Yitzhak Yosef

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Yitzchak Yosef
יצחק יוסף
Yitzhak Yosef.jpg
TitleSephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel
Born (1952-01-16) January 16, 1952 (age 67)
OtherRosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia
Talmudic scholar and recognized halakhic authority

Yitzhak Yosef (Hebrew: יצחק יוסף, born January 16, 1952) is the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, also known as the Rishon LeZion, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, and the author of a set of books on Jewish law called Yalkut Yosef.

Rabbi Yosef is the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, and bases his rulings on Jewish law on his father's methods of ruling.[1]

His books are considered foundational among large sectors of Sephardic Jews in Israel and the world. For these books, he has won the Rabbi Toledano Prize from the Tel Aviv Religious Council, as well as the Rav Kook Prize.

Rabbi Yosef with president of state of Israel Reuven Rivlin.


Yitzhak Yosef was born in 1952, the sixth son of the former Shas' spiritual leader and Israeli Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef.[2] He attended school at Talmud Torah Yavneh in the Independent Education System. At age 12, he began his studies at the junior yeshiva of Porat Yosef in Katamon, Jerusalem. After that, he studied at Yeshivat HaNegev in Netivot, and from there, at Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

In 1971, when he was 18 and studying at Yeshivat HaNegev, he collected halakhic rulings from the five volumes of Yavia Omer, the book of his father's responsa, that had been published by then, and published them in the book Yalkut Yosef. The book was published with his father's support and supervision. It is often considered one of his father's books because it is a summary of his father's rulings, since he went over it section by section and added his comments.

Yosef was briefly married to the daughter of cantor Raphael Abuhav;[3] the couple soon divorced. He later married Ruth, daughter of the kabbalist Rabbi Rachamim Attia. They have five children. His eldest son, named after his father Ovadia, is married to the daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Amar. His daughter Margalit is married to the son of Rabbi Yehuda Deri. His youngest daughter is married to the son of Rabbi Meir Sage. Yosef lives in the Sanhedria Murhevet neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Rabbinic career[edit]

In 1973, with his father's election as Chief Rabbi of Israel, together they established the Kollel Hazon Ovadia. In 1980, he was ordained as a rabbi and judge, along with the rest of the first class of the graduates, by the chief rabbis of Israel and by chief rabbi of Jerusalem Shalom Messas. With the beginning of the second class, he was appointed head of the school.

In 1975, he was appointed rabbi of the moshavim Nes Harim and Mata, both near Jerusalem, and began to deliver classes on halakhah several times a week and care for other Jewish matters in the villages. As part of his responsibilities, he gave lectures and classes in the secular public schools and strengthened religious education there.

In 1992, he expanded Hazon Ovadia to a yeshiva for boys high school age and older. This was necessary because of unrest among the Sephardi Haredi community stemming from disagreements with the Ashkenazi Litvak yeshiva.

On July 24, 2013, Rabbi Yosef was elected to serve as Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rishon Lezion, a position he will hold for a decade. The inauguration took place on 14 August 2013 at the official residence of the President of Israel.[4]

With the death of his father, Ovadia Yosef, the Shas political party lost its spiritual leader. Having been elected Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef appeared to be in a healthy position to inherit the authority of his father as spiritual leader of Shas. But since he holds a position of public office, he is prohibited by law from being politically active. Until the election, he never held any formal public office.[5]

On August 21, 2013, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef released a psak Halacha stating it is an obligation and mitzvah for parents to have their children vaccinated for polio virus.[6]


Yosef called for religious Jews to keep their children away from secular or traditional members of their family because they could be a negative influence.[7]

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told military staff that rules of engagement must respect the law and soldiers should not kill an attacker who has been subdued, Yosef said soldiers must kill anyone who comes to attack them regardless of legal or military repercussions.[8]Later he said: "If they no longer have a knife, they must be put in prison for life until the Messiah comes and says who are Amalekites, and then we can kill them."[9][10]

