Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

RAV YEHUDA DERI ZT”L  

 

As we were preparing to go to press on Tuesday, we received the tragic news of the passing of Rav Yehuda Deri zt”l, the rov of Be’er Sheva for 27 years, a brother of Shas leader Aryeh Deri. He passed away at the young age of 67 at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Yerushalayim from complications related to an infection that led to his hospitalization last month.

Rav Yehuda was famed for his many Torah activities and leadership in Be’er Sheva, but also for his prolific shiurim delivered in kehillos from north to south.

In recent days, many davened for his refuah, and the name “Raphael” was added to his name as a segulah for healing. But to the sorrow of all, his physical systems collapsed, and he returned his pure soul to its Creator.

Following the passing of Rav Yehuda, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir instructed the members of Otzma Yehudit to cease attacks on Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and his party, and interviews planned for the coming day were canceled.

Rav Yehuda was born in Meknes, Morocco, to his simple parents, Eliyahu and Esther. At the age of five, he began learning at the city’s Otzar HaTorah school. His family left Morocco in a wave of aliyah following the Six Day War.

As a young boy in Bat Yam, he strove against the current to study in religious institutions. He studied with brother Aryeh in the yeshiva of Chadeira and then in Porat Yosef in Yerushalayim. He then continued his studies at the Ateres Yisroel Yeshiva of Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, where, Rav Dovid Choen testified at the levayeh, he became a close student of Rav Ezrachi as well as of the saintly Mashgiach, Rav Meir Chodosh.

Rav Yehuda also developed a close bond with Chacham Ben Tzion Aba Shaul, rosh yeshiva of Porat Yosef. Rav Deri married Rebbetzin Miriam, daughter of Rav Yitzchok Toledano, and together they built a family rooted in Torah and yirah.

“He rose and excelled in the ranks of Torah and halacha and was appointed rov of the Ramot neighborhood in Yerushalayim, where he lived for ten years as he headed the Kollel Kol Yehuda. He was especially close to Rav Ovadia Yosef, who saw him as a son, appreciated his Torah and sent him to be crowned as the rov of the city of Be’er Sheva, the capital of the Negev.

Throughout his many years of service as rov and Chief Dayan of the city, he brought about a tremendous revolution of Torah and Judaism, upheld kashrus, and returned many from sin.

He was a symbol and model of a rov in Israel, knowledgeable in all the treasures of Torah and halacha, as evidenced by his numerous books and religious writings. He upheld religion without compromise, yet his opinions were mingled with the people, listening and finding golden paths to prevent disputes. These qualities led him to be considered as a candidate for the position of Rishon Letzion and the Chief Rabbi of Israel [in 2013 and this year until the elections were delayed].

In his role in the Be’er Sheva Rabbinate, he served as the chairman of the “committee for religious councils, Torah scrolls, circumcision, and anti-missionary work, as well as the chairman of the committee for approving candidates for rabbinical exams.

Rav Yehuda was sued in court due to his fight against missionaries but found innocent of all charges of improper conduct.

He was known as a great talmid chochom who delivered many shiurim and traveled all over the country, never refusing a request to give a shiur. He was loved by the residents of Be’er Sheva, being the spiritual leader of the capital of the Negev and the south. He was cherished by the great rabbis of Israel, and many saw him as someone who could potentially become the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rishon Letzion. In fact he was a candidate for the open position and many believed that he would have been chosen for the position had he not passed away in his prime.

He wrote prolifically, his seforim include: Imrei Yehuda on the aggadata of Shas and medrash; Imrei Yehuda on marriage in halacha and aggadah; Avnei Ezer on the Shulchan Aruch; Shu”t Mishnat Ezer; Chagim U’zemanim, and Netivei Hora’ah on issur v’heter.

He was also famous for testing Gur bochurim and yungeleit on a grueling learning schedule in which they are expected to know Shas.

He was related to the family of Rav Ovadia Yosef through marriage. Two of his sons-in-law are sons of Rav Ovadia’s sons – former Chief Rabbi Rav Yitzchak Yosef and Rav Avraham Yosef of Cholon.

His brother Aryeh said, “He was the pride and glory of the city of Be’er Sheva,” Deri concluded. “His untimely departure is a great loss to his thousands of students, to the world of the rabbinate in Israel, and our dear family. He was blessed to establish a distinguished family, a blessed generation of upright descendants, sons, and sons-in-law.

“He was like a father figure to me, an older brother, a soul friend, and a true companion throughout all the paths of life. He always strengthened, encouraged, and instilled faith. A vast void has opened in my heart, in the heart of the entire family, and in the hearts of his thousands of students and followers.”

Thousands participated in his levayah, which left the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Geula, and proceeded to the Sanhedria cemetery, where he was interred.

Yehi zichro boruch.

A fuller article will be published in our next edition, b’ezras Hashem.

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