A rabbi at the prestigious haredi Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem told students recently that the government is comparable to the Jewish people’s ancient enemy the Amalekites and that government officials should in theory be killed.
In March, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan was discussing the special Bible reading relating to the Amalekites and noted that Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the leader of the non-hassidic haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world, had said that the current government should be considered to be Amalekites.
“On Shabbat I spoke to my kids, and I said that Rabbi Shteinman spoke and said ‘practically speaking we have today Haman, Amalek, all of this government, and the way is to take knives and to kill them, like with the [ancient] Greeks,’” Kaplan said.
“So why aren’t we doing it? Because, he said, ‘I don’t know who the general is to run the war. If I would know who is the general we’d go out with knives.’ This is what Rabbi Shteinman said. There’s a war on religion.”
“I was talking with my kids, they were saying, Daddy, maybe you should be the general. My kid, six-years-old, tells me, ‘we don’t have swords in the house, maybe a hammer is also good?’ I was very happy, I gave him a kiss,” Kaplan said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Kaplan said he did not mean what he said and that his comparison of the government to Amalek and his comments that government officials should be killed was a mistake.
He added that he has given three lessons to his students in which he said his words were wrong and that he had not meant what he said.
“I am completely against such words, they’re disgusting. I regret what I said and I am deeply sorry for using such examples. I am also sorry for hurting people’s feelings and I hope they can forgive me.”
He also said he had never actually had the conversation with his child he mentioned in his lesson and that he had not met with Rabbi Shteinman for over six months.
Asked how he could say such things if he did not believe them, Kaplan said that “it is hard for me to answer, I really don’t know,” and suggested that he had been carried away joking with his students.
In an email to a friend who questioned Kaplan’s comments he wrote: “I acknowledge that I made a mistake with the words that I used, the message that resulted is not one that one that I would ever suggest and is certainly not one that comes from the Torah.
“In the three lessons I gave in the past 24 hours, I have repeated numerous times that the message I conveyed earlier does not reflect what I hold true and believe in, and I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to so many.”
“I firmly condemn the use of violence to achieve anything and would never wish any harm to come onto any person,” he said.
Rhetoric in the haredi community, from rabbis and the haredi press, has been highly inflammatory in recent months, largely due to the law for haredi conscription, as well as the cut-back in certain benefits that much of the community had been entitled to.
Last year, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, who is now the spiritual leader of the Shas movement, compared people from the national-religious community to the Amalekites.