Speaking before Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at the Shas founder and spiritual leader’s weekly Saturday evening Torah lecture, Cohen – who is also the dean of Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City – reportedly said that Amnon Yitzhak is “losing his [place] in the world [to come]. The one who brings people to repent is now himself in need of someone to bring him to repent.”
As Shas Steps Up Its Attacks On Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak’s Breakaway Party, Ashkenazi Haredi Leader Denies – On Tape – Giving Yitzhak His Support
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A member of the Sefardi haredi Shas political party’s Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, stridently attacked Shas party defector Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, saying that Yitzhak needs to repent for rebelling against Shas and its Torah sages, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Speaking before Yosef at the Shas founder and spiritual leader’s weekly Saturday evening Torah lecture, Cohen – who is also the dean of Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City – reportedly said that Amnon Yitzhak is “losing his [place] in the world [to come]. The one who brings people to repent is now himself in need of someone to bring him to repent.”
Following Cohen’s remarks, Yosef also lashed out at Yitzhak.
“Such a party represents merit [acquired] through transgression. How dare they oppose our well-established party which has decades of experience and the support of Torah authorities?” Yosef indignantly said.
Yosef's remarks can also be understood as an attack on another Shas rebel, Rabbi Haim Amsallem, whose Am Shalem party is also competing with Shas, although Am Shalem's appeal is much wider than Yitzhak's and includes moderate Ashkenazi haredim, Modern Orthodox voters, and non-Orthodox voters who are not Sefardi traditionalists. Nevertheless, Am Shalem is not expected to get enough votes in Israel's national election later this month to win a Knesset seat.
But Yitzhak's party does draw heavily from Shas' pool of voters.
The Shas attacks on Yitzhak have grown more shrill and more urgent since polls began to show that Yitzhak’s party is taking enough votes from Shas to cost it a seat in the Knesset. At the same time, like Am Shalem, Yitzhak’s party, Hakoah Lehashpia, is not expected to garner enough votes to meet the threshold required to win a Knesset seat – meaning Yitzhak, but probably not Am Shalem, could cost the haredi bloc one seat in the upcoming Knesset.
In response to the Shas attacks, Yitzhak has made the claim that 99-year-old Ashkenazi haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman had given him his blessing for launching the new party.
Shteinman’s aides have denied that this is true, noting that Shteinman was polite when Yitzhak came to visit him last month and that while Shteinman may have personally blessed Yitzhak as, the aides say, Shteinman regularly does with people who come to see him for advice or counsel, Shteinman did not tell Yitzhak to launch his own party or bless him for doing so.
Even so, Yitzhak has continued to claim that Shteinman gave him permission to form his own political party.
But Yitzhak’s understanding of Shteinman’s intent may no longer be able to stand.
Shas’ Cohen met with Shteinman on Thursday, and Shteinman completely denied that he had endorsed or encouraged Yitzhak’s move into politics, assuring Cohen that the only political party he is backing is his own – the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism party.
The meeting between Cohen and Shteinman was recorded, and the audio was reportedly posted on the haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat.
Yitzhak, who dresses in traditional Yemenite robes and headgear and who drives expensive cars, cuts a flamboyant and controversial figure. He stages mass repentance rallies at which hundreds – and sometimes even thousands – of non-Orthodox Israelis pledge to repent and follow Orthodox Jewish law.
He is viewed as a charlatan by many observers and is often compared to the most flamboyant of American televangelists.
Yitzhak rejected Cohen's and Yosef's attacks on him, announcing today that he would not pull out of the elections.
"I'm determined," Yitzhak reportedly said. "I'm going all the way."
[Hat Tip: Burich.]