Rabbi Avraham Yosef
Rabbi Avraham Yosef.
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Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein responded harshly on Thursday to statements by the city rabbi of Holon, who has said that judges should be excluded from Jewish prayer services. Rabbi Avraham Yosef is the son of Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

"I have come to the conclusion that it's not Rabbi Avraham Yosef who is the fool," Rubinstein said at an Israel Bar Association convention in Jerusalem. "We are. Anyone willing to accept such statements from a man serving as rabbi to a major city, with a handsome salary from public funds, should be ashamed."

In August, Yosef said during a radio broadcast that from the moment they are appointed judges are disqualified from inclusion in a minyan or any sacred rite. "Even if he promises to rule in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh [code of Jewish law], he is still 'One who has raised his hand against the Torah of Moses and is unworthy to partake of anything holy," Yosef said.

A few days after the radio broadcast, the courts administration asked State Prosecutor Moshe Lador to investigate whether Yosef's statements violated the law.

At Thursday's conference, Rubinstein joked that he was happy to see that there were at least 10 men in the audience who were not judges.

"I say this because if we wanted to hold the Arvit evening prayer service here there could have been a problem." A minyan, or prayer quorum, consists of at least 10 Jewish adults. "Rabbi Avraham Yosef, I am embarrassed to say, said on radio two months ago that a judge in Israel is barred from leading prayers and even from being included in a minyan or in anything sacred," Rubinstein said.

"Some respected persons - retired judges and lawyers - approached the council of the Chief Rabbinate, to which Yosef himself belongs, but the world kept turning and I haven't heard that a response was issued," Rubinstein continued. "If there was a response and I am not aware of it, then I apologize. So I asked myself: Who is the fool here? And I came to the conclusion that it's not Rabbi Avraham Yosef who is the fool. It is we. All those who are willing to accept such words from someone who serves as a rabbi in a big city and receiving a handsome salary from the public treasury. For shame."

Rubinstein noted that at his own synagogue, Yosef's remarks "have not yet been implemented, but I did make sure to make proper disclosure to all the beadles. I went up to every gabai the next morning and said, You must know that there is this edict. Take care not to lead your congregation astray."

Rubinstein concluded by saying that his comment was "institutional, not personal."

The courts administration said in a response to Haaretz that the issue was not remotely political in nature and that it found it unnecessary to add to Rubinstein's remarks.

Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat College of Law, said last night that the rabbis' silence about Yossef's remarks "speaks for itself and shows how far things have gone. The Ponevezh Yeshiva once granted former Supreme Court justice Yitzhak Kister the most honored aliyah le'Torah," referring to the honor of being called up to cite the blessings over the Torah during a service.

A year ago, Haaretz reported that Yosef was rebuked in the Tel Aviv District Labor Court for dismissing a kashrut inspector in Holon for political considerations, when he found the inspector was an activist with the Agudat Yisrael party, a rival of Shas. Judge Lea Glicksman rejected out of hand Yossef's claims that the inspector displayed contempt for his father, or refused to abide to the rabbi's instructions.