Following the Rabbi Yona Metzger scandal, with the Ashkenazi chief rabbi suspending himself while remaining under house arrest, the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar is going to be the sole decider in picking the 10 delegates of the body that will select the new chief rabbis.
So, for all intents and purposes, Israel now has only one chief rabbi.
Feel free to add here “as God intended…”
On Monday night, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein sent a letter to the Ministry of religious Services, stating that the outgoing Chief Rabbi will have the sole authority to appoint the assembly that chooses the next chief rabbis.
Weinstein made his decision following the announcement of Rabbi Yona Metzger that he is suspending himself from his duties due to an ongoing investigation of criminal allegations against him.
“Under the circumstances of this case, the authority of the chief rabbis shall be vested in the Chief Rabbi and President of the High rabbinical Court, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar,” the attorney general wrote.
Shas officials are concerned now, as one of them told Kikar Hashabbat: “Rabbi Amar will be able to appoint his own people, who won’t necessarily adhere to the decision of Rav Ovadia Yosef, and would vote for Rabbi Amar’s candidate, Rabbi Zion Boaron.”
Other Sephardi candidates currently running for the post of chief rabbi are Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat, son of former chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu z”l, and Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, the rabbi of Kiryat Ono. Rabbi Arusi made aliyah from Yemen in 1949.
Shas is still trying to decide who their candidate will be, and it has come to down to two of the sons of Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, chief rabbi of Holon, and Rav Yitzchak Yosef. Also under consideration are Rav Yehuda Deri, the brother of Shas political leader Aryeh Deri, and Rav Binyamin Atias, the brother of Shas MK Ariel Atias.
But, apparently, these candidate’s future appear murky following the Attorney General’s decision.
On the Ashkenazi side (and what a relief it would be to have an Ashkenazi chief rabbi who isn’t under police investigation for corruption), Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the Haredi rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek, decided not to run for the job, according to Radio Kol Chai. Rabbi Grossman was considered a shoo-in, if only he wanted the job. His absence from the race leaves it open to three major candidates:
Rabbi David Stav, National Religious, chairman of Tzohar and the favorite of the Jewish Home party, whose leader, Naftali Bennett, among other things, is the Minister of Religious Services.
Rabbi David Lau, Haredi, son of the very popular former Ashkenazi chief Rabbi, Israel Lau.
Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, National Religious, dean of the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva.
It is possible that Rabbi Shapira, who is a “Chardal” (the word means mustard, but also stands for Charedi Dati Leumi – Haredi National Religious) will end up as the compromise candidate for the third player in the coronation game, the Torah Judaism party, which is debating at this point whether to support him or Rabbi Lau.
It’s clear that very few among the Haredim are interested in Rabbi Stav, who might just be the only chief rabbi who could bridge the yawning gap between secular Israelis and the chief rabbinate that is deposited with the responsibility for their life cycle events from cradle to grave and has been accused of contributing much to their alienation from their tradition.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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