Chaim-David Halevi Named Sephardic Chief Rabbi Photo: Public Domain

May 27, 1973

Chaim-David Halevi is elected the Sephardic chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa against five other rabbis, succeeding Ovadia Yosef, who has been elected the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel. Halevi holds the position until his death in 1998.

Halevi was born in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 1924, and studied at Jerusalem’s Porat Yosef Yeshiva under Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, the chief Sephardic rabbi during the British Mandate and the first five years of the state of Israel. Halevi served as Uziel’s personal secretary during the early years of the state. Porat Yosef Yeshiva was and is the most prominent Sephardic yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Until his election in Tel Aviv, Halevi has served as the chief rabbi of Rishon LeZion since 1951. He also has been a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council since 1964, when he became its youngest rabbi.

Among other rulings, Halevi is known for declaring in 1976 that smoking violates halacha (Jewish law) because of scientific evidence that it harms a person’s health. He also rules that women may study Talmud and that the unification of Jerusalem in the June 1967 war requires the alteration to a prayer recited on Tisha B’Av to note that the city was destroyed but no longer is.

In response to a questioner who claims that the killing of any Palestinian should be considered self-defense, Halevi writes, “I am entirely astounded by the foolish idea that we should see in this light a million and a half Arabs … just because there are some … who do hurt us and come to kill us. Because of this tiny minority would we decree death on a million and a half human beings?”

He is awarded the Israel Prize for Torah scholarship in 1997.