It was a first for Shas, when the spiritual leader of the Sephardic-Haredi party was chosen by the politicians, rather than the politicians being chosen by the spiritual leaders, Shas’s Council of Torah Sages.
Until now, Rav Ovadia Yosef ruled the Shas party with an iron fist and making all the major decisions, but since his death, and even a little before, the party has been effectively ruled by the Shas party chief, Aryeh Deri.
On the face of it, the current battle Shas is fighting is over who will be considered the spiritual heir of Rav Ovadia, and they hope by default, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Sephardic community.
It’s that last part which guarantees Shas votes for the Knesset.
On one side there is former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, an acknowledged Torah giant and until Aryeh Deri’s political coup, the heir-apparent of Rav Ovadia as spiritual leader of the Sephardic community. But to his political disadvantage (and to his credit), Rav Amar is not part of the Shas party’s inner circle.
On the other side is Aryeh Deri, who is empowering rabbis he believes are aligned with him politically, further entrenching his position as the party’s leader to whom everyone answers.
Kikar Shabbat, a Haredi news website controlled in part by a member of the Yosef family, has been reporting what they describe as the political fight between Rav Amar and members of the Yosef family. The latest is over which politician visited whom during Pesach and for the Mimouna.
For Shas, these political visits provide much needed legitimacy to their rabbis and their party, and are thus very important. It is just as important for them that political leaders don’t visit Rav Amar, as they see those visits as undermining the legitimacy of their politically chosen spiritual heirs.
Kikar Shabbat even discusses which official robes Rav Amar wears as former chief rabbi and how that is an attempt to undermine their spiritual leaders. And during the most heated period before Rav Ovadia’s death, Kikar Shabbat even stopped using the honorific titles they grant senior rabbis they approve of.
But the Kikar Shabbat article that really shows how petty the Shas blood-feud really is, is the babyish article that attempts to denigrate Rav Amar as contradicting his own halachic rulings, entitled, “In contradiction to his own past rulings, Rav Amar will light the bonfire after Shabbat”.
Previously, Rav Amar gave a ruling that on Lag B’Omer, the traditional bonfires should not be lit right after Shabbat when it falls out then, but instead, anytime throughout the next day. This is to avoid any possible desecration of the Shabbat.
This year Lag B’Omer falls out right after Shabbat.
Kikar Shabbat reports out that Rav Amar sent out invitations to his bonfire which will take place on Saturday night at the graveside of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai.
The Shas controlled website “innocently” asks, why is Rav Amar contradicting his own rulings, and running his bonfire on Saturday night.
Sources close to Rav Amar pointed out to Kikar Shabbat that Rav Amar is running the bonfire on Sunday morning at 3 AM, and that doesn’t contradict the previous ruling, which explicitly permits bonfires “any time throughout the next day,” which includes 3 AM Sunday morning.