Head of Shilo Institute attacked for permitting 'kitniyot' on Pessah
In recent weeks irate members of the Orthodox community have hurled threats and anathemas at Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, head of the Shilo Institute, his only crime apparently being an attempt to make the culinary lives of Ashkenazim living in Israel a little bit easier.
Bar-Hayim, together with four other rabbis, issued a halachic opinion two weeks ago that would permit Ashkenazi Jews to eat kitniyot (legumes.) If Bar-Haim has his way, no longer will foods such as rice, humous, peanut butter and tofu be permissible for Sephardim only. Rather, Jews of European descent would adopt "the custom of the Land of Israel" and partake of kitniyot, as well.
Bar-Hayim's detractors, however, do not want their lives to be made any easier if it means compromising tradition.
"Your place in Gehinom (hell) is assured" and "If you don't clarify your opinion, we will organize a worldwide campaign to blackball you" are just some of threats recorded on Bar-Hayim's answering machine and Internet inbox.
In the haredi Internet chat room Hadrei Haredim, Bar-Haim and his fellow rabbis were attacked as "spiritual midgets who have the audacity to take on the giants."
"I've received three types of responses," said Bar-Hayim, 47, an immigrant from Australia, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview.
"The happy ones call to thank me for doing something that should have been done a long time ago, but which no rabbi has had the courage or willingness to do.
"The curious ones call to get a copy of the halachic opinion. Then there are the angry ones." But Bar-Haim, who studied for a decade at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, a bastion of religious Zionist spiritual leadership training, said he was neither surprised nor intimidated by the negative reaction which came "primarily from the haredi community."
His halachic opinion was written for "Torah Jews" who are interested in forging a new identity for themselves in the Land of Israel.
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