“…degrading one’s ideological opponents despite their great Torah knowledge…stands at the root of all the terrible disputes in the haredi world”

A basic feature of “official” haredism, especially in Israel, is the attitude that even if someone is a great posek, he is still disqualified if he doesn’t follow the correct Da’as Torah. It is hard to imagine a greater degrading of respect for Torah scholars than this (which thankfully is not shared by all who identify as haredim, even though it is reflected in all the Israeli haredi newspapers and “official” publications). It is precisely this approach, that of degrading one’s ideological opponents despite their great Torah knowledge, that stands at the root of all the terrible disputes in the haredi world. It also explains why, in recent years, haredi figures and newspapers felt that it was OK to speak so inappropriately about outstanding sages such as R. Ovadiah Yosef, R. Meir Mazuz, R. Shlomo Amar, R. Aharon Leib Steinman, and R. Shmuel Auerbach.

Unfortunately, this approach has now entered the Sephardic world as well, where in the last Israeli elections we saw the worst aspects of Ashkenazic haredi society, i.e., personal denigration for ideological reasons, arise for the first time in the Sephardic world. I will discuss this in detail in a future post when I speak about R. Mazuz’s religious and political outlook, his role in the last Israeli elections, and the vicious things said about him and his yeshiva.

While it is true that it was Ashkenazim who began the personal denigrations, it is a Sephardi, R. Shalom Cohen, who brought it to a new low. I will discuss this in the upcoming post, but for now, suffice it to say that for all the Ashkenazic haredi disrespect for opponents, I don’t know of anyone who has referred to an opponent’s yeshiva in the way R. Cohen referred to R Mazuz’s Yeshivat Kise Rahamim, a yeshiva that has educated thousands of students and today is of much greater significance than R. Cohen’s Porat Yosef. For those who haven’t heard, and it is difficult for me to even repeat this, R. Cohen publicly referred to the great Kise Rahamim yeshiva as a בית הכסא. Can anyone imagine a more disgraceful statement about a place of Torah? This is what happens when people think that they can degrade those who don’t adopt a certain Da’as Torah perspective.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Some Unusually ‘Liberal’ Statements by Mainstream Rabbinic Figures”, The Seforim Blog (9 February 2016) [http://seforim.blogspot.com/2016/02/some-unusually-liberal-statements-by.html]