Religion Magazine

Yochi Apolyuon Writing a Letter in Torah Sparks Controversy

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
I am not quite sure what to think of this story, and of the criticism of the incident, or lack of criticism.
Yochi Apolyuon Writing Letter Torah Sparks ControversyYochi Apolyuon, a star actress of Israeli reality television and bikini designer and model, was photographed writing a letter in a Torah at a ceremony of a hachnasat sefer torah.
This ceremony did not take place in a Reform community. It took place in Bnei Braq. The Torah was written in memory of her father, Rav Binyamin Apolyoun, a mashgiach kashrut residing in Bnei Braq, who recently died. The Torah was dedicated and installed in a yeshiva in Bnei Braq callled Yeshivat Bet Meir.
Present at the ceremony were the Roshei Yeshiva, other important rabbonim, "hundreds of" the yeshiva students and alumni.
sources: Kooker, Mako, Haredim10
Rav Chaim Amsalem criticized the image. His criticism was that there was no criticism of the picture. Amsalem is upset that because Haredim were doing this, it was let to happen silently, with no opposition or criticism. If anybody else had done this - Dati Leumi, Sefardim, Modern Haredi, or any other group, the Haredim would be screaming and calling them Reform. Rav Amsalem calls "them" hypocrites acting for money who would even sell their own grandmothers.
According to Mako, the incident was criticized by "many" Haredim, but I guess Rav Amsalem's criticism that at a Haredi yeshiva this was allowed to happen and some vocal opposition only came later after the fact and was probably just lip service.
Haredim10 also says that Rav Motka Bloi criticized the incident. expressing shock. Bloi said that even if she did not actually write a letter in the Torah it is a disgrace. A Sefer Torah is not a television prop. And it is much more serious that it happened in the streets of Bnei Braq, in the center of the City of Torah.
So, again, it was allowed to happen and many rabbis seemed to know about it and even participate in the event in which she did this, but it was also criticized by askanim and others outside of the event. So, I don't know what to think of both Amsalem's criticism and the event itself.
Then there is the issue of the writing in the Torah. I am not sure what the problem is. As far as I know, most of the time a ceremony like this is held, the laymen writing in the Torah is only ceremonial and the sofer really rewrites it or he makes the shapes of the letters and has the laymen fill in the outlines. The Torah is not written by laymen - allowing that to happen would be too risky in many situations, so they do it in a way that is only ceremonial, and the sofer usually is the one actually writing.
That being said, why when someone who is a television star does a mitzvah or religious act of some sort it has to be described as a television prop. Can't she want to dedicate a Torah in her father's memory just for the sake of his memory as not as a television prop? When men do it, even not-religious men, there is no such criticism, of it being just a prop. So why is this the criticism in this case? I can understand criticizing allowing a woman to write in the Torah, as, from what I understand, a Sefer Torah written by a woman is not kosher, but I do not understand the criticism of it being a cynical ploy for her personal career.
Interestingly, in all the various sites I saw this picture posted on, Apolyoun is pictured normally, while the rabbi, a male, has his face blurred. I understand why - to protect his identity - but it is a reversal of roles, of sorts.
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