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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chief Rabbi’

Knesset Bill to Cut Number of Chief Rabbis by 50%

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to approve the legislation to create one chief rabbi’s position instead of the current two, proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnua Party, and co-sponsored by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and lawmaker Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home Party.

The bill must be approved by the Cabinet and then pass three readings in the Knesset in order to pass. It would take effect after the ten-year terms of the current chief rabbis, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, expire.

That’s ten years from now. Ten years of double the expenses, double the needless waste.

The fact is, Israel has no need for a chief rabbi—check that, it has no use for a chief rabbi.

Imagine if you will, that someone in the U.S. were to appoint a chief rabbi. Who would listen to him? Not the non-Orthodox, because they either have their own take on halacha-Jewish law, or follow no halacha at all. Presuming the American chief rabbi would be Orthodox, that would eliminate half the Jews in America. Then come the secular Jews, and they would have no need at all for a chief rabbi, because there’s nothing he could say or do that touches on the reality of their lives.

Out of the Orthodox, all the Haredim, both Chassidim and Litwacks, would sneer at the idea that anyone would presume to replace the authority of their rebbe or rosh yeshiva.

So who’s left? Probably the RCA crowd, your everyday frumies, the Jewish Press readers. But the chief rabbi would be—because that’s how these things roll—a Haredi, and the moderate-to-liberal Orthodox won’t have much use for him either.

And that’s the situation in Israel. The chief rabbinate is a goiter on the neck of Israeli Jews, a remnant from a time when the Ottoman Empire, followed by the British Empire, appointed a religious chief over every ethnic group in Palestine. Even back in the 1920s that position bore little more than a symbolic value, depending on the chief rabbi. Today the situation is that Israelis are serving the chief rabbinate rather than the other way around.

Besides being entirely alien to the spiritual needs of the vast majority of Israelis, the chief rabbinate actually stifles the organic growth of religious communities. Siphoning off much needed budgets from social services to the needy, in a country where half the population is poor or near-poor, why spend money on an elaborate service nobody needs?

Local Jewish communities have always been very good at keeping records of marriages and burials. The burial societies, the “Chevra Kadisha,” don’t need a chief rabbi to monitor them – the state comptroller should be very good at that. Concentrating control over the Jewish life cycle in Israel in the hands of Haredi chief rabbis and judges with little or no relationship with the people under their domain is tyranny. Expensive tyranny at that.

So why wait ten years to cut this silliness in half? Cut it now, both halves. Give power back to the local Jewish communities. Let local rabbis decide halacha for their followers wherever they are, just as they’ve been doing in America, or, before the war, in Poland. Wherever we’ve had a thriving, magnificent Jewish community, we didn’t need a chief rabbi. Those were more likely to be state appointed than part of the people they were supposed to serve.

Just like in today’s Israel.

“In a state where there is only one president, one Supreme Court president, one prime minister and one chief of general staff, there is no way to justify the doubling of the position of chief rabbi,” Tzipi Livni said. “We have to rid ourselves of the old-fashioned division of ancestral congregations and start bringing the country together.”

Chief Rabbi Asks Families to Host Stranded Drivers on Shabbat

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Chief Rabbi David Lau said has urged Jerusalem families to open their doors and host drivers and passengers stranded in the mammoth snowstorm that has closed highways out of the city and buried the capital under 18 inches of snow.

He also said that efforts to rescue people stranded on highways must continue during Shabbat, explaining that the situation is one of “pikuach nefesh” wherein violations of Jewish law on the Sabbath are lifted in life-threatening circumstances.

Soldiers, police and rescue crew have evacuated more than 2,300 people from snowbound highway and streets.

Ben Gurion Airport was shut down Friday morning for two hours.

The snow is expected to continue through the night and taper off on Saturday. Snow has fallen in areas that are only 1,000 feet high and rarely see precipitation other than rain.

Rabbi Metzger Released from Jail, Under House Arrest on Heavy Bond

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

An Israel court has released former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger from jail but ordered him under house arrest with a bond of nearly $425,000. The court in Rishon LeTzion, south of Tel Aviv, told the rabbi not to leave the country or talk to the media for six months.

Besides facing charges of bribery and money laundering, he also is suspected of obstructing justice by allegedly offering a bribe to an acquaintance not to testify against him.

Police arrested him last week for the second time this year as a result of an undercover probe millions of dollars of charity money, a large part of which he allegedly pocketed.

Police Say Rabbi Metzger Paid Off Friends to Shut Up

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Police said on Thursday they have solid evidence that former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger offered an apartment and cash to someone in return for his not spilling the beans to the police about the rabbis’ alleged offenses.

Rabbi Metzger was arrested this week on charges of pocketing millions of dollars that were intended for charities and yeshiva, and he also was accused of obstructing justice.

