The text on my cell phone caught me unawares: The sender must have been someone who has a direct line with the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, whose powers of arousing religious fervor are seemingly no worse off now that he’s left this world. Since this message must have a celestial connection I’ll quote it word for word, lest the revered Rav, God forbid, be misunderstood.
Our teacher Rav Ovadia Yosef, of blessed memory: “I won’t forgive anyone who doesn’t vote for Shas. Not in this world, not in the next world.”
This text appeared in my in-box on a day that John Lennon once called “stupid bloody Tuesday” which, of course, was Election Day.
Now I don’t actually read all the garbage that pops up in my in-box. Unless I know who the sender is, I usually assume that a pushy message has marketing content and just ignore it. For this reason, I didn’t notice the Rav’s missive until it was too late, putting me at a great disadvantage. The election results were already in, and I didn’t exactly vote for Shas. In fact, I voted for Meretz, which is as far from Shas as Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv from Kingdom Come.
Recalling that the Rav had once infamously cursed former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, I broke out in a cold sweat, sensing that my future in this world and the next was looking pretty grim.
There are two possible explanations for Rav Ovadia’s repugnant message, one irrational, the other less rational.
First, the irrational: The Rav dropped the message into my in-box straight from Heaven via an earthly messenger, probably a Shasnik activist with visions of grandeur. This raises some out of this world questions. How much does it cost to transmit texts from Heaven to Earth? Is there an extra charge for voice mail? Whose rates are the cheapest, Celcom, Orange, or Pelephone?
And the even less rational: the Rav actually issued his stern warning while he was still alive, declaring that he would not forgive both the living opponents of Shas and, by extension, the dead enemies of Shas, assuming, of course, that the Rav has the God-given right to judge anyone in the next life, let alone this one.
Of course I wasn’t the only one who received this offensive message. I figure that anyone who isn’t a card-carrying member of Shas received the text, and maybe those who are just got reminders not to vote for Eli Yishai. My two sons, who are both doing their IDF service, got the message too. While my boys are out defending the State of Israel they’re getting nasty threats, special delivery, from a high and mighty rabbi, of blessed memory, whose disciples don’t serve in the Army.
Some perspective: The Shasnikim are not Lubavitcher Hasidim riding around in “mitzvah mobiles” encouraging Jews to put on tefilin. This goes way beyond the religious persuasion that seeks to spread Torah Judaism in the Diaspora, and even the religious coercion that so divides Jew against Jew in the Jewish State. This is shameless religious intimidation, and one short step from terror. A day will come, God forbid, when Shasnikim and like-minded Ashkenazi haredim will ride around in “halacha hot rods,” fully equipped with next-generation GPS and state-of-the-art non-kosher sensors, zero in on freethinkers like me and blow our brains out.
But for the time being, they will sit in the same coalition with the Likud and their cronies in the far right. The serial failure, Bibi Netanyahu, mated with the convicted criminal, Aryeh Deri. And it’s no comfort that had the election results been any different, had the Zionist Camp won, with Meretz in their pocket, they too may have had no choice but to form a coalition that includes Shas.
This is what we have come to. Israel, 2015, looks a lot like Israel, 1988, and one step closer to the abyss.