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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shalom Cohen’

Religious Zionists Are Amalek? Just Shoot Me Now!

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Just when I didn’t think the level of public discourse  couldn’t get any worse, I read the following in today’s Jerusalem Post:

Shas’s Council of Torah Sages member Rabbi Shalom Cohen in a sermon Saturday made degrading remarks against the religious Zionist sector by questioning their Jewishness and referring to them as “Amalek” – a biblical tribe hostile to the ancient Israelites.

Cohen, dean of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva, was seen in a video on the haredi website Kikar Hashabat as saying, “the Throne [of God] is not complete as long as there are Amalek, ..when will the Throne be complete? When there are no more [religious Zionists].”

According to the article, sitting next to Rabbi Cohen was Rav Ovaidia Yosef. He said nothing in response to this comment.

The rhetoric that has accompanied the proposed legislation to subject Charedim the draft seems to be bordering on hysteria. Remarks like this are completely irrational.

Amalek?! Religious Jews who lay their lives on the line for the people of Israel are now put into the category of people so evil that God mandates the eradication of that entire nation?! I realize of course that Rabbis Cohen and Yosef do not mean that Halacha mandates that every Jew pick up a gun and shoot to kill every Jew who wears a Kipa Seruga. But the comparison is no less odious.

And all this… why? Because of the hysterical reaction that the new draft law; and the requirement of Charedi schools to offer less than an hour additional study of math and English if government funding is to continue at present levels. They believe that it will destroy Torah Jewry. They therefore continually describe the situation this way – many of them calling it Shmad! Shamd is the Hebrew word for forced conversion to another religion.

What does this rhetoric end up doing? It ends up with what happened in Meah Shrarim last week.  2 Charedi IDF members were practically lynched by a mob that is inspired to do so by that type of rhetoric. And by a lifetime of indoctrination equating Israeli leadership (and by association, their enforcement agencies and their army) to Nazis.  Calling Religious Zionists Amalek will no doubt encourage more of those kinds of attacks.

What makes this whole thing even more troubling is the way even moderate Charedim are treating this.

Case in point, columnists like Jonathan Rosenblum who have written many articles sympathetic to the concerns often expressed here do not seem to protest the kinds of comments made by Rabbi Cohen.

Jonathan has in the past expressed many of the same concerns about the Charedi community in Israel that I have. Like the need of Charedim to improve their poor financial lot. And praising the creation of Nachal Charedi – where Charedim can serve and have their religious sensibilities honored.

He has publicly indicated that the very things that the new legislation is designed to improve – was already happeneing on its own – organically. Charedim were increasingly joining Nachal Charedi and Shachar; and were at least tacitly accepted into their communities.

But he and many other moderate Charedi columnists tells us that Charedi soldiers are now shunned in their communities; that Charedi enlistment in Nachal Charedi is now at a virtual standstill. And Shachar he says is virtually destroyed. Who does he blame for this? The legislators who have proposed legislation along these lines for it – saying that it isn’t about Charedim serving in the military, It is about forcing them to.

And because of legislation forcing a core curriculum, it pits Torah study against secular studies vilifying that legislation as Shmad, too!

Why can’t these moderates see that it isn’t the legislation that has caused this unbelievable backlash, but the Charedi leadership’s reaction to it? As well as an undercurrent of disdain that has been preached against the state since before its founding?

Can’t they see that the incendiary words of someone like Rabbi Cohen who in essence paints all the Hesder boys as Amalek is the real cause of the problem? This is what has caused the backlash, not the new legislation. I’m not saying that they have no right to disagree with it and even oppose the legislation. But to vilify it in this way is the height of irresponsibility! Can’t they see that this kind of vilifying rhetoric amounts to handing the Charedi terrorists in Meah Shearim a lit match?!

‘Amalek’ Comment More an Expression of Shas Despair than Hate

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Saturday night has been for years an opportunity for the Sephardi Haredi party Shas’ spiritual leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, to make headlines with some outrageous statements. In fact, as the Israeli media began to carry those statements, making them the focal point of many a Sunday morning conversations (Sunday is Israel’s Monday).

Initially, those statements were mostly against the Arabs, most notably the Palestinians, most emphatically the late Chairman Yassir Arafat. But as of Israel’s most recent elections, during the campaign and especially as it was becoming clear that the Jewish Home national religious party was going to be inside the coalition government while the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, were out—the great spiritual leader started frothing at the mouth cursing out his rivals.

He called them “Goyish Home,” he accused them of fighting and desecrating the Torah, he ridiculed their notion of being religious—how could they possibly be religious when they conspire, along with Yair Lapid’s burgeoning middle-class party Yesh Atid, to force thousands of yeshiva students into military conscription.

This past Saturday night, in Rav Ovadia’s synagogue in the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rav Shalom Cohen, dean of the Porat Yosef yeshiva, compared the national religious in Israel, whose noted symbol are the knitted yarmulkes—kippot srugot—to Amalek.

Just before Purim, many divrei Torah are said about the true identity of Amalek. Some say it is a real nation, whose goal in history is to negate whatever it is Jews are doing, because Amalek are the enemies of God, while we are the children of God. They see Amalek in every great enemy of the Jews, culminating in the Nazis and Ahmadinejad. Others talk about the Amalek within us, that fascistic component of our personalities that has no problem stepping on others, brutally if need be, just to get its way.

In that context, Rav Cohen’s note was blood curdling. Whether he had had too much of the glass of havdala, or truly believes it, he made the following clever spiel: “It says God does war against Amalek. So long as Amalek exists, the throne—kess is not complete. KS is an acronym for Kippa Sruga—knitted yarmulke. When will the throne-kess be whole? When there’s no longer a kippa sruga… Are these really Jews?”

Haredi journalist Israel Gelis says Rav Cohen’s poor choice of words should not be taken seriously. It’s part of a particular culture where heated expressions are thrown out with little consideration of their impact. Gelis says that on Shabbat he ran into Rav Cohen at the Kotel, and the latter said to him with a huge smile: “Did you see the name of the chief of the tribe of Naftali (as in Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett)? It’s Achira (Num. 1:15),” literally “brother of evil.” And he was very pleased with himself, adds Gelis.

Those things shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the total failure of Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to deliver on any of his promises, says Gelis, bears far more serious ramifications for the Haredi Sephardi party that relies on thousands of knitted yarmulke voters.

Having lost out in the coalition building wars to Bennett and Lapid, Deri has forged an alliance with leftist Meretz and the Arab parties, to the point where he is more likely to vote with them against the Zionist coalition government than not. His rival in the Shas leadership, deposed chairman Eli Yishai, is a regular secret visitor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chambers—so secret the entire Haredi world knows about it. Yishai has been a reliable, steady partner to Netanyahu and other secular, right-wing leaders. At this point he is waiting for his nemesis to sink deeper in the political mud.

Life in the opposition is murder on a party like Shas, which used to utilize its government ministries to favor its Sephardi sector. Now, unable to bring home the paella, Shas is standing to lose much of its support to the new powers that be in the ministries they used to control: Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home.

Add to that the fact that Maran Rav Ovadia Yosef is not getting any younger, and you’ll understand the Shas angst.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/amalek-comment-more-an-expression-of-shas-despair-than-hate/2013/07/15/

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