Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was the subject of heavy criticism from several quarters on Sunday after he called Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav, who is running for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, “an evil man” who is “dangerous to Judaism and the Torah.”

The Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association strongly protested Yosef’s remarks and called on Yosef to “do repentance” for his comments and to “ask for forgiveness” from Stav for the sin of embarrassing a person in public.

“The Tzohar management protests the words of incitement that were heard from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef against a great rabbi who has devoted his life to the love of Torah through the Jewish people,” the organization said.

“The manner of his words, their content and the fact that they were said by someone without making the smallest attempt to get to know the man he is embarrassing in public testifies to the urgent need to change the face of the rabbinate in Israel,” Tzohar continued.

“The Jewish people needs a rabbinate that knows how to connect it to Judaism and not to cause hatred with curses and abuse.”

During his weekly Torah lesson given from the synagogue in his residence on Saturday night, Yosef issued a fierce attack against Stav, saying that he did not “fear heaven” and was “an evil man.”

“Friends of his from his own party told me to my face that this man is dangerous to Judaism, dangerous to the rabbinate and dangerous to the Torah,” Yosef said.

The rabbi’s comments came just days after he instructed Shas MKs to block the so-called Amar bill, which was designed to allow serving Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to run for reelection, despite being over the current age limit.

“Rabbi Amar is an upright and righteous man but they are using his name to elect an evil man who is unfit to be anything,” Yosef said.

Amar had been seeking to seal a deal with Bayit Yehudi to gain the party’s support for legislation allowing him to run for reelection for Sephardi chief rabbi in return for his support for Stav as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

Along with Tzohar, Education Minister Shai Piron, who is a strong Stav supporter, spoke out against Yosef on Sunday, questioning the morality and validity in Jewish law of such comments.

“Why? Why does Rabbi Ovadia curse?!,” Piron wrote on his Facebook page.

“Does he think that brings people closer to the Torah and Judaism? Does he think that to speak about someone that he’s never met is ethical?! In accordance with Jewish law?! Jewish?!” Further reactions and criticisms of Yosef’s comments came from several nationalreligious rabbis.

Rabbi Haim Druckman, one of the most senior figures in the national-religious world, said in comments to Ynet that Yosef had “crossed all boundaries,” and recommended that the Shas leader review Jewish law pertaining to what one is and is not permitted to say of someone in public.

Druckman blamed Yosef’s circle of advisors for inciting the rabbi and causing him to disgrace himself.

“This also greatly pains my heart, that those who see themselves as close to him do not spare his dignity whatsoever, it seems,” he said.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed and a possible candidate for Sephardi chief rabbi, said that he cried when he heard about the comments.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Eliyahu, like Druckman, also blamed Yosef’s close advisors for feeding him false information about Stav.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the five members of the oversight committee for the chief rabbi elections were approved in a cabinet meeting.

The official appointment of this body means that it is now no longer possible to make any legislative changes to the process for electing the chief rabbis and means that the Amar bill cannot be put forward.

The election committee is in charge of supervising the electoral process. Its members are: David Malka, a rabbinical judge in Petah Tikva and the chairman of the committee; attorney Tzipi Finklestein; retired judge Sarah Frish; Avraham Brisk, who was nominated by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger; and Yaakov Hadani, who was nominated by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

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