Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri Israel news photo: Arutz Sheva

Shas head Aryeh Deri defended recent harsh comments by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an interview Wednesday morning with Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio).

Rabbi Yosef, a renowned Torah sage and the spiritual leader of the Shas movement, called Rabbi David Stav an “evildoer” (rasha) and compared his potential selection as Chief Rabbi to putting an idol in the Temple.

According to Deri, it was not a personal insult. “Someone who is an evildoer isn’t necessarily a bad person,” he said.

Rabbi Yosef was using halakhic (Jewish legal) terminology, which has different meaning than that of modern Hebrew, he explained. For example, he said, a person who does not observe the Sabbath is called an “evildoer” in halakhic works regardless of their moral character or their other deeds.

When asked if he was comparing Rabbi Stav to a person who does not keep the Sabbath, Deri hastened to clarify that his statement was meant solely as an example.

When Rabbi Yosef called Rabbi Stav “dangerous,” he meant dangerous in the position of Chief Rabbi, but not dangerous to society, Deri continued.

Deri claimed that religious-Zionist rabbis were the ones who approached Rabbi Yosef to warn him against supporting Rabbi Stav.

He rejected claims that sources close to Rabbi Yosef had misled him. “There is no basis to those statements,” he declared.

Deri later told the interviewer that he, too, has been perplexed by some of Rabbi Yosef’s statements, but that he has discovered six months later that Rabbi Yosef was right to say what he did.

Rabbi Stav has expressed regret over the "divisive atmosphere" that has marred the Rabbinate campaign.