If He's the Greatest, We're in Trouble

If Ovadia Yosef is ever buried in the earth as any ordinary mortal, we hope that he will lie in peace; and then we will also be able to live in peace.

We did not join the prayer circles for his recovery nor the Psalms reciters requesting God restore his health. We did not want to put God to a test. What if the doctors could do no more and only God and Channel 2 were left at his bedside? May God have mercy.

Ovadia Yosef is referred to as gadol hador, the greatest rabbi of his generation, and may He save the generation if that’s the case. It is doubtful whether those who regard him as a great Talmudic scholar have ever read even a page of his writing: How to poach an egg that was laid on a Jewish festival and other no laughing matters - only the most profound philosophical questions.

After his death - may he reach the ripe old age of 120 before that happens - it will be hard to call him a saint. In life, we didn’t see him as a saint and so we have no reason to call him one as he lies on his deathbed.

We are not abandoning a sick old man because he was never ours to begin with. When our enemy falls – or becomes deathly ill – we must not rejoice, but, at the same time, we cannot forgive.

This is the “spiritual leader” whose spirit was bad, who viciously attacked all those who disobeyed, all those who did not bleed Shas. Now, as his family and entourage quarrel over succession, we should recall all those he cursed: Gentiles and Arabs, black people and women, teachers and gays, Reform Jews, secular Jews and even religious Jews who didn’t follow his teachings. Let us not forget the cursed politicians and disparaged judges and the Israelis soldiers who were lookouts during Shabbat but did not observe the holy day and thus died of their own fault.

There is no group in this great country that has not been insulted by his harsh words and his chronic tongue-lashing. There is no group in Israel that has not been humiliated by him in public.

He’s the man who founded Shas, the country’s most corrupt political party, boasting a membership well represented among Israel’s incarcerated. He adorned the heads of its leaders with Borsalino hats and outfitted them with Versace suits, leaving the rank and file in rags. To paraphrase the bible, Children he has reared, and raised, and they have rebelled against us. In his mission to restore the crown of Jewish tradition, the ends justified the means.

He established a separatist education system that impoverishes the minds of students while enriching the coffers of elders. He built profitable businesses for supervising kashrut, bankrupting consumers while amassing wealth for his clan.

He remained ensconced in his imposing edifice and came into no real contact with common folk. He knows of the real world only through the scented kerchief of the self-serving members of his court. Among the pilgrims who came for an audience with him are presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministers. The made the pilgrimage not for Torah guidance nor for rulings on Jewish law, however, but merely to be ingratiating and make fools of themselves ceremoniously.

Even the Saturday night sermons he delivered in a Jerusalem synagogue were a disgrace wrapped in a mantle of dry wit. What he said in those sermons were not those “words of the wise [that] are spoken in quiet.” Quite the contrary, his words expressed anger and mockery, as if he regarded Judaism merely as folklore, as a collection of folk tales and epigrams phrased in street language as if the he were an amateur standup comedian. “Our master,” as his followers called him, provided his flock with straw and stubble. In Psalms it says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters,” But he never gave his flock green pastures nor did he lead them by the still waters. Instead of raising the sacred quality of their lives, he merely reduced it. Full of ethnic pride, he handed over the children Shas’ distinguished politicos over to the religious fanatics of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanians.

A puppet of a spiritual leader is a brilliant contraption. Inflate the puppet. Dress it in a gown. Adorn its head with a crown. Put words in its mouth and then marvel at its sagacity. Our master asks, who could be so foolish as to disobey sheer wisdom? Over the years, it became clear that no one could match Shas leader Aryeh Deri as puppet master. His rival, Eli Yishai, should have learned ventriloquy.

He gets into fights with everyone and he does not lack malice. He wished us a sudden, unnatural death, promising Meretz’s Shulamit Aloni he would hold a party to celebrate her death, along the lines of “The Jews had light and gladness.” He wished me a bitter, swift end and said that my name should be erased from Jewish collective memory like the arch-enemies of the Jewish people, Amalek and Haman.

We, on the other hand, we wish him a ripe old age, despite his condition, which is described as “very serious but stable.” If he is ever buried in the earth as any ordinary mortal, we hope that he will lie in peace; and then we will also be able to live in peace.