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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Tzohar’

Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

New Chief Rabbi Appointment Pitting Bennett Against Lapid

Friday, April 19th, 2013

In Jewish Home circles they appear certain that the National Religious party’s candidate, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, will be the next appointed Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. But Naftali Bennet’s BF Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is not prepared to give them this one. In fact, Yesh Atid officials said on Thursday that they’re ready for an all out war in support of Rabbi David Stav for the post.

But the conflict between the two buddy factions is not just over who would end up as Chief Rabbi, but also over one of the illnesses of Israel’s legislative system, known as “personalized laws.” These are laws that are enacted for a singular, temporary purpose, which can only be done, seemingly, in a country without a binding constitution.

In this case, the Jewish Home faction’s candidate is over age 70, and so his backers are proposing a new law that would eliminate the age limit when it comes to appointing a Chief Rabbi.

This is exactly the kind of calloused approach to the law that Yesh Atid’s idealistic, middle-class voters hate with a passion.

Rabbi Ariel is the personification of Religious Zionism in Israel, possibly its most respected scholar. So much so, that Rabbi Stav, who gained popularity in Israel as founder and leader of Tzohar, a rabbinic organization seeking to integrate religious and secular Israelis, announced that should Rabbi Ariel run, he, Stav, would remove his candidacy.

But Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron, himself a product of Religious Zionism, said on Thursday that he spoke with Rabbi Ariel, and the latter does not consider himself a candidate for the job.

“I will oppose the law (to loft the age limit) in the government and the Knesset, and will do anything in my power to make sure it will not pass,” Piron said privately, as reported by Maariv. “This is not the proper way to choose a chief rabbi.”

MK Aliza Lavie, also of Yesh Atid, also opposes listing the age limit by tailor-made legislation. And she’s been a supporter of Rabbi Stav since before her election to the Knesset. “There is room to amend the Chief Rabbinate,” she said, “but not through personalized legislation.”

Incidentally, MK Lavie got under the skin of Haredi politicians (would that constitute negiah?) recently, when she proposed appointing a female “Morat Halacha” (halachic teacher) alongside the two chief rabbis. The title “Morat Halacha” is in use as an alternative to the “Rabbah” among the Conservative and Reform. There are about 70 certified, Orthodox, female Rabbinic Advocates, who are permitted to argue in front of rabbinic courts in Israel – perhaps one of them could be chief rebbetzen?

Meanwhile, Jewish Home pols are telling everyone that they’ve got this one in the bag, and their 76-years-old candidate has received the approval of Shas’ leader Rav Ovadia Yosef and, hence, a majority of the votes needed.

Personally, I like Rabbi Ariel’s credentials very much, but I’ve been truly excited by Rabbi Stav’s achievements in the most crucial area of religion and state in Israel – helping secular Israelis feel better about their tradition.

Meanwhile, MK Moshe Feiglin is proposing the elimination of the two-rabbi deal, no more separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi authorities, we’re no longer in diaspora, he argues, all we need is one Chief Rabbi.

But what about all the patronage jobs that go with the office? You have to think before you make those grand announcements, Feiglin – what about parnassah?

National Religious Rabbis Support Outsider for Chief Rabbi

Monday, December 17th, 2012

In the past, Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinic organization and rabbi of the town of Shoham, has announced a number of times that he was considering throwing his hat in the ring, so to speak, for the position of Israel’s chief rabbi. recently, according to the Srugim website, Rabbi Stav has received support from senior National religious rabbis who pointed out that his Torah knowledge, personality and achievements, have led them to recommend him for this high post.

Back in 2010, in an interview he gave Maariv, Rabbi Stav was asked if the very existence of his organization, Tzohar, which is attempting to make up for the perceived failures of the chief rabbinate in communication with the secular Jews in Israel who require its services, might not be an indictment of a bankrupted chief rabbinate.

Choosing his words carefully, Rabbi Stav said that, ideally, Tzohar should have been invented by the Rabbinate, to improve its contact with and influence over the Israeli public at large.

“Sadly,” Stav said, “some elements are viewing us with a jaundiced eye and so they create a dispute between Tzohar and the chief rabbinate. We try our very best to avoid a division. We want there to be a chief rabbinate, but we must remember that the Haredim have no interest in the chief rabbinate, and neither do the secular. The only ones who are interested in it are the national religious, who are able to serve as a bridge between the secular and the religious.”

