Shas Passover rally.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Thousands of people attended a Passover event staged by Shas on Sunday at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.
During speeches by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and Shas chairman Arye Deri, several implicit references were made to former Shas chairman and MK Eli Yishai and the manner in which he quit the party to run a new political party, Yahad, unsuccessfully in the recent elections.
Deri spoke before the rabbis and praised them for their spiritual leadership and guidance.
“We will continue to walk in the light of the great Torah sages, led by Rabbi Shalom Cohen, whom Rabbi Ovadia Yosef [the late spiritual leader of Shas] described as having ‘a holy mouth,’ and to do everything he says,” said Deri.
Yitzhak Yosef, Ovadia’s son, spoke in glowing terms of Deri and the manner in which he has led the party.
“I saw how things were 15 years ago, and now the same situation is coming back,” said Yosef, in reference to Deri’s forced absence from politics and Shas between 1999 and 2012 due to his conviction and incarceration on corruption charges in 1999.
“There is unity among all the great Sephardi Torah scholars, and everyone is united behind the [Shas] Council of Torah Sages,” the rabbi continued.
“Woe to him who will create any division. The Sephardi community needs to be united around the Council of Torah Sages. Rabbi Arye [Deri] is a true son of the Torah, not someone who distributed tea and then rose to prominence,” Yosef continued, in an implicit and derogatory reference to Yishai, who served as an assistant to Deri when the latter was interior minister in the late 1980s.
Cohen also praised Deri, saying he had never been enticed to split the Sephardi community when he came back to Shas. Deri did in fact threaten to start a new political movement when he faced opposition to his return to Shas, and eventually was restored to the head of the party due in part to this threat and other pressures on the elder Yosef at the time.
“God should help him [Deri] to take great power in the coming government to increase the number of yeshivas, Torah schools, and religious girls schools, all for the honor of God,” said Cohen.