Rav Ovadiah Yosef
(1920 - )
Born in Baghdad, he was brought to Jerusalem when he was four years old. At age 20 he received rabbinical ordination from Rav Ben-Zion Ouziel. In 1945 he was appointed a dayan or judge of the Sephardi Bet Din (rabbinical court) in Jerusalem. Two years later, he was elected head of the Cairo bet din and deputy chief rabbi of Egypt.
After establishment of the State of Israel, he was appointed a member of the rabbinical court of Petah Tikva and later in Jerusalem (1958-1965). In 1965, he was appointed a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem, and in 1968, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. He became Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel (Rishon le-Zion) in 1973. In 1984 he became spiritual mentor of Israels Shas political party.
A prolific writer and halachic thinker, Rav Ovadiah published his first work at the age of 18. While he was in Egypt he displayed great courage by refusing to speak against the State of Israel, while forbidding contribution for Egyptian military equipment. He also insisted on his right to speak in Hebrew.
He was awarded the Israel Prize for Torah literature in 1970 in recognition of both the quality and quantity of his work. He is known to be equally versed in both Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions in granting his halachic rulings, which are known for both their erudition and their directness. Rav Ovadiah is generally inclined to leniency in his rulings.
He was head of the Torah veHoraah yeshiva in Tel Aviv and a founder of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem.
Source: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente