Sunday, October 3, 2010
הרב יהודה מועלם, ראש ישיבת פורת יוסף
We're used to Judaism's groups having one face. Let me explain: In Di Litteh it's Reb Chaim and Rav Elyashiv. OK, make that two faces. In Chassidus it's Satmar, Belz, Vizhnitz etc. In Edut HaMizrach it's Rav Ovadiah, and maybe Rav Mordechai Eliyahu too. Somehow Rav Ovadia and Shas managed to make themselves THE face of Sefardi Religious Jewry. They give him credit for being machzir attara leYoshnah. In a recent talk ROvY spoke about the fact that the Sefardim always learned in Ashkenazishe Yeshivos and that Porat Yosef was the only (serious, maybe) Yeshivah for Sefardic Bnei Torah. He made mention of this during the whole Immanuel saga last summer, and he thanked them for it. But now, he said, Shas has many Yeshivos and all Sefardim should learn there. There's a not-so-well-known movement of "Bnei Torah-Sefardim" in Eretz Yisroel that identifies more with the Yeshivishe Oylem than with Shas. Some are major adversaries of Rav Ovadiah and never will forgive him for many reasons. Some are of the Kanoyim camp and dislike the fact that he turned Sefardi Jewry into a Political Party. Some don't like the fact that he made Sefardi Jewry into this large bloc that is forced to follow his Pesokim, which he says are based on the Pesokim of Maran HaBeit Yosef, and therefore all Sefardim are required to follow his rulings. That in turn made all other Rabbonim, including all Poskim from previous generations basically irrelevant, which made their followers rather unhappy. Rav Meullam and the Porat Yosef faction are now unknown to many because all they know is Rav Ovadia and Shas.
Me not being of Sefardic extraction makes my opinion here basically irrelevant, but I would venture to say that there's a very strong difference in approach here between the two camps. You may not think that their intentions were pure and wholesome, but that fact is that Rav Ovadia's approach of building Yeshivos and Chadorim pulled the Sefardim up by the bootstraps and made them a proud segment of society, despite what the Ashkenazim may want and think. The Bnei Torah Sefardim movement is understandably not pleased with that development just like in Ashkenazic society the Talmidei Chachomim and Rabbonim would not be were they in a similar situation. You can compare it to the old pre-Chassidus society in Eastern Europe, where only the elite were expected and even allowed to learn. All others were expected to be Tehillim and Eyn Yankev Yidden. In the Sefardic lands you could count the Talmidei Chachomim in each city on one hand, and that "tradition" continued in Eretz Yisroel as well. Chas VeSholom, I'm not accusing Geonim like Rav Muellam and Rav BZ Aba-Shaul and Rav Yehuda Tzadkah of not caring about their people, they were just continuing the traditions of their communities for centuries.
In a recent interview with Rav Yitzchak Yosef, son of, and author of VaYelaket Yosef, he spoke about his father and about the fact that he was the one that לחם לכבוד מרן שהוא המד"א בארץ ישראל. He mentioned how he made the Hamon Am change their minhogim despite that fact that this was what they did in Iraq, etc, AND DESPITE THAT FACT THAT THIS WAS THE RULING OF THE BEN ISH CHAI, ZT"L. The example he used was the issue of women making a Brochoh on Netilas Lulav, which according to the Mechaber is a Bracha LeVatalah. I was a bit taken aback by that. As if the BIC was not careful to pasken like the Beit Yosef, and only ROY was the one for whom the koved of the BY was important... This may be a Iraq vs. Morocco issue, or a Iraq vs. Egypt issue, depending on where the parties originate from. Which I guess is what irks some people too - the fact that the Shas people lumped all Sefardim/Bnei Edut HaMizrach into all big bloc that all are under the reign of Rav Ovadia, Sefardi Jewry's pride and joy and its biggest product in 500 years... That would be similar to comparing Litvaks to Yekkes and to Oberlanders, it just won't work. Rav Meullam passed away this Shabbos at the age of 90. He was a Mechutan with Rav BZ Aba Shaul - the latter's son being his son-in-law, and he was one of the last who learned in Porat Yosef in the Old City.
Ah Gezunten Vinter.