In March 2016, Yosef said that according to Jewish law, gentiles should not live in the Land of Israel" and if a non-Jew does not practice the seven Noahide Laws, he should be sent to Saudi Arabia. He added that non-Jews are allowed in Israel to serve the Jewish population.[11][12] Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned his statements and called for their retraction. Jonathan Greenblatt and Carole Nuriel of ADL Israel called the remarks ignorant and intolerant.[13]

On December 7, 2016, Yosef reversed his position and along with his counterpart David Lau, issued a new policy that required that foreign Jewish converts be recognized in Israel and said he would release criteria for rabbis authorized to perform conversions.[14]

On 18 March 2018, Yosef allegedly likened people of black African descent to monkeys.[15] [16] He was speaking on the topic of the Meshaneh HaBriyot blessing in the Talmud[17] concerning the sight of an unusual creature, either person or animal ("Blessed are you, Lord our God...who makes creatures different."). Examples of people given include "an (unusually) black, red, or white person, a giant, a dwarf, or one with spots", and of animals, examples include "an elephant, monkey, or vulture". In referring to black people, Yosef used the ancient term kushi, the term present in the Talmud. The term is considered derogatory in modern Hebrew,[by whom?] but in the Talmud it is equivalent to saying "African" (see Kingdom of Kush). He said: "Seeing a black person, you say the blessing. What black person? One who had a white mother and father, and came out black. Not on every black person do you make a blessing. When you walk in the streets of America, every five minutes, you see a black person. Will you say on him the blessing? Rather, it only needs to be on a black person whose mother and father are white. If, you know, two people birth a monkey or something like that, then you say the Different Creatures blessing."[18] The Anti-Defamation League tweeted that his comments were "utterly unacceptable".[19][16]


  1. ^ Rabbi Ratzon Arussi said (Hebrew) "יש לציין, שהאריך בענין הזה, בטוב טעם ודעת, הרב יצחק יוסף בנו של הרב עובדיה יוסף, שכידוע, שכל פסקיו הם כפסקי אביו" (recorded lecture [starting at 00:50] at http://net-sah.org/en/node/19263, posted Feb. 12, 2010).
  2. ^ Ettinger, Yair (September 24, 2008). "Religious Zionists could gain historic foothold in rabbinate". Haaretz. Retrieved May 5, 2009.
  3. ^ Or Torah, Tammuz 5733, page 33.
  4. ^ "New Chief Rabbis David Lau & Yitzchak Yosef Sworn In". Arutz Sheva. August 14, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  5. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Shas-without-Rabbi-Ovadia-Yosef-328124
  6. ^ "Chief Rabbis call on public to have children vaccinated".
  7. ^ Chief Rabbi: Keep children away from secular family YNET News, March 13, 2016
  8. ^ Sephardi Chief Rabbi Says non-Jews Forbidden From Living in the Land of Israel Haaretz, March 28, 2016.
  9. ^ Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef raises controversy Israel Hayom, March 28, 2016
  10. ^ 'Chief rabbi: Non-Jews shouldn’t be allowed to live in Israel,' The Times of Israel 28 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Sephardi Chief Rabbi Says non-Jews Forbidden From Living in the Land of Israel". Haaretz. March 28, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  12. ^ "Chief rabbi: Non-Jews shouldn't be allowed to live in Israel". The Times of Israel. March 28, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  13. ^ Non-Jews are forbidden by Jewish law to live in Israel, chief rabbi says the Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2016
  14. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.757795
  15. ^ Kra-Oz, Tal (March 20, 2018). "Israeli Chief Rabbi Calls African Americans 'Monkeys'". The Tablet. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "ADL slams chief rabbi for likening black people to monkeys". The Times of Israel. March 21, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Talmud, Berakhot 58b. https://www.sefaria.org/Berakhot.58b.8?lang=bi
  18. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (March 22, 2018). "The JC Comment Blog No.4 - Racism is a two way street". The Jewish Chronicle. London. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  19. ^ Cohen, Hayley (March 21, 2018). "ADL Slams Chief Rabbi of Israel for Calling Black People 'Monkeys'". Haaretz. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
Jewish titles
Preceded by
Shlomo Amar
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel