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Israelis Disappointed By New Chief Rabbis

The election of the new chief rabbis has provoked disappointment and debate from Israel to North America.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stands beneath campaign posters depicting Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, in the southern city of Ashdod January 17, 2013. A fixture in successive governments, Shas, the ultra-Orthodox party draws its support from the fast-growing community of religious Jews of Middle Eastern origin whose spiritual leader is the 92-year-old, Iraqi-born rabbi Ovadia Yosef. According to opinion polls, it will maintain its 11 seats in parliament. REUTERS/A
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It should be noted to the credit of the chief rabbis elected on July 24 that they sought to display “a victor's generosity.” Being aware of the hostility of the secular public toward the body they have been chosen to head, Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef endeavored to allay public concerns. In their first statements following their election to office, the two pledged to act to bring Israelis closer to the rabbinical establishment and make things easier for them, wherever and whenever possible. All of a sudden, the Aramaic phrase [literally translated as] “by force of the permission given“ — which denotes a lenient approach in the religious Jewish law — has come into vogue.

The day after the vote, the two newly elected rabbis paid a visit of honor to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi — truly happy with the great victory, which assured him continued control of this strategic stronghold — ordered his son, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and Lau to avoid any unnecessarily strict religious rulings, and do their best to bring Israelis closer to the Torah. Really sweet of him! Even the sympathetic Pope Francis could not have been softer or more conciliatory.

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