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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’

Naftali Bennett’s Blackest Day

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

It’s official: to be a chief rabbi in Israel you have to be Haredi. Mind you, the group in Israel that most openly and brazenly ignores the chief rabbinate (other than the Arabs) are the Haredim, who rely exclusively on their own religious court system and their own kosher supervision.

The only interest Haredim have in the chief rabbinate are the jobs.

So it turns out that the National Religious public, who actually abide by the chief rabbinate’s ruling and eat their hechsherim – is not good enough to run the thing. And secular Israelis, who barely tolerate the rabbinate and have zero interaction with Haredim – they, too, must obey Haredi rulers.

This complete defeat of the National Religious took place while Jewish Home was not only a senior member in the coalition government, but they had possession of the Ministry of Religious Services. How do you lose the vote—both votes, really—when it’s your office in charge of it?

This was an outright failure of Jewish Home and its chairman, Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett.

The Sephardi National Religious favorite, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, was not my personal choice. But his loss, 49 votes to Rabbi Yosef’s 68, is a major disappointment to many on the right. I could live with it, there was a huge leftist campaign against Rabbi Eliyahu, I could understand his loss.

But for Rabbi David Stav, head of Tzohar, an organization whose mission is to make religious services more available and palatable to the public at large in Israel, for him to have lost by 55 to 68 votes, means there were 68 voters in the body that includes 150 mayors, city rabbis, rabbinic judges and a handful of women, that the Haredi establishment was able to secure.

Now, I have no doubt in the wisdom and scholarship of both winners. I also think they would work hard to open up the rabbinate to the needs of secular Israelis, who have been greatly alienated by the public image of corruption and bureaucracy associated with the rabbinate. I’m a huge fan of Rabbi Lau’s father, former Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, and I admire the scholarship (but not the shenanigans) of Rabbi Yosef’s father, Rav Ovadia Yosef.

So, I for one, could live nicely with these two choices, although many of my National Religious friends are grimacing tonight.

But as a test of the political skills of Naftali Bennett and his Knesset team – it’s a big, fat F. And at a time when we’re going to need them the most, as the dark clouds of a Palestinian state are starting to gather above our heads – this was not fun to watch. At this point my personal confidence in Minister Naftali Bennett’s ability to throw his political weight around, twist arms, issue quiet threats, intimidate and punish the enemy, all the stuff a political representative I send to the Knesset must do – not great.

Bennett was supposed to win this one. He had the power base. How did MK Aryeh Deri and his band of merry Haredim take his lunch money so skillfully?

Rabbinic Rebellion: NRP Rabbis Back Pick Nixed by AG

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Dozens of National Religious rabbis on Wednesday signed a letter supporting the candidacy of Tsfat Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, to the post of chief Sephardi rabbi.

On Monday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed Rabbi Eliyahu that he would not be allowed to present his nomination, due to controversial remarks he had made in the past regarding Jewish-Arab relations. AG Weinstein said in a letter to Rabbi Eliyahu that his candidacy for chief rabbi would be “unsuitable.”

This does not mean that the AG is able to prevent Rabbi Eliyahu’s nomination, but the letter could be seen as a shot across the bow, signaling that, should the rabbi win the post, the AG would petition the High Court to annul the vote.

The statements in question, which have long been dubbed by Israel’s anti-religious media as “racist,” had to do, among other things, with whether or not Jews in Eretz Israel were permitted to sell or rent homes to gentiles. In a specific, individual, ruling—which was misquoted and taken completely out of context by the media—Rabbi Eliyahu prohibited the sale or rental of apartments to Arab students at the Tsfat college.

When interviewed this week by several outlets, it turned out that Rabbi Eliyahu’s opinion has either been modified following the attacks on him, or—which I suspect—has always remained grounded in normative halacha, which offers a righteous gentile living among Jews many protections, unless he is suspected of constituting a danger.

In other words, an Arab would not be prohibited to live in Tsfat because he is “impure” racially, but because he or she, as specific individuals, are behaving in a way that can be perceived as dangerous.

While I, personally, continue to believe Rabbi Eliyahu would be a terrible choice for chief rabbi, because of his inability so far to absorb the notion what an enormous effort is required in order for a faithful Jew to communicate in positive terms with secular Israelis and with a hostile media—I can’t help admiring the heartfelt support for the embattled rabbi from his peers.

