At Yehuda Deri’s funeral, ex-chief rabbi defends Torah study against ‘allegations’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Mourners attend the funeral of Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the chief rabbi of Beersheba, in Jerusalem on July 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Mourners attend the funeral of Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the chief rabbi of Beersheba, in Jerusalem on July 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

His voice trebling with emotion, the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef begs the late Rabbi Yehuda Deri to pray from heaven for the people of Israel so that “the controversies stop and the allegations against those who toil for the Torah,” among other perceived problems.

This plea at the funeral of Deri, the chief rabbi of Beersheba who died earlier today at age 66 from a pulmonary infection, is an indirect but clear reference to the current controversy surrounding the High Court of Justice’s ruling last month that the state must enlist previously exempted Haredi yeshiva students and end funding for their yeshivas.

Yosef also asks for Deri to pray “so that the wrath of the almighty at the people of Israel subsides, and also our security situation is improved.”

Deri, the brother of Shas leader Aryeh Deri, was widely seen as a leading candidate for succeeding Yosef as chief Sephardi rabbi. Yosef is introduced at the funeral as the chief Sephardi rabbi, even though his term ended on July 1 without a successor for him or his Ashkenazi counterpart David Lau due to disagreements between the Chief Rabbinate and the Justice Ministry on the representation of women in the assembly that elects new chief rabbis.

“Those who put away the burden of the study of Torah take on other burdens, and give away their kingdom and intellect,” Yosef adds at the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem, where thousands of people are gathered in near silence.

Lau stays off politics in his less emotional eulogy, wishing strength to Deri’s family and recalling his “great energy” at Torah study sessions.

Most Popular