Officials in Shas were confused and embarrassed on Saturday night, following a rant by Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the head of the party’s Council of Torah Sages, in which he insulted former Shas leader Eli Yishai, who recently left Shas to form his own party.
In remarks made over the weekend, Rabbi Cohen seemed to refer to the yeshiva headed by Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Yishai's rabbinic counsel, as a “toilet”.
The yeshiva, in Bnei Brak, is called “Kiseh Rahamim” (lit. Seat of Mercy), and when speaking about Yishai leaving Shas, Rabbi Cohen said that Yishai went to “beit hakise”, a term in Hebrew meaning toilet.
“He was once loyal, but since he left Shas and went to the ‘beit hakiseh’, he is no longer loyal,” Rabbi Cohen had said.
A Shas source speaking with Arutz Sheva on Saturday night was not thrilled with the remarks, and said they were inappropriate.
"To say ‘toilet’ about a yeshiva? The seat of mercy is like a seat of glory. Is this the way to talk? This is the way of the Torah?" the source said.
The source added that the Kiseh Rahamim Yeshiva has many Torah scholars and many branches across Israel, and that “the comparison in question should not have been made. Not even in thought. This is not the way of the Torah."
The source further said he believes that Rabbi Cohen did not mean to insult Rabbi Mazuz, Yishai or the yeshiva.
He went on to criticize Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri, saying there was an agreement that Yishai would not be attacked by Shas members, but this agreement has been broken time and time again.
"Although it was agreed that we do not attack each other, Aryeh attacked Eli Yishai last week on Channel 2, and now Rabbi Cohen lashed out as well. What happened to the agreements?” said the source.
Finally, said the source, Shas is on the decline in a way that has not been felt for a long time. "This is a sad situation," he said.
The spat comes as polls are showing a decline in seats for Shas. A poll released Friday by the Maariv-Sofhashavua newspaper found that in certain scenarios, Shas would not pass the electoral threshold, and that in other scenarios it would be significantly weakened and would win only four seats.
A previous poll found that Yishai’s new party, Ha’am Itanu, would take half of Shas’s electorate power.