The spiritual leader of the Shas Sephardi Haredi party told party supporters Sunday night that the “HaTikvah” national anthem is “stupid,” reported the Walla! website, which also provided an audio of the rabbi’s remarks.
Rabbi Shlomo Cohen’s aides defended the observation he made when describing a meeting with Shas’ founder and late spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 1955.
Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim had been appointed Chief Sephardic Rabbi at the time, and Rabbi Cohen said people stood up and started singing HaTikvah at the end of the inaugural ceremony.
Rabbi Cohen told listeners at Netivot that he said at the time, “What a bunch of nuts! Is this the Prime Minister?” He said he did not stand and asked Rabbi Yosef why he stood. Rabbi Yosef replied, “I was saying “Aleinu,” the prayer recited while standing at the end of morning, afternoon and evening prayers.
Rabbi Cohen explained that the Rabbi Yosef “didn’t want this ridiculous song to influence him.”
That shows the difference between Rav Ovadia – who had the good sense not to insult the majority of Israelis, religious as well as secular – and Rabbi Cohen, who does not have the sense to shut up.
Rabbi Shimon Baadnie, a member of the Shas Council of Sages, tried to explain that Rabbi Cohen really did not intend to say that HaTikvah is stupid but that it simply “is sung in a stupid way.”
However, there was no explanation to justify or rationalize Rabbi Cohen’s vicious attack on the national religious community. The good rabbi compared the “knitted kippa” Jewish community with the influence of Amalek, Israel’s eternal enemy.
Shas is stinging from the desertion the influential Sephardi Rabbi Yoram Abergil, who has announced he is supporting the Yachad party led by former Shas leader Eli Yishai.
Here are the words from HaTikvah that Jews all over the world sing and with which Rabbi Baadnie has a problem:
As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope – the two-thousand-year-old hope – will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem
Rabbi Baadnie said, “People say words and don’t understand what they mean.’Free in our land.’? Where is our freedom when we have sorrow from Arabs. The People of Israel are not free because Arabs, Americans and Europeans drive us crazy.”
It would have been more impressive if Rabbi Cohen had said something like, “We are not free because the Third Temple has not been built” but how could he think of such a thing with politics on his brain?
Nevertheless, the rabbi is right to a certain extent, but being “right” often is being stupid, even more so than the song may seem to Rabbi Cohen.
That is exactly what Shmira Imber, daughter of HaTikvah composer Naftali Herz Imber, told Walla! in response to Rabbi Cohen’s remarks:
“It is stupid to say that,” she said.
Below is a Barbara Streisand’s rendition of HaTikvah, stupid or not.