Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
(1920 - 2013)
Haim Ovadia Yosef was a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the foremost Talmudic authorities of his generation.
Yosef (born September 23, 1920; died October 7, 2013) was born in Baghdad under the name Ovadia Yosef Ovadia, or Abdullah Youseff in his native Arabic. At the age of four, Yosef immigrated with his family to Palestine where they settled in Jerusalem. 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.
In 1947, at the invitation of Rabbi Aharon Chouke, Yosef moved to Cairo, Egypt where he was elected head of the bet din and also became
deputy chief rabbi of Egypt. Ovadia published his first work at the age of 18 in Cairo, and while there he refused to speak
against the State of Israel and forbade Jewish contributions to the
Egyptian military. He also insisted on his right to speak
After the State of Israel was established in 1948, Yosef returned to Israel and was appointed a member of the
rabbinical court of Petah Tikva. From 1958 to 1965, he held the same position in Jerusalem.
In 1965, he was appointed a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of
Appeals in Jerusalem, and
in 1968, he attained the role of Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel
Aviv-Jaffa. He was awarded the Israel
Prize for Torah
literature in 1970 in recognition of both the quality and quantity of
In 1973, Yosef was appointed as the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel (also known as the Rishon
le-Zion) by a majority of 81 to 68 votes, replacing Yitzhak Nissim. In 1984, he became spiritual mentor of the Shas political party.
In April 2005, Israeli security services arrested three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who had been observing Yosef in public and were held on the suspicion of intended murder.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef passed away in October 2013 of multiple organ failure after a history of medical issues. His funeral in Jerusalem attracted approximately 800,000 people from across Israel - 10% of Israel's total population - and is considered one of the largest gatherings of Jews in recorded history.
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; Wikipedia; New York Times (October 7, 2013); Jerusalem Post (October 7, 2013)