Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef may no longer bless his adherents via smartphone, the Central Elections Committee ruled on Thursday.

Following a complaint from religious freedom NGO Hiddush, Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein demanded Shas that remove the option of receiving a blessing from its smartphone application.

On Sunday, Shas unveiled the app – called Maran Shelita, a Hebrew acronym for “the great rabbi, who should live a good and long life” – which can be used to request blessings from Yosef.

Those who download the application can also watch a speech by the rabbi, a video about his life and a daily lesson in Jewish law.

The Maran Shelita app does not condition blessings from Yosef on voting for Shas. Hiddush demanded, however, that Rubinstein investigate whether the application breaks the Election Law, which forbids the use of blessings, talismans and curses in campaigns.

As of press time, the option to receive a blessing was still available in the app, which more than 1,000 people had downloaded.

Hiddush director-general Rabbi Uri Regev said the committee's ruling will lead to a cleaner, more rational election.

“Shas is not above the law, and it is inappropriate to use mystical methods [in the election],” Regev said. “It was important to strengthen the law forbidding this means of campaigning.”

Shas would not comment on the matter.

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