Never one to shy away from controversy, spiritual leader of the Shas movement Rabbi Ovadia Yosef delivered a broadside Saturday night against secular schools and the secular courts system.

While giving his weekly Torah lesson from his home in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof, Yosef said that anyone who sends their children to a secular school or turns to the civil courts system instead of the religious courts for legal redress cannot lead prayers services in synagogue.

Yosef denounced anyone who goes to state courts rather than religious ones, to resolve legal disputes – something that is forbidden by Torah law – as “evil,” and explained that the secular courts do not rule in accordance with Jewish law and are hostile to it.

To underline his point, he alluded to the ruling of the High Court of Justice in February that yeshiva students can no longer indefinitely defer their military service.

“A Jew who goes to the courts of non-Jews in order that it should judge a case, and not to a rabbinical court, is forbidden from leading prayer services,” Yosef said. “Today this [principle] is cheapened [and] people go to the secular courts, which rule against the Torah... We see [the courts’] behavior against the Torah, against yeshiva students; they have no love for Torah, they hate the Torah,” Yosef said.

He also criticized anyone who works with the state justice system as a judge and said that such a person is invalid as a witness in a rabbinical court and cannot lead prayers in synagogue.

“There is no doubt all the judges in the secular court system are ineligible as witnesses, you can’t take them to a wedding to sign on a marriage certificate, it is forbidden... someone who does so... it is as if there was no wedding.”

Yosef related an incident in which he invalidated a marriage certificate, because one of the witnesses had been a judge in the state court system, and told the couple to get married again. He added that anyone who uses such witnesses at his wedding subsequently engages in illicit sexual relations when he sleeps with his wife because the witness, and thus the marriage, is invalid.

Expounding on the principle, Yosef said that someone who “presides in the court system of non-Jews which rule on the basis of non-Jewish law, lifts up his hands against the Torah of Moses our teacher and is called an evil person. They rule according to the laws of the nations of the world, not the Torah, and they accept the testimony of women.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said in response to Yosef’s remarks that they should not be taken lightly by the Israeli public.

“This is the educational platform being used to teach tens of thousands of students, who are nursed on the hatred and deep contempt for the secular public and state institutions of Rabbi Yosef’s teachings,” Kariv said.

“In light of these words, it is fitting that leaders of the state cease their pilgrimages and marches of flattery to the rabbi’s house, and publicly and politically renounce themselves from him and his teachings,” Kariv added.

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