The letter supporting Rabbi Eliyahu’s candidacy was signed, among others, by Rabbi Avichai Ronski, Rabbi Avraham Zuckerman, Rabbi Eitan Eizman, Religious Services Deputy Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Rabbi Eliakim Levanon, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Rabbi Elisha Vishlitzky, Rabbi Amnon Sugarman, Rabbi Ben Zion Elgazi, Rabbi Benny Kalmanson, Rabbi Haim Druckman, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rabbi Haggai Lundin, Rabbi Israel Rosen, Rabbi Shabtai Sabato, and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.

The letter called on Rabbi Eliyahu to continue in the tradition of service of his late, righteous father, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, and announce his own candidacy. The rabbis described Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu as “a scholar and a renaissance man who devotes his life to to the people of Israel, through great sacrifices, with love and a bright countenance to every person, whomever they may be.”

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, dean of Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tikva, said the AG’s disqualifying of Rabbi Eliyahu “crossed some serious red lines.”

Noting that he and Rabbi Eliyahu have had great disagreements on several issues, and despite the fact that the same rabbi had written “ugly, public things” about him, and even though Rabbi Cherlow absolutely disagrees with everything Rabbi Eliyahu had to say about the controversial issues on which he ruled, it was still a very grave error on the part of AG Weinstein to involve himself in the democratic process over what is distinctly a candidate’s views, rather than his conduct.

Had there been any accusation of corruption against the candidate, the AG would have been well within his rights, even his duties, to disqualify him. But “using the force of the law against views that are unpopular with the powers that be” is alarming, according to Rabbi Cherlow, who went on to call on AG Weinstein to rescind his statement regarding the candidacy.

Rabbi Eliyahu Ignores A-G’s Ruling Him Out as Chief Rabbi

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Attorney General Weinstein told Tzfat Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu that the courts probably would not allow him to be Chief Sephardi Rabbi have not dissuaded him from continuing his campaign for the post.

Weinstein wrote the rabbi that his controversial statements, such as, “Must I explain why I am against mixed marriages?, “a number of serial killers have turned out to be homosexuals” and remarks that people in Tzfat should not rent or sell apartments to Arabs would likely not pass the courts if he were to be elected as Chief Rabbi.

The electing body is to vote in approximately three weeks.

Weinstein said the rabbi is an “unsuitable candidate” but did not rule he is not allowed to run.

Rabbi Eliyahu responded harshly through a spokesman, who wrote, “The Attorney General chose erev Tisha B’Av to remove his biased mask to suppress democracy. It seems the same attorney general who justified his grave acts of Knesset Members against Israeli soldiers and has given support to the  head of the Islamic Movement also has court martialed Rabbi Eliyahu and has made himself the prosecutor to and hanging judge.

“Weinstein understood that a majority of the electing body is ready to choose Rabbi Eliyahu as Chief Rabbi and  has decided to break the rules with an unprecedented step, without authority and without a hearing or verifying allegations.

Dirty Politics: Govt. Targeting Candidates for Chief Rabbi

Friday, July 12th, 2013

For the record, I have to state that I don’t think Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, currently the chief rabbi of Tsfat and a major candidate for Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, will make a good chief rabbi. He just doesn’t have the sophistication and familiarity with the culture at large that’s a crucial prerequisite for the job.

I also vehemently disagree with his position on Jewish-Israeli relations. Rabbi Eliahu has famously ruled that people should not rent their apartments to Arab students in Tsfat, and that people should also not sell land to non-Jews. “In Tsfat the halachic ruling worked, praise God,” he was recently quoted in Ha’aretz, adding that “neither the religious nor the secular” sell apartments to Arabs in his city.

I disagree with the good rabbi because I don’t think Torah forbids selling or renting to non-Jews. I think he is doing damage to the reputation of religious Judaism by substituting his own nationalistic thinking for our tradition of protecting the monotheistic stranger.

Having said that, I am appalled by the notion that a rabbi, or any person, really, would be summoned to an interrogation of his views by the state’s attorney general, in order that the latter decide whether to approve his candidacy.

This week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein sent Rabbi Eliyahu a letter stating, “It appears that your choice to serve at the highest level is likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties.”

