By JPOST.COM STAFF –
Incendiary remarks made by a leading Shas rabbi about the national-religious community on Saturday night provoked outrage and consternation from Bayit Yehdudi MKs on Sunday.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen, a member of the four-man Council of Torah Sages of the Shas movement and dean of the prestigious Porat Yosef yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, compared the national religious community to Amalek, the catchall evil Biblical enemy of the Israelites.
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Cohen was speaking at the synagogue in the residence of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who was present during his associate’s rant.
Referencing a Biblical verse interpreted by the Talmudic sages to mean that the Heavenly throne is not complete while the nation of Amalek exists, Cohen said that likewise the Heavenly throne would not be complete while there are people who wear knitted yarmulkes, meaning the national religious community.
Cohen was riffing off the fact that the Hebrew word for throne, keis, comprises the first two letters of the words “knitted yarmulke” in Hebrew.
“As long as there are knitted yarmulkes, the [Heavenly] throne is not complete, this is Amalek. When will the [Heavenly] throne be complete, when there is no knitted yarmulke,” said Cohen laughingly to chuckles from the assembled audience.
Speaking about the possibility of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a conservative national religious candidate for chief rabbi, being elected, Cohen upped the ante even further.
“We will be unfortunate if he will be our rabbi, I said this to his father [former chief rabbi the late Mordechai Eliyahu] next to [Rabbi Haim] Druckman and all those Amalekites… These [people] are Jews?” asked the rabbi.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett denounced Cohen’s comments and said that the Shas movement should condemn the rabbi’s speech.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” wrote Bennett on his Facebook page. “When thousands of [men] who wear knitted yarmulkes are to be found from the border of Syria to the border of Egypt, from battalion commanders to the last soldier, who are spitting blood to defend [Israel], including the honorable rabbi
“During these days, memorial services are being held for my fellow soldiers who gave their lives in the Second Lebanon War, including secular people and those who wear knitted yarmulkes, some of whom were [posthumously] awarded medals of valor, these too the rabbi calls Amalek, for God’s sake,” Bennett raged.
The Bayit Yehudi leader went on to praise national-religious yeshiva students who will go on to perform military service and slammed Cohen’s disrespectful reference to the leading national-religious figure Rabbi Haim Druckman, noting that he is a yeshiva dean, spiritual leader of the Bnei Akiva youth movement and Israel prize laureate.