The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is standing by Rabbi David Stav and slamming Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who called him "evil."
In a letter published Monday night, the organization's leaders, on behalf of more than 1,000 members, expressed their "encouragement and support" for the moderate chief rabbi candidate, while harshly criticizing Shas' spiritual leader for lashing out at him during his weekly sermon on Saturday night.
"We trembled upon hearing the terrible things Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said in regards to his honor," RCA President Shmuel Goldin and Vice President Leonard Matanky wrote in Hebrew to Rabbi Stav, "and also when we heard of the events in Bnei Brak at the wedding of the daughter of Rabbi Rabinowitz," referring to a verbal and physical assault on Stav by ultra-Orthodox teens Sunday evening.
This is the most significant support Stav has received so far following the attacks against him, as the RCA is the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in America.
'Woe to his rabbi who taught him Torah'
The letter praised Rabbi Stav, quoting Chazal (our Sages of Blessed Memory): "Look at how pleasant his ways are, how proper his deeds are."
Yet in regards to Rabbi Yosef, the US rabbis quoted contradicting statements: "Is this Torah and are these its scholars? Woe to so-and-so who learned Torah, woe to his father who taught him Torah, woe to his rabbi who taught him Torah. So-and-so who learned Torah—look at how destructive his deeds are, and how ugly his ways are."
They concluded by telling Stav that they were grateful for everything he had done "for the good of all the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the State of Israel." They said they expected to work with him for many years "to expand and glorify the Torah, and to bring hearts closer to our Father in Heaven."
During his weekly sermon on Saturday night, Rabbi Yosef said that Stav, chairman of the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar, was "an evil man" and that appointing him to the Chief Rabbinate was like bringing idolatry into the Temple.
"I don't know Stav, I don't know this man, I haven't seen him, but all his friends the National Religious Party leaders come to me and say: 'Beware, this man is a danger to Judaism…' People in his party testified that this man is a danger to Judaism, a danger to the Rabbinate, a danger to Torah – and I should keep silent? They want to make him a chief rabbi? This man unworthy of anything! Can they do such a thing?"
The Tzohar rabbinical association issued a statement a harsh statement in response, referring to Rabbi Yosef's remarks as "incitement" and calling on him to "repent and ask for forgiveness after humiliating a person in public."
Prominent religious-Zionist Rabbi Chaim Druckman told Ynet that Rabbi Yosef had gone too far and that he was "extremely shocked by the blatant remarks" against Rabbi Stav.
Attack during wedding
The battle against Rabbi Stav escalated on Sunday evening when he was attacked during the wedding of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz's daughter.
Rabbi Stav arrived at the wedding and was even seated on the dignitaries' stage alongside other rabbis, but when he got up to join the dancing circle, several haredi teens tried to get him to trip and kept swearing at him, calling him "evil" and "abomination."
When he turned to leave the banquet hall they continued to harass him, shoving him and splashing water.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, whose faction announced its support for Rabbi Stav as chief rabbi, said in response to the attack: "We expect a spiritual leadership, regardless of its outlook, to condemn decisively – and certainly not encourage – harm caused to a another religious leader."
According to Lieberman, "It's a shame that as part of a political race, and certainly for the position of chief rabbi, there are those leading the public to such dark corners. The Torah has 70 faces, and not a single one of them is of violence and incitement by one rabbi against another rabbi."