Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A recent picture of a rabbi in a compromising position that scandalized the
haredi community was finally explained on Sunday.
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak,
renowned for his outreach work among Sephardi Jews, was photographed several
weeks ago holding what looked suspiciously like an iPhone. This was surprising,
to say the least, since the device has been roundly denounced by several senior
ultra-Orthodox rabbis as being incompatible with a haredi
Yitzhak initially did not respond to the publication of the
picture, but today the website of the organization he heads, Shofar, published a
notice, titled “a clarification to prevent slander.” It said that the rabbi does
indeed posses an iPhone but that he received permission to own one from Rabbi
Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most senior Ashkenazi haredi rabbi in
“[Regarding] that which fools ask out of ignorance, ‘How is it
that Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak has an iPhone?’ – the leader of the generation, Rabbi
Aharon Leib Shteinman, personally permitted the use of an iPhone by the rabbi
and his staff for the purposes of bringing people back to Judaism,” the notice
“Anyone who doubts his rabbi is as if he doubts the divine
presence,” the announcement concluded darkly.
In recent months, a host of
senior haredi rabbis have issued harsh denunciations of smartphones and iPhones
in particular, and the haredi press reported on Sunday night that a major
conference of all the highest-ranking rabbis in the land, including Shteinman,
will be convening on Monday to discuss the issue.
In February of this
year, the radical Eda Haredit communal organization put up notices around
Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood banning the iPhone, Android smartphone,
BlackBerry and similar devices, declaring that they have brought a “spiritual
holocaust” and “seriously endanger the holiness of the House of
In September, a Bnei Brak rabbi held a ritual iPhone smashing
ceremony and later that month Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the five most
influential rabbinic authorities in the country, issued a public notice in the
haredi media calling on anyone who owns the iPhone to burn
Additionally, Vishnitz Hassidim leader Rabbi Yisrael Hager said
during his post- Rosh Hashana sermon that anyone who owns an iPhone or
smartphone should not dare approach him for a blessing.
leadership of the haredi world has objected strongly to smartphones because of
the ready access they provide to unfiltered Internet content, including
pornography and sources of information beyond the strict confines of the haredi