World's top Sephardi rabbi dies

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: photo by Ehud Amiton / Tazpit News Agency

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: photo by Ehud Amiton / Tazpit News Agency

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has died aged 93, following a three-week long bout of illness.

Rabbi Yosef’s family and close colleagues, including several Shas leaders, had been called to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital this morning after doctors warned that he was about to die.

Shortly before his death, Rabbi Yosef was visited by President Shimon Peres. Mr Peres was understood to have held the rabbi’s hand before saying a prayer outside his room.

Rabbi Yosef will be remembered as one of Israel’s most powerful religious figures, as well as the most important living Halachic authority.

He built up the Shas party as a major force in the Knesset, helping to bring traditional Jews from the margins to the inner circle of the Israeli political system.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said "He was a distinguished former Chief Rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader to thousands, and was one of the leading poskim of our time. I send my sincere condolences to his family."

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies said that "the passing of the great Torah scholar and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is a great loss to all Jewry but to the Sephardi world in particular. His scholarship and charisma brought pride to that venerable community and renewed interest in their ancient traditions. Our thoughts are with his family at this saddest of moments, as well as the countless Jewish communities who sought his wisdom.”

Last updated: 3:59pm, October 9 2013