Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said last week that the harsh criticism thrown in his direction following the Carmel fire disaster was due to his Sephardic origins. On Saturday night, Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef came out in his support, attacking Yishai's critics and claiming that they were operating out of foreign and irrelevant considerations.
At the end of his weekly sermon, the rabbi prayed that God would keep and protect the interior minister from "jealous libelous people who speak evilly against him".
Rabbi Yosef hinted at the public criticism of Yishai over his ministry's responsibility for the failures and neglect of the Carmel fires, which were publicized in the Comptroller's report which stated that "the failures of extinguishing the fires lay at Yishai's door".
Rabbi Yosef called Yishai "a loyal public emissary" and noted that the minister "was doing everything in his power to glorify the Torah". He blessed him with a blessing Moses gave to Israel: "May your enemies thin out before you, and may you tread on our stage."
At the end of the sermon the Rabbi sent a blessing of "recovery of the body and the soul" to those wounded in the Carmel fires and held a requiem for the transcendence of the souls of those killed, whom he called "the poor people killed in the fires there."
In his sermon a week ago, the rabbi sparked a row when he hinted that the Carmel fires had occurred due to the fact that people did not observe Shabbat. He based his claim on a Talmudic portion that stated that "conflagration is found only where Shabbat is not observed".
The rabbi even recommended ways to rectify the problem: "You need to study Torah, carry out good deeds, repent, observe the Shabbat and follow the halachic teachings and through this, God will send a full recovery to those who are ill."
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