It’s a tight contest between Ovadia Yosef and Vice Pres. Elect Joe Biden. During the campaign season, journalist would be waiting for a classic Joe Biden gaf. Similarly, whenever Rabbi Ovadia opens his mouth the press is there waiting for a doozy. Towards the end of the election season a parapalegic patriot was sitting in the audience where Biden happened to be speaking. Having seen the paraplegic he asked him to stand up and take bow and be recognized by the public for his contribution. After seeing the condition he was in he said “never mind” or something to that effect. What a gaf. To Joe Biden’s credit one can say that while he has made some awful mistakes they were honest, with no bad intention intended. The Rabbi, on the other hand is mean spirited.
To say that secular teachers are “donkeys” and the children of “donkeys” is contemptible and insulting to say the least, not only to the teachers and their profession, but to society as a whole. After all it is society that has deemed it worthy to have schools and teachers. Where would we be without those teachers? Where would Rabb Ovadia be without those teachers? After all it is because of those teachers that we have a modern and enlightened country where Jews can live in relative freedom and democracy, no thanks to the likes of Rabbi Ovadia.
Intererstingly, Shas leader and homophobe, Eli Yishai tried to explain what Rabbi Ovadia meant. Since he couldn’t really put a spin on what Rabbi Ovadia said he took another approach – attacking the secular media by asserting that the media simply can’t understand what Rabbi Ovadia meant. Apparently, Rabbi Ovadia is some kind of genius, like an Albert Einstein. Just like the lay community couldn’t possibly understand E=MC squared, so too the public can’t fathom the meaning of Rabbi Ovadia’s words; they’re too complex. Rubbish. Yishai is as bad as Rabbi Ovadia. He must take the entire public as donkeys and not only teachers! It doesn’t take a genius to understand what Rabbi Ovadia meant – his total and utter contempt for teachers because they represent enlightenment and knowledge.
Knowledge and enlightenment have always been the natural enemies of the hareidim. Knowledge threatens their status. It’s something akin to the different sephardi immigrations to Israel. The children of these immigrants lost respect for their parents because in Israel, where knowledge and education counted they couldn’t compete in the market place. They became the unemployed, naturally loosing their status as the bread winners. The real tragedy in that scenario was the parents who chose to cling to the old ways resisting modernization and entry into the light of the twentieth century. In many cases the children suffered for their parent’s lack of foresight. As the saying goes “Eizehu ashir? haroeh et hanolad? Who is fortunate he who can anticipate the future.
Rabbi Ovadia and the likes of him are fighting a loosing battle. They can’t win. Society will continue to progress and teachers will continue to play an honored an integral part in the unfolding of history. Its people like Ovadia who have duped their public into choosing a road which is a dead end. Too bad. I feel sorry for all those children and the yet to be born children of hareidim who will never be able to appreciate a good piece of literature, good art or classical music, not to mention the challenge of studying the sciences or the humanities and contributing to the world we live in.