According to the Talmud the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of willful hatred between and among Jews. Not because of a failure to obey the commandments per se, but to respect fellow Jews. Yet, on Saturday night [ hyperlink and video in Hebrew], the eve of the commemoration of this event, Tisha B’Av, to be observed on Monday night and Tuesday one of the prominent members of the Sephardic haredi rabbinate—a member of the Council of Torah Sages– proclaimed that Jews who are religious Zionists–whose men wear “knitted kipot [skullcaps]”–are to be equated with the people of the marauding tribe of Amalak which wandered about the desert and are recorded in the Torah to have attacked the Jewish people from the rear days after they left Egypt. This is the Amalak whom the Torah commands should be obliterated from the face of the earth.
It is Amalak to whom Rabbi Shalom Cohen, next to whom was seated Rabbi Ovadia Yosef —one of the most respected rabbinic scholars in contemporary times–as he spoke comparing religious Zionists to them! If this is what Rabbi Cohen has to say about religious Zionists, one shudders to consider what curse he might have in mind for Conservative, Reform, or secular Jews.
In response, the head of the religious party, HaBayit HaYehudi, Minister Naphtali Bennett’s reply, upon being informed of these remarks on Facebook was “Shame on You”. Later he went much further saying in part:
For those who don’t know, Amalek is an expression referring to someone who must be wiped off the face of the earth. No less. At this very moment, thousands of knit-kipa wearers are standing guard from the Syrian border to the Egyptian, from brigade commanders down to the lowliest soldiers, and are spitting blood to defend even the honorable rabbi….
Where however, is the outcry from rabbinic authorities both in Israel and the U.S. It is clear that in the almost 2000 years since the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish people have made no progress if the very institution which was chastised in the Talmud for condoning this type of personal hatred of fellow Jews, cannot rise up as Tisha B’Av approaches to condemn precisely what the rabbis of old bemoaned caused the destruction of the Temple.