Police said they recorded Rabbi Metzger’s offer to the man, who is a state witness, after a previous arrest of the rabbi this past summer, when he was placed under house arrests for several days so he could not make contact with other involved in the case.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to Join Faculty at YU and NYU

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The Jewish Press had the teaser last week, but it’s now official: the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom will hold dual professorships at Yeshiva University and New York University, both centered in New York City.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks will officially become the  Kressel and Efrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at YU in January. He will also hold the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at NYU.

“The voice, the philosophy and the spirit of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has been a gift to the United Kingdom and beyond for many years, said Richard M. Joel, president and Bravmann Family University Professor at YU.

“It has long been our desire to welcome him into this next stage of his life by having him work at Yeshiva University to both inspire the next generation of Jewish leadership and to be a voice to the Jewish people and world for our timeless values. I join with the extraordinary John Sexton in celebrating yet another way for two great universities to work together to advance an agenda that matters.”

Rabbi Sacks, who received degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford Universities in England, and received his rabbinic ordination from the London School of Jewish Studies and Yeshiva Etz Chaim.

In 2005, Rabbi Sacks was knighted by the Queen of England and made a Life Peer.  He sits in the House of Lords as Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London.

“I am excited at the opportunity to teach at Yeshiva University, one of the world’s great institutions of higher Jewish learning and at NYU, a university of global reach and distinction,” said Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. “This dual intellectual challenge is the perfect context to take forward the project of a Judaism engaged with the world in conversation with students in one of the major centres of Jewish life.”

At NYU, Rabbi Lord Sacks will be the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought.

With more than 25 books published and regular appearances in various media, Rabbi Lord Sacks is one of the most admired and feted public Jewish figures of modern times.

Updated: 850,000 Mourners at Rav Ovadia’s Funeral (+Video)

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Approximately 850,000 people – more than 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population – crowded Jerusalem streets Monday night for the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, forcing the closure of the entrance to Jerusalem from the main highway and resulting in more than 200 of injuries and victims of fainting.

Police were barely in control of the crowds, and police officers expressed hopes that there will not be a tragedy from the cramming of people and cars into small spaces.

It is estimated that one million mourners may pass through the capital before the funeral is over, and that is estimated to be not long before midnight Israeli time. The body of Rav Ovadia arrived at the entrance to the cemetery shortly before 10 p.m., but authorities were having a difficult time to stop thousands of mourners from trying to come close to the grave site. At 11 p.m., five afters the funeral processi0n began, the burial was over.

Hundreds of people simply parked their cars in the middle of the street to reach by foot the funeral procession and burial, next to his wife Margalit at the Sanhedria cemetery. It  is the largest funeral in the history of Israel and may remain such for a long, long time.

Yosef, a widower, is survived by 10 of his 11 children and several dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His son Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef recently was elected as Chief Sephardi Rabbi, a post once held by his father.

Media around the world are reporting on the death of Rav Ovadia, and even the Gulf Times, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported it.

The Associated Press told its readers, “he was the charismatic face of his Shas party,” one of the most succinct and accurate statements that one could make.

Rav Ovadia was well aware that the Shas party, which he founded, will be without a shepherd after his death. His son Rabbi Yitzchak said that Rav Ovadia’s will stated that there should be no in-fighting over the future of the party.

Knesset Member Aryeh Deri, the charismatic and controversial political leader who has been his heir apparent, cried after the announcement of Rav Ovadia’s death, “How will we go on alone. Who will lead us now? U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stated, “Rav Ovadia Yosef was a spiritual leader to hundreds of thousands, if not more, a great learner [of Torah] and a wise and learned man, a father to an impressive family and an important contributor to the society and politics of the State of Israel.

“Today in Jerusalem and all across Israel, his supporters and followers mourn him. To them, and first and foremost to his beloved family, I send my condolences. May his memory be blessed.”

 

Crowds at Rav Ovadia's Funeral

Crowds at Rav Ovadia’s Funeral

.Rav Ovadia Funeral   Rav Ovadia Gravesite open  

Shalom Bear contributed to this report.

Torah & Norman Solomon

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Having just celebrated Simchat Torah, the festival of the Torah, the question of its source and authority remains at the very center of our current religious debate. But it’s a minefield, quicksand that can consume and even destroy the best of minds. In all the years I have worked in the rabbinate I have come across many devoted, hardworking men, but very few of them have been innovative thinkers of any note. Whatever gifts they may have had as speakers or writers, they have almost all avoided tackling fundamental theological issues. Some out of fear for their jobs, others out of fear of their peers, and of course others simply had neither the inclination nor the training to question and challenge core beliefs. It may be that the demands of the rabbinate are so overwhelming that they afford insufficient time. The fact is that almost all the intellectually creative rabbis I have come across throughout the Jewish world have left the full time rabbinate, mainly for academia.

