MK Amsellem's Daring

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In this op-ed for Haaretz, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg looks beyond the narrow, political focus of the public discourse concerning Rabbi Chaim Amsellem of the Shas party and analyzes the behavior of the renegade MK in its broader socio-religious context. Could Amsellem be a harbinger of a new renaissance in Jewish law, or is he an exception that does not point to a trend? And why is the religious community's discourse so violent? These are the broader questions, according to Sheleg, that are raised by the current controversy.


The public discussion on Rabbi Chaim Amsellem focuses, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, on the narrow political aspect: the conflict between MK Amsellem and his party, its head Eli Yishai and Shas' revered spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. A conflict between renegade MKs and their parties, especially when the party is supposed to function as an obedient chorus, inevitably attracts attention. But the Amsellem affair has a number of aspects, many of which have hardly been talked about.


First and foremost, the issue is socio-religious. Amsellem is not only defying Yishai and Rabbi Yosef, he is challenging the entire framework by which the Sephardi Torah world is subordinate to the Ashkenazi rabbinate - subordination that Shas' formation was supposed to end. This is a fascinating social drama that can also have a huge political impact if a new Sephardi party, fashioned in Amsellem's spirit, arises to compete with Shas....




Read the full article on the Haaretz website