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, dean of the Ateret Kohanim yeshiva and the rabbi of the town of beit El has written: “Based on my many years’ acquaintance with Rabbi Stav Shlita, I support his candidacy for Chief Rabbi of Israel.”

In his letter, Rabbi Aviner notes that that Rabbi Stav is “a true scholar and a Torah giant,” and “has proven himself in great action on behalf of Torah and the nation.”

In conclusion, Rabbi Aviner writes that “Rabbi Stav understands the temperament of every person, National Religious or Haredi, secular and traditional, which is a dire need regarding the great vision of the chief rabbinate, that it belong to the entire nation.”

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenshtein, dean of the Har Etzion yeshiva, quotes Maimonides’ laws of the Sanhedrin which determine the prerequisite qualities of a member of the high court, from which Lichtenshtein deduces a fortiori that the task of finding a scholar befitting the role of chief rabbi is very difficult.

Rabbi Lichtenshtein concludes: “I view Rabbi Stav – out a deep and diverse personal acquaintance, as well as having worked together in several areas and on behalf of several communities – as most qualified to meet successfully the demands of this high office to the benefit of the public as a whole.”

Dean of Itamar yeshiva and former chief rabbi of the IDF Rabbi Avi Ronsky wrote: “I recommend Rabbi David Stav Shlita to the position of Israel’s chief rabbi. To begin with, Rabbi David is a scholar, an ordained rabbi and judge, serving as the rabbi of the town of Shoham and head of the Tzohar organization, known for its many good works among Israel’s multitudes to bring them closer to the Torah of Israel.

“I am certain that, with God’s help, Rabbi David with his pleasant demeanor will be able to forge anew reality in our nation, of respect and affection for Torah, and consequently a desire to know and keep it.”

An official at Tzohar said that these letters are but the tip of an iceberg in terms of the broad support Rabbi has been receiving from the entire spectrum of Israeli society: “We’ve been getting enormous support from religious Zionist rabbis, Haredi rabbis, top business people, and from the leaders of the Zionist parties who understand that the coming vote for the chief rabbinate is critical to the continuity of Jewish identity in the state of Israel, and if the chief rabbinate does not become the rabbinate of all of israel, including secular, traditional and religious, we’ll see the creation of two separate tribes who won’t share a common identity and culture.”

The election of the next chief rabbis will take place after the 19th Knesset is convened.

Tzohar Launches Campaign to Improve Israeli Rabbinate, Rabbinic Services

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization has launched a public information campaign designed to encourage a new approach to religious leadership within the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

The campaign, which was launched Friday, includes newspaper and bus advertisements, as well as a mission statement outlining the organization’s vision for a revised Chief Rabbinate, which will be distributed to more than 200,000 people over the weekend.

Among the items that Tzohar is calling for will be to elect new rabbinical court judges who would be more open to the needs of the general public, not just the religiously observant sectors; and new guidelines for managing the marriage, divorce and conversion processes in Israel – three areas that have been particularly alienating to secular Israelis.

“The Israeli public demands a rabbinate that responds to the needs of all Israelis and not just those of specific segments within society,” Tzohar President Rabbi David Stav said in a statement. “We need to wake up and say that now is the time to make substantial changes in the structure and mandate of the rabbinate so that it becomes an agency that is relevant for each and every Jew who calls Israel home.

“As a result of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, restaurants across the country are foregoing kosher supervision, obstacles are being placed in front of people interested in halachic conversions, and more and more Israelis are opting for a non-Jewish marriage ceremony abroad,“ Stav added. “With this growing wave of assimilation and abandonment of Jewish tradition, the result will be a de facto detachment between the State of Israel and its Jewish identity.”

The campaign was launched on the yahrtzheit of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the historic founder of the Chief Rabbinate and widely regarded as the founding father of religious Zionism.

Tzohar, which helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies – marrying, free of charge, about 3,000 couples a year – had been embroiled in a fight with the Chief Rabbinate over this service. Earlier this summer, the Chief Rabbinate agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from Tzohar and permit them to conduct weddings. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and to try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages.

