Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Chief Rabbis

I just wanted to write a very quick blog post about the newly elected Chief Rabbis - Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef.

Firstly, I am so glad that the elections are over. It has been an embarrassing chilul Hashem for the past several months as Rabbi engaged in politics and horse-trading. It should never have happened.

On the radio (and internet) this morning people were speaking about the election of chareidim as a defeat for the dati le'umi community, and a clear sign that the rabbanut does not want to move forward into the 21st century.

My thoughts (for what they are worth).

I do not identify with the chareidi community. But I do think that these two choices are excellent for Israel. Even though their fathers' were also Chief Rabbis, each of them deserves it in their own right, and was not elected because of their father.

I know Rabbi Lau a little bit (my brother knows him much better because he lives in Modi'in). Rabbi Lau is open, modern and concerned with the welfare of all Jews (and non-Jews) of every denomination. Notwithstanding what is being written about him, he cares deeply about people, knows Torah and halacha, and has been a tireless worker for the people of Modi'in for the past several years.

I know nothing about Rabbi Yosef as a person, but his books of Yalkut Yosef are tremendous. Clearly written, straight forward halacha for both Sefardim and Ashkenazim, and never erring on the side of chumra.

But as pleased as I am for both of these Rabbis, the Rabbanut and the State of Israel, I must say that it wasn't as much that these two won, but that the opposition lost. It seems to me that Bayit Yehudi is out of touch with the real world (based on the candidates they put forward). Rabbi David Stav is a forward thinking person (who wears a kippa seruga). But he has been exceptionally controversial in his rulings and actions (in terms of challenging the status quo). I think that Tzohar is an excellent organisation and has changed the way things are done. But to put forward such a radical contender for the office of Chief Rabbi was always risky. Tzohar operates well because it is outside of the system. I am yet to be convinced that it would work as the system.

And Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, who I'm sure is a great talmid chacham (though I have not been completely impressed with his halachic rulings on the weekly parsha pages, nor when I've heard him on the radio) and a great activist for the Jews of the world, is nevertheless a very controversial character. I disagree with the legal system getting involved in the elections - the Attorney General should never have allowed him to be called in - but nonetheless, his election would have been dragged through the courts and would have created an even bigger chilul Hashem. And those who feel disenfranchised by the election of Chareidim are possibly also the ones who would feel disenfrachised by a Rabbi who wrote a haskama to a book advocating killing Arabs.

If the dati le'umi community want to put up a serious contender for Chief Rabbi (and they should start planning now for 10 years time) they will have to find someone who is very knowledgable in Halacha, is not too radical, and can be accepted by most of the Jewish people of Israel. In the past they have had Chief Rabbis who filled most of those criteria - Rabbi Shapiro, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Goren, etc. At the moment I don't see those kinds of people leading the dati le'umi community. Don't get me wrong - there are many great dati le'umi Rabbis, but many of them are either more chareidi than the chareidim, or radical in either their political or racial views.

Ten years is not a long time. They had better get moving. (Of course what they will probably do is change the electoral system or do away with the office of Chief Rabbi - which would be a pity, but more importantly would be an admission that they cannot compete on a level playing field.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently I'm not the only person to think that it was the dati le'umi who lost this election, rather than the Chareidim who won. Bayit Yehudi is falling apart in the wake of the split over this issue.

    From Bennet down, the dati le'umi people are blaming themselves for their loss.

    For example:

    the main problem among Religious Zionists is on the inside. There were rabbis who were willing to do anything to ensure that Rabbi Stav was not elected. We cannot allow this to pass without action,” Orbach said.