Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia YosefIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, expressed on Wednesday his opposition to the controversial Torat Hamelech book, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported.

“We should give considerable attention to the nations of the world and not assist in a writing that could be interpreted as racist,” the report quoted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as saying. “The Torah respects everyone since everyone was created in G-d’s image.”

Rabbi Yosef was also quoted as saying that “the petition against renting apartments to Arabs was also unnecessary.”

Torat Hamelech has been at the center of a controversy, due to its discussion of the theoretical attitude of Jewish Law toward killing a non-Jew in wartime.

Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba was arrested and questioned earlier this week over the "haskama", rabbinical approbation, he gave to the book. The arrest came after police had issued an arrest warrant for him when he did not report for questioning on the matter.

A "haskama" is found at the beginning of many Judaic works and signifies that the rabbi who read it testifies to the Halakhic coherence and accuracy of the writing. Authors attempt to get "haskamot" from famous rabbis for that reason.

He later explained to his students that he did not cooperate with police since he had not broken any laws nor did he incite to violence or racial hatred. The book is one of theoretical Halakhic deductions, and the real issue is one of free speech for rabbis, equivalent to that for academics.

“I expressed an opinion on a specific issue,” he said. “People on the street told me that I’m suspected of inciting racial hatred and violence. I say that stating something like this about any rabbi in Israel is baseless libel. The rabbis have never incited, not to violence and not to racial hatred.”

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s own son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, also gave a "haskama" for Torat Hamelech. An arrest warrant was also issued for him, and he has also stated he will not cooperate with the police.

It was reported on Wednesday that police have now set their sights on Rabbi Yaakov Yosef and are likely to arrest him in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, Channel 2 also reported that one of the greatest rabbinic authorities, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, also objects to Torat Hamelech.

“There are people who do not understand that the Jewish people do not live only in Israel,” Rabbi Elyashiv was quoted as having said. “Such writings can bring danger to the lives of Jews abroad. We are playing with fire here and are endangering other Jews.”