The national pool of Tzohar rabbis is prepared to conduct wedding ceremonies for anyone who approaches them, without financial remuneration. These rabbis have all agreed to the following principles:

1. The Tzohar rabbi will meet with the couple for a conversation and a study session of various topics related to marriage and the wedding.
2. The rabbi will arrive on time for the chupah ceremony.
3. Tzohar rabbis do not conduct more than one wedding in the same evening.
4. Tzohar rabbis do not get paid for conducting the wedding.

And should the couple, with God’s help, bring a baby boy into the world, Tzohar offers its own Mohel service. All their mohels have earned a certification from the Ministry of Health and the Chief Rabbinate; they are experienced; they all carry medical insurance; and they all take a special Tzohar course preparing them to help non-religious families feel comfortable and connected to the ceremony. They are also available throughout the healing process, and they charge according to a set, official rate. They are also committed to arriving on time.

Tzohar rabbis are available to all Israelis, religious and otherwise, with answers regarding Bar Mitzvas, Bat Mizvas (for girls), female baby celebrations, Pidyon Ha’Ben (redemption of the first born son), Chanukat Ha’Bayit (entering a new home), and, finally, burials and mourning.

The Hebrew language website of Tzohar is chock-full of content on the groups rich activities. Unfortunately, its English language page leads, from every single menu item, to a donations page.

Probably just a temporary glitch…

JTA content was used in this report.

Rabbinate Lifts Restrictions on Tzohar Rabbis Officiating at Weddings

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from the Tzohar organization conducting weddings.

Under the agreement inked Thursday, Tzohar rabbis who meet certain criteria will be able to marry couples. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages (See “New Knesset ‘Tzohar Law’ to Curtail Chief Rabbinate’s Control on Weddings Passes First Reading“).

The criteria include taking a test in the Jewish laws of marriage, the approval of three head municipal rabbis and a certificate of ordination from the Rabbinate.

Until now, community rabbis and yeshiva heads not officially employed by a local religious council needed special permission from the rabbinical council to officiate at weddings.

Tzohar helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in the wedding ceremony, marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many Israeli couples travel to the nearby island of Cyprus to marry in secular ceremonies.

New Knesset ‘Tzohar Law’ to Curtail Chief Rabbinate’s Control on Weddings Passes First Reading

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Israel Beiteinu’s MK Faina Kirshenbaum’s “Tzohar Law” passed its first reading yesterday in the Knesset by a majority of 25 to 8.

The new law will end the obligation of Jewish couples to be wedded only by the rabbi of their locale, and will permit them to choose any recognized Orthodox rabbi in the country to perform their marriage.

According to Israel Beiteinu, the purpose of the new law is “to mitigate the difficulties often associated with couples being beholden to the rabbis of their hometown.”

The law also gives a new lease on life to the moderate Orthodox organization Tzohar, which provides a  more accommodating wedding experience for non-religious couples, and which has been under threat from more right wing elements associated with the chief rabbinate, which sought complete control over marriage fees.

The bill now must go through committee and then be approved by the house.

Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav told the Jewish Press that despite its popular nickname, the new law is not directly connected to his organization. “It’s true that we are pleased with this law, but it’s not essentially about Tzohar but rather intends to make life easier for secular Israelis who are trapped in the maze of bureaucracy.”

Rabbi Stav explained that Tzohar rabbis have been decrying for many years the chief rabbinate bureaucracy which prevents young couples from marrying according to “the laws of Moses and Israel,” pushing them instead to seek civil marriages in nearby Cyprus.

I asked Rabbi David Stav about the notion that Tzohar rabbis employ less stringent standards regarding conversions. He disagreed with the entire proposition.

“We recognize only those conversions which the chief rabbinate recognizes,” he stated. “We do not accept conversions which the chief rabbinate has rejected.”

The problem is, Stav says, that local rabbis in various municipalities, who are paid by the state as civil servants, refuse to recognize the legitimacy of conversions which have been approved by the chief rabbinate.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who must be married in their locale according to the old law, but their local rabbinate would not permit them to get married because that rabbinate does not recognize some chief rabbinate conversions,” he said.

