The tragic news of the passing of Hagaon Harav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, and the subsequent levayah, which was the largest Yerushalayim has seen in modern history, made international headlines and evoked statements of condolences the world over.
With only weeks to go before the New York City mayoral elections, it is unsurprising that both candidates commented on this epic loss.
Democrat Bill de Blasio, who has a huge lead in the opinion polls, issued a very gracious and respectable comment, showing an admirable appreciation of the greatness of the spiritual leader who was a beacon of inspiration for multitudes of Jews throughout the world.
“Millions of people around the world lost a leader today in Rabbi Chacham Ovadia Yosef. His wisdom, charity and sensitivity were legendary,” de Blasio, whose close ties to the Orthodox Jewish community date from the time he served in the city council, said.
In contrast, speaking at an event in Chinatown on Monday, de Blasio’s opponent, Republican Joe Lhota, took a much less respectful approach.
“I mourn his death,” Mr. Lhota said. “But I also know he’s made statements that, at the time, were unfortunate. He was the chief rabbi of Israel and we all mourn his death.”
Why Lhota would deem it necessary to add such a wholly unnecessary and disrespectful qualification is puzzling.
This is particularly so when one compares his choice of words to those of de Blasio, or that of the American and British ambassadors to Israel.
“Rav Ovadiah Yosef was a spiritual leader to hundreds of thousands, if not more, a great studier [of Torah] and a wise and learned man, a father to an impressive family and an important contributor to the society and politics of the state of Israel,” U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro said in a statement issued in Hebrew.
“I had the honor of meeting him, and of seeing his extraordinary spirit and learning,” UK ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said in his statement. “I was honored to witness first-hand his love for mankind and his wish for peace.”
Even Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas saw fit to send condolences without any strings attached.
It was Lhota’s choice of words that were most unfortunate.