Chief rabbi destroyed student’s iPhone
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Chief rabbi destroyed student’s iPhone

Yitzhak Yosef says he submerged the phone in a bowl of water; bars handheld devices from yeshiva

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of iPhones (photo credit: CC BY-Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr)
Illustrative photo of iPhones (photo credit: CC BY-Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr)

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, came out strongly against smartphones in his weekly sermon, the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Hashabat reported Sunday.

“If there is a student with an iPhone, then he needs to be kicked out of the yeshiva, without a doubt, for sure,” Yosef said.

Yosef also spoke of an incident in which he destroyed one of his student’s iPhones.

After the phone rang during class, Yosef told the student to bring a bowl of water, he said.

“He went to bring a bowl of water, and put it on the desk. I put it inside, it bubbled and was gone. The phone was gone,” Yosef recalled.

“Rabbi, that cost me hundreds of shekels,” said the young man, according to Yosef.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on November 3, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on November 3, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I told you not to bring it; there was an announcement not to do so. I don’t have to pay you,” Yosef then told the hapless student.

“‘You can go to a rabbinical court'” if you have a problem with the decision, Yosef added, according to his own account. “He was afraid. And that’s it, his telephone was gone, it was gone.”

Lest Android fans rejoice, it should be pointed out that in discussing iPhones, Yosef was likely referring to smartphones in general.

Ultra-Orthodox aversion to smartphones isn’t restricted to Sephardic rabbis.

'Burn the iPhone.' Rabbi Kanievsky's responsum in Yated Ne'eman
‘Burn the iPhone.’ Rabbi Kanievsky’s responsum in Yated Ne’eman.

In a 2012 responsum to a reader in the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Yated Ne’eman, the eminent Ashkenazi rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said that “it is forbidden to be in possession of [an iPhone], and one must burn it”; this despite the fact that the reader, a business owner, said it was “crucial for [his] dealings.”

Earlier in 2012, 60,000 ultra-Orthodox American Jews gathered at the Citi Field baseball stadium in New York, where they were told by leading rabbis that home Internet usage was forbidden, and that even those who thought they needed Web access at work should try to avoid using it, as the urge to go online was likely the nagging of the “evil inclination.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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