THE SPINE AUGUST 31, 2010
It happened when I wrote about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as a paradigmatic instance of moral and intellectual backwardness in the ultra-ultra-orthodox communities of Israel.
On the day that I wrote I'd noted a headline and article in the Jerusalem Post: "'Sinner' singer given 39 lashed by rabbis."
I have no idea whether the rabbis involved were in the circle of "Ovadia", as the grand rabbi is called by his faithful who are many, or not. But the sin for which the singer, Erez Yechiel, was sentenced and, in fact, punished was to have performed in front of a "mixed audience" of men and women. The court has no legal standing, having appointed itself. Still, the accused put himself under its jurisdiction to "rid himself of his sins." Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak has apparently made his most recent crusade "the fight against musical performances for both men and women." Another member of the "judicial panel," Rabbi Ben Zion Mustafi, showed the whip which was made from ass and bull skin.
Yechiel, who said, "I accept upon myself the lashing for my sins," was ordered to stand by a wooden pole with his head facing north ('from whence the evil inclination comes'), his hands tied with an azure-colored rope ('a symbol of mercy') and served his 'sentence.'
Is this not a case of real sado-masochism but in spiritual guise? By rabbis, alas.
Now, it is true that his calls for a curse on Mahmoud Abbas are not likely to provoke an Israeli to shoot the Palestinian president as the calls from all sorts of Arab and Muslim leaders provoke regular assaults against Jews. Still, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel is an influential man to the people of the street. Some even think of him as a sainted person.
And when a "saint" says "May God smite the Palestinians with the plague" that saint is sanctioning all sorts of evil against what to be sure are also many many innocent people.
Indeed, since Israel justifiably demands that the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority end racial incitement against Jews and Israel as a condition of peace, it is shocking that the government in Jerusalem has not condemned Rabbi Ovadia, the head of the Council of Torah Sages of the Shas party, a pillar of the Netanyahu coalition.
Here's a fuller account of Ovadia's ravings against the Palestinians:
...[O]ur enemies and haters. May they vanish from the world, may God smite them with the plague, them and the Palestinians, evil-doers and Israel-haters...It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send must send missiles to them and annihilate them.
Maybe the torah sage would make do with another Dr. Baruch Goldstein who, sixty years ago on Purim, massacred 29 Muslims at prayer in the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron.
Ovadia Yosef is not only a malign nut case against the Palestinians. He has a longer and incendiary record against the Jews and the Jewish state.
He said that the six million dead in the Holocaust were all sinners.
He urges young men who are his acolytes not to join the Israeli Defense Forces.
Schools under his dominion do not teach secular subjects, neither math, nor English, nor real history, nor science.
He is raising generations of ignoramuses.
An optimistic note: He is 90 years old.