshivas, the Rishon Lezion Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef apologized on Sunday for any offense he may have caused.

The Chief Rabbi’s office issued a statement that: “The Rishon Lezion has the greatest respect for graduates of hesder yeshivas and their Torah learning, and is in constant contact with rabbis who are graduates of hesder yeshivas on topics of Torah learning and Jewish law. He wishes to apologize if his words were misunderstood.

“The Rishon Lezion was referring to the need for Torah scholars who serve as the chief rabbis of towns or cities to be immersed in Jewish law, and stressed that in order to serve as the chief rabbi of a municipality, a Torah scholar must have studied Jewish law for some years beyond those which he spent in yeshiva. This applies to the graduates of any yeshiva, not just hesder yeshivas.”

In a Torah class given last week Rabbi Yosef had expressed his support of the candidacy of a certain rabbi for the position of chief rabbi of an Israeli city, saying, “The rabbi of a city must, primarily, be someone who is proficient in Jewish law. Not an IDF officer or someone who learned in a hesder yeshiva. He must be someone who is immersed in Torah learning and then goes out to serve in the rabbinate and bring prestige to the Torah.”

Responding to Rabbi Yosef’s statement, MK Matan Kahana (Yamina), said, “Torah scholars enhance peace in the world. I am delighted that Chief Rabbi Yosef has clarified his position so that no Torah scholar need feel put to shame. We must all strengthen those who learn Torah and Jewish law, no matter from which stream they come, and focus on what unites us and not on what separates us.”