Among the quotes appended to the AG’s letter was one from an interview with Arutz Sheva: “The Arab students at the Tsfat Academic College must be thrown out,” Rabbi Eliyahu told the website. “Yes I am saying this explicitly and I’m not afraid of anyone – only someone who has shifted his loyalty to the State of Israel has the right to learn.”

A week ago, Weinstein announced that he would hold a disciplinary hearing, should Rabbi Eliyahu decide to run for the chief rabbinate, because it’s a government position.

Mind you, it is well within the purview of the AG’s authority to vet a candidate for high office for whatever crimes and misdemeanors said candidate may be dragging behind him. But to disqualify a candidate for their opinions? What neighborhood of Moscow sprouted this particular gem?

I’ll be very sad to see Rabbi Eliyahu become chief rabbi, because I believe he will play right into the hands of the anti-Haredi media, and just add more reasons for secular Israelis to be disenchanted with the institution of the rabbinate altogether. Anything he will say will be misinterpreted without the benefit of context. He will do harm to the image of Judaism in the public at large, enhance the chasm between secular and religious Jews, and will still not understand what’s all the commotion. This is why I’m delighted that Jewish Home Pensioner Affairs Minister Ori Orbach and MK Nissan Slomiansky are against his nomination. But, alas, the rest of the faction supports him, because they figure that’s what their settler constituency wants. I’m not so sure it’s true.

But the intimidation of candidates for the chief rabbinate is getting not just to Rabbi Eliyahu. On Tuesday, Holon Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, also a leading candidate for the office, and the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was questioned on suspicion of breach of trust in granting kashrut certificates of the mehadrin type to businesses that aren’t so mehadrin.

They kept him for eight hours in an interrogation room over that one.

I’ve no idea how the lost honor and reputation of the Israeli rabbinate can be restored. Maybe they should bring back Rabbi Israel Lau, the last chief rabbi who was also a popular figure with the public at large. I think Rabbi David Stav can do a fine job on the Ashkenazi side, but I’m not sure he has the votes.

These are unhappy times for religious and secular relations in Israel. Add to the criminalization of the rabbinate vote the fact that Haredim have taken to attacking their own kind should they dare don a uniform, and you’ll have to ask yourself why would a secular Israeli have any sympathy for things rabbinic. Of course, one can also stop reading the news.

Jewish Home Rabbi: We Are Not Against Haredim, We Are Against Shas

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tsfat and one of the most prominent rabbis affiliated with the Jewish Home party, called on party chairman Naftali Bennett to make an effort to add United Torah Judaism to the new coalition government, and leave Shas out.

In an editorial published this weekend in the Olam Katan shul freebee, Rabbi Eliyahu describes his visits over the past month to the homes of Hasidic leaders and prominent Haredi rabbis, to try and form a joint alliance between the religious Jewish parties.

“I sat down with members of the Knesset various factions, discussing unity. To this end, I asked them if they could commit in the name of Shas and Aryeh Deri not betray the alliance. No one could commit in the name of Aryeh Deri, no Rebbe and no MK, not even Shas’ own MKs,” Rabbi Eliyahu wrote.

He explained that he “would love to ally with the Haredim, but I don’t want to be fooled by such an alliance.” He added: “You can’t fault Naftali Bennett for refusing to seek with eyes closed shut such an entirely fraudulent deal.”

Nevertheless, However, Rabbi Eliyahu argued that “we should today form an alliance with Agudat Israel. They are our flesh and blood brothers. Even if they do not all serve in the army and if we’ve had occasional complaints against them in the past, they are our brothers. They are close to us about the issues of the Land of Israel, Shabbat, Chastity and the importance of Torah study. They are no less our brothers than anyone else.”

The chief rabbi of Tsfat argued in favor of finding a solution to the issue of army enlistment, but urged doing this through a “pact with Agudat Israel and not through coercion. We need to find a way to incorporate them in the agreement Jewish Home has with Yesh Atid. We can’t leave them out.”

“We have to cry out loud: We are not against the Haredim. We are only against those who sold us out in the Oslo Accords. We need to explain that not all the Haredim are the same. We should embrace warmly the Agudat Israel faction and bring it into the government,” he said.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-home-rabbi-we-are-not-against-haredim-we-are-against-shas/2013/03/08/

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