With the Jerusalem municipality elections scheduled to take place tomorrow (Tuesday), the bitter war of words between Israel's leading Lithuanian Ashkenazic hareidi rabbis was cranked up, with a threatening note left on the car of a senior rabbi who is competing with the mainstream Degel Hatorah party.
Newspaper Maariv/NRG reported Monday that a note had been placed on the car of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach which read: "Close down your party, or your blood be on your head," using a harsh Biblical phrase of condemnation that means that in the event of any harm befalling a person, he would only have himself to blame.
The argument trails back to 2011, when Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman took over the leadership of the Lithuanian hareidi community following the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach and his followers, however, have contended that he is the natural successor to lead the Lithuanian hareidi community in the country.
Rabbi Auerbach has presented a separate list, the Bnei Torah (Sons of Torah) party, which is running against the Degel Hatorah list that follows the authority of Rabbi Shteinman.
The new party is running in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh and Kiryat Sefer, and is expected to severely dent Degel Hatorah's election potential in those towns, especially in the capital.
Rabbi Auerbach has also endorsed Nir Barkat as his favored candidate for the position of Jerusalem Mayor, as opposed to Rabbis Shteinman and Kanievsky who have told voters to support Moshe Lion.
Rabbi Shteinman said last week in the hareidi daily Yated Ne'eman that it was “an obligation to vote for Degel Hatorah, which is the party that has received the approval of the rabbis and the Torah sages,” and accused Rabbi Auerbach's supporters of trying to undermine "the age-old authority of Judaism's sages" to lead the community.
Bnei Brak Rabbi Haim Kanievsky who is also seen as a leading voice in the community, and who has placed his full backing behind Rabbi Shteinman, somewhat alarmingly went even further, saying that anyone who broke ranks and voted against Degel Hatorah, would be committing a capital offense.
Earlier this week, Shas head Aryeh Deri failed to convince Auerbach to drop his support of Nir Barkat in favor of Moshe Lion, the candidate also endorsed by the Shas party.