Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ovadia Yosef Joins the Bush Critics

Not content to let Rabbi Lazar Brody have all the fun, Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, has now joined the show. He, too, is promulgating the notion that Bush is responsible for the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina because of his administration's policies -- in particular the Disengagement from Gaza. And he seems to have some near senile idea that the failure of New Orlean's blacks to study Talmud somehow contributed. Huh?
In his weekly sermon, the rabbi said: “There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in New Orleans). Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”
So, um, has he figured out why tsunamis are not hitting Africa everyday, where even more black people not studying Torah reside? Or do the few yeshiva bachorim in South Africa somehow redeem the whole, holding back those floodtides?

Later, the rabbi adds to his brilliance:
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled). It was God’s retribution ..God does not short-change anyone.
Hold on. That's inflation. It was 8000 people expelled. Not 15,000. In which case, the punishment is not a neat tenfold, which is clearly what Yosef is trying to get at.

Somehow the entire notion of Divine Providence used to seem more attractive when it was wrapped up in a mystery and made to sound spooky and kabbalistic. But the self-righteous ranting of a few black-hat Orthodox rabbis in the last weeks these last few weeks while human tragedy is occurring on the ground is a real disincentive to the religious spirit. Not to mention that it publicly puts forward the worst face of Judaism.

Especially when this is the kind of tit for tat babbling, ill-educated drivel that the notion of מידה כנגד מידה leads us to, all I can think is give me theories of material causation over Divine Providence any day. Although I'd be perfectly happy to listen to an argument on this point if anyone wants to provide one.

Still, where is the spirit of chesed in the Rabbi's remarks? And if that is missing from him, where is his self restraint to keep his mouth shut given the sheer level of human suffering going on?

Not to mention the spirit of charity that has arisen in the wake of the disaster?.

Is this really the face that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants to show the world in the days before Rosh Hashanah?

He's certainly not internalizing the spirit of humility, is he? Nor teaching by example.

And maybe could they just add some science to the curricula in the yeshivot...

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