Rav Ovadiah Yosef, shlit"a, is without question an exceptional Talmid Chacham and a Gadol HaDor. His works on medical halacha are required reading for physicians and his influence in the Jewish legal world is felt everywhere.
Unfortunately he's also a source of unwitting entertainment when it comes to the airing of his political views. For years he has given speeches on Saturday nights and the presence of recording microphones in front of him has never made his shy away from speaking his mind. Unfortunately what his mind speaks is sometimes difficult for others to hear and, unlike Ashkenazic leaders who rarely speak in public and who are often misrepresented by their askanim, he is quite willing to go on the record publicly.
His most recent statement, for example, grates at the nerves:
There are those who speak about yeshivot, as though they were created solely for great Torah scholars who will become rabbis and rabbinical judges, and if that doesn't suit the person, he should go to work,” Yosef said of Amsalem's doctrine, without naming him.
“These are not the voices of Torah, but against it; Torah learners sustain the world,” Yosef said.
“Whoever tells yeshiva boys to go to work is lacking faith in our Torah,” he said later in the talk.
This opinion seems surprising considering that in Sephardic culture there is a tremendous appreciation for the importance of labour. The "learn don't earn" attitude is thought to be mostly confined to the Ashkenazim, especially the Litvish crowd. However, it seems that along with black hats and suits, many amongst the Sephardim have imported this belief as well.
Does Torah study support the continued existence of the world? Without a doubt, as Chazal tell us from a verse in Yirmiyahu that if Torah study did not constantly go on the world would be returned to tohu v'bohu.
But working stiffs support the continued existence of Torah study, or so is the impression I get from the endless parade of learners who consider me God's agent (after all, God provides for their needs so as the guy who actually cuts the cheque, that makes me His agent, right?). The Torah itself speaks about the value of labour while the Talmud reminds us that almost all of the great Sages of yore had day jobs. Can Rav Ovadiah really had meant that a person who chooses the path of Zevulun is lacking faith in Torah?