"Women should make hamin and not deal with matters of Torah," the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said in a speech to supporters on Saturday night.
Yosef made the statement in the context of a major Halachic campaign he is currently engaged in as to when women should recite the blessing over the Shabbat candles.
Many prominent Ashkenazi rabbis, along with a few Sephardic sources, have ruled that women should say the blessing after lighting the candles. However, according to Yosef, the blessings should be said before the candles have been kindled, similar to other blessings.
Yosef blasted the opposing view, saying it was based on the opinion of "a few stupid women. A woman's knowledge is only in sewing," he ridiculed. "Women should find other jobs and make hamin (cholent) but not deal with matters of Torah."
In addition, he admonished women for following in the steps of their mothers in the order of the recitation of the blessing instead of adhering to his opinion.
"It has to be announced that women should not listen to the voice of their mothers or grandmothers not to continue with this mistake," he warned.
A Shas source explained Yosef's statement by claiming he was "speaking in the language of his audience. He intended to say that it is proper for women to do what they are supposed to be doing and not try to prove something or make an impression," the Shas source said.
Labor MK Colette Avital denounced Yosef's comments saying they "show contempt and lower the value of women. In our tradition, there exist many examples of prophetesses who contributed to the continuity of the Jewish nation."
"The statements of Rabbi Ovadia that are meant to leave women in a state of ignorance, endanger the continued existence of the Jewish nation and therefore I condemn his words," she added.
Liora Minka, head of Emunah, an organization that promotes women's Torah study, also strongly disagreed with Yosef.
"Torah learning for women is very important," she said. "It is only a natural development, even in the ultra-orthodox community, that women will be integrated in Torah study."
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