Indeed it is in academia nowadays that all the creative Orthodox Jewish thinking is taking place. One can now find Charedi academics working in Israeli universities on what hitherto were always regarded as heretical approaches to Torah. Synagogues and communities, on the other hand, are centers of conformity and socialization. They do of course fulfill a very important need. Most people come to synagogues precisely to reinforce their social identity and needs and not to be forced into the painful process of grappling with ideas of faith.

I have just read Norman Solomon’s Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith. It is an important book for anyone grappling with traditional Judaism. And it calls to mind the great Louis Jacobs controversy that rocked and soured Anglo-Jewry for so long.

Louis Jacobs was a product of traditional Yeshivot and Kollels, a Jew who adhered strictly to halacha throughout his life, a gifted teacher, a caring pastoral rabbi and, his biggest fault if you could call it a fault, a painfully honest man. He was a man of such impeccable stature and religious integrity that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe called him to give testimony at a court hearing in New York over the Rebbe’s library. In a small work, We Have Reason to Believe, he brought traditional sources to show how the idea that all of the Torah was given to Moses on Sinai, was a complex idea, with textual, historical, and philosophical problems that needed to be addressed, and indeed could be, in modern philosophical terms. He was a senior lecturer at Jews College, a pulpit rabbi and a candidate to succeed Israel Brodie as Chief Rabbi.

But appointing Chief Rabbis has always been a fraught, Machiavellian political process, as recent maneuverings perfectly illustrate. Louis Jacobs was blocked by an unholy alliance of envious, narrow-minded, and politically ambitious rabbis whose background was both anti-intellectual and fundamentalist. They needed an excuse to hound him out of contention for leadership of Anglo-Jewry, and they succeeded. The result was that he was treated immorally by the religious leadership of Anglo-Jewry to his dying day, even being denied an aliyah at his own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah under a much lauded Chief Rabbi who ought to have known better. One can think of no better example of the moral bankruptcy of Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy. I myself was banned at one stage from contributing to an establishment publication called Leylah because I had written a sympathetic article about him.

Norman Solomon was a distinguished rabbi in the Anglo-Jewish Orthodox United Synagogue with whom I have had intermittent contact over the years and whom I admire and respect. We share a Cardiff connection, as well as Cambridge and philosophy. Intellectually rigorous, sensitive, and modest, he served major communities with distinction before retiring to academia. First he helped establish the Centre for the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations at the Selly Oak Colleges, which put him in the forefront of interfaith activity, and then he became fellow in Modern Jewish Thought at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a member of Wolfson College. Now, in the late stages of his career, he has tackled in public the very same issue that Louis Jacobs tried to deal with fifty years ago, but in greater depth and width.

It is a sad reflection on the current state of intellectual dishonesty and censorship in the Orthodox world that fundamentalism rules in the rabbinate. Only in academia can we find men like Marc Shapiro and Menachem Kellner, to name the best known, who are willing, from a position of committed Orthodoxy, to stand up and refuse to be deterred from examining honestly received ideas and showing how they are not simplistic clichés of belief but important, complex concepts that need more than superficial assent. Torah from Heaven stands with Marc Shapiro’s The Limits of Orthodox Theology as a seminal work that delves into the richness of our heritage to show that there is more than one way of looking at core religious ideas.

Catholicism reacted to the challenge of science in the nineteenth century by retreating behind the walls of certainty and dogma, insisting on papal infallibility. Orthodox Judaism has now adopted this mode. But I believe the easy access that modern technology and the internet gives us to the variety of texts and opinions that have existed in Judaism over thousands of years is taking the seals off the archives. The light shed will inevitably open minds and produce new approaches. The current battle over conscription in Israel gives the impression that the Charedi world in its entirety is set against secular education. But in reality, the interesting fact is that more and more Charedim are getting PhDs in Judaica nowadays, which means that new ideas are simmering within the fortress of Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy lives by practice rather than theology. I get really offended when zealots try to suggest that unless you believe a specific formulation of whatever, then you are “beyond the pale”. The Torah does not use the formulation, “You must believe,” which is a very Greek idea. Instead it posits certain fundamental assertions and leaves it up to us as to how we understand them. If God did not insist on a rigidly defined credo, why should we? If we want to retain critical, thinking, and open minds, we must offer intellectual rigor, not just religiously correct slogans. This book gives us a history of the issues and how different thinkers over the centuries have dealt with the challenges of the Torah. It is a major contribution. Thank you, Norman.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Hospitalized Again

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Sephardic Rabbi and the spiritual leader of the Shas Sephardi party, is in the Intensive Care Unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he is being treated for an infection.

He is conscious but is breathing with the help of a respirator.

“Rav Ovadia,” as he is popularly known, had been in the hospital on Sunday for tests, was released but later was rushed back after not feeling well.

He has been in and out of the hospital several times this year.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rabbi-ovadia-yosef-hospitalized-again/2013/09/02/

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