Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Marc Shapiro on R' Ovadiah Yosef

Prof. Marc Shapiro wrote a very interesting article on three recent biographies on Rav Ovadiah Yosef. I am a big fan of Rav Ovadiah's and Shapiro provides substance to my feelings. He has entitled the article "Mi-Yosef ad Yosef Lo Kam ke-Yosef" which after reading it I think is a very appropriate title. The article almost makes me want a full biography by Shapiro - like the one he did on the Sridei Eish - on Rav Ovadiah.

Shapiro's exaltation of Rav Ovadiah is nearly perfect until he gets to the section on comparing him to an academic scholar. I think he makes his point very well and I never really thought of it until now but Rav Ovadiah's talents would make him a very poor academic. Photographic memory and an Encyclopedic knowledge are not necessary for success in academia.

As a few of you know I don't particularly like Rabbis getting involved in politics and Rav Ovadiah is the proof text for my reasons. But, as Shapiro mentions, he got involved in politics and stayed involved because he thinks it's the right thing to do despite the fact that his name as a Rav may become tarnished. He's intelligent, committed, head strong, among a thousand other ways to describe him. I truly believe that Rav Ovadiah is the last true Gadol we have. I hope that another generation can produce a person with half the stature of Rav Ovadiah.

If you're a fan of Shapiro (like me) check it out and like wise if you're a fan of Rav Ovadiah (again, like me) check it out.

(Hat Tip: Gil)


Ari Kinsberg said...

"Ovadiah's talents would make him a very poor academian."

i looked at the review for a quick minute and i thought shapiro (or was it one of the authors he reviewed?) was equally adamant that his skills are not really those needed by a (litvish) rabbinic scholar either.

"The article almost makes me want a full biography by Shapiro - like the one he did on the Sridei Eish - on Rav Ovadiah."

such an endeavor would earn him a lot of enemies.

Natan said...

I left that out of the post because I didn't find it as interesting as the statement about him being an academic.

I think his criticism of the Rav regarding the lack of Chidushim is accurate - at least in my experience - but doesn't make him any less important to Sefardic Jewry.

such an endeavor would earn him a lot of enemies.

Actually I think you're right. I was going to disagree with you, but I think your point is proven by the fact that Shapiro had to write a review about three biographies to justify his own biography of Rav Ovadiah.

Shapiro mentions that its not usual for a Charedi Rav to have a critical biography published in his lifetime, and he also criticizes Lau for using a Haskama from Rav Ovadiah himself. Shapiro clearly likes the bios but is critical of the authors that they are not Critical enough. But then again he's an academic.

Oh Ari, thanks for quoting me before I caught my spelling mistake.

Anonymous said...

I also thought Shapiro is correct in stating that in future years R. Ovadiah's Torah will be mentioned but not his curses and other comments. If you go to the ADL website you will find they have attacked him. But all this will be forgotten, and his Torah will live on.

So are we all supposed to start eating gelatin?

Natan said...

Be careful what you eat in Israel many people already hold by him.