“It also comes after Shas's spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said in his weekly sermon on Saturday night that Shabbat desecraters are "stupid" and "worse than animals." Yosef's comments were made during a review of Shabbat laws.”
Other recent R’Yosef gems as reported by the Jeruslam Post include the following:
1. July 2009: “Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has argued that those murdered in the Holocaust were a reincarnation of sinners from past generations, Ma'ariv reported on Sunday.”
2. February 2009: “In a bid to stem defection of voters from Shas to Israel Beiteinu, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef warned on Thursday that anyone who votes for Avigdor Lieberman's party is a transgressor whose sin will never be expiated. "If someone plans on voting for a party that is in favor of assimilation, of selling pork, then his sin is too great to bear, his sin will never be forgiven," the Shas mentor said in a televised appearance without explicitly mentioning Israel Beiteinu's name.”
3. August 2007: “Officials from across the political and military spectrums slammed Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Monday for a sermon in which Yosef said troops killed in the Second Lebanon War lost their lives because of their lack of religious observance.”
4. July 2007: "Women should make hamin and not deal with matters of Torah," the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said in a speech to supporters on Saturday night.”
Obvious question: How many outrageous comments need be made by R’Yosef before we could disqualify this Rav as a gadol?
There is a more fundamental issue here -- which explains why ROY has his following and why his acceptance by this following is actually strengthened by these type of pronouncements. This is the infiltration of mysticism into everyday Jewish life and thinking.
We live in a world of basic physical cause and effect and upon recognizing and analyzing this world, we come to certain conclusions regarding behaviour etc. Torah, from our perspective, superimposes itself upon this world -- not denying it but adding to it. As such, we do encounter statements within Torah that cannot be supported by our analysis of cause and effect but to us, this is a challenge, a problem, which leads us to accept that God has wisdom beyond our own and knows what He is doing. We, though, continue to live with questions and, for sure, do not see Torah as challenging our understanding of the world and its cause and effect -- and, as such, continue to apply this understanding in our lives. As such, these type of statements by ROY are discounted. Unless he can show that they are really some type of Halacha L'Moshe miSinai, as they are applied in an attempt to define our structures of understanding, we do not only disagree but find them challenging, problematic and embarrassing.
Yet much of the religious world does not see life this way. They understand the Torah as presenting a totally different realm of cause and effect that even challenges normative, rational understandings. In fact, they want a religion that offers a completely different way of looking at the world, a religion that says that you fell because your mezuzah was passul and not because you didn't tie your shoes properly -- in fact, chas v'shalom that you should even think that it was because you didn't tie your shoes properly. They want a world of complete mystical cause and effect, wherein nothing happens because of apparent reasons -- relying on apparent rational reasons even is wrong and reflects a lack of emunah -- but because of some realm of cause and effect that is 'hidden'. This is the extreme realm of mysticism and actually many, many people want it -- as they want to not have to deal with the normative world of cause and effect. As such they turn to religion and the religious leader, who can give reasons that apply different, mystical rules, is the desired one.
And this is what is happening here. ROY, like many Sefardim, is engulfed in the world of Kabbalah and mysticism. His theories all work from that realm and the cause and effect that it applies. And it is these rules that he applies, leading to his statements. As they totally don't make sense within the world of the rational, even of rational Torah, they seem to us weird and embarrassing. But to his followers, they are statements from someone who knows the workings of the 'real' world and the 'real' cause and effect. So while you are saying 'enough of this,' "we need challenge this man's voice," with each and every pronouncement his following actually strengthens because, almost the more outlandish the statement, the greater must be his understanding of the 'real' world and so his pronouncements, within the perception of his followers, only show that he really is a gadol.
Rabbi Ben Hecht