“We are delighted that the Knesset has discovered yesterday what we’ve known for a very long time,” he added. “The majority of Israel’s public wants a halachic wedding, but is asking not to be encumbered with needless obstacles.”

Rabbi Stav emphasized that all the rabbis associated with Tzohar who conduct marriage ceremonies received their ordination from the chief rabbinate and operate within strict halachic guidelines.

“In the Tzohar rabbis’ approach to marriages there isn’t even a smidgen of levity or allowance for shortcuts,” he stressed. “There is no halachic disagreement here whatsoever. The differences are in our more personal approach. We view our role as a holy mission, to bring the secular Israeli society closer to the institution of halachic marriages.”

Rabbi Stav criticized voices in the Lithuanian yeshiva world which warned that Tzohar rabbis would be lighter on halachic requirements, saying there was no basis in reality for such allegations.

“The big change ushered by this law is in regard to registration for marriage,” said Rabbi Chaim Navon, a congregation Rav in Modiin and member of the Tzohar organization, who also spoke to the Jewish Press about the new bill.

“Even before a couple chooses which rabbi would officiate at their wedding, they must register to marry at the Rabbinate office in their home town. To date, that same rabbinate also has the power to approve or disqualify the officiating rabbi. The new law will allow the couple to register anywhere they want in the country.”

This means that if their local rabbinate is too strict in the couple’s opinion, they are free to register elsewhere.

Rabbinic strictness, said Navon, is expressed in the local office’s views on standards of giurim (Jewish conversions), as well as on which Orthodox rabbis are acceptable to conduct the chupa ceremony.

“The bill received the nickname ‘Tzohar Law’ because some rabbinate offices around the country have been preventing rabbis affiliated with Tzohar from conducting marriages.”

The new law still maintains the complete adherence to Jewish Halacha of the officiating rabbis.

Tzohar Rabbis Recall the Breaking of a Heifer’s Neck, Atoning for a Disturbing Death

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Following the death of Manesh Yazachu, a 19-year-old female soldier from Yokneam, in northern Israel, who had been hit by several cars, all of which fled the scene without stopping to extend help, the rabbinic organization Tzohar (its full name is “Tzohar – A Window Between Two Worlds,” alluding to its intention of opening a channel of communication between two communities in conflict, religious and secular Jews) decided to hold a kind of “breaking the neck of a heifer” ceremony, to atone for the shocking disregard of life exhibited by some of us.

The Torah provides for a case in which a dead body is found lying in a field and no one knows who killed him or her. The elders of the town nearest the site of the corpse must take from their herds a heifer that has never known the yoke, and bring it down to a riverbed where they must break the heifer’s neck, wash their hands over the heifer and proclaim, “Our hands did not spill this blood, nor have we witnessed the crime. Do not blame your people Israel whom you redeemed, God, and do not hold them accountable for the bloodshed of an innocent person.” Then atonement will be made for the bloodshed.

That’s the somewhat unsettling ceremony described in Deuteronomy 21:1-9, which concludes: In this manner you will purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, for you must do what is right before God.

Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav arrived Thursday morning with a minyan of Rabbis at the gas station near the entrance to Kibbutz HaZore’a, where they conducted a prayer, calling on everyone to take greater care when driving, and protesting the deep moral offenses of hit-and-run drivers.

Tzohar members said that despite the fact that they didn’t actually break the neck of a heifer, they were hoping to attract public attention as well as the attention of Israel’s leaders, because “it cannot be that blood is spilled and people won’t atone for it.”

“We are responsible for the blood spilled in traffic accidents,” said Rabbi Stav, “for the blood of youth shed in pointless fighting, for the women murdered by their husbands. We are responsible for the blood spilled in the murders we read about in the papers. When it comes to human life, there is no escaping responsibility.”

“If every time a woman were murdered by her husband the heads of social services, the family court judges and the local rabbi would come and say, ‘We did everything possible to prevent this,’ reality would look better,” said Rabbi Rafi Foyerstein, also of Tzohar.

The Talmud, in Tractate Sota 46 b, tells us that the annulment of the practice of breaking the heifer’s back was a sign of the moral decline of Judea before the destruction of the Temple: “When the murderers became numerous, the custom of breaking the neck of a heifer was interrupted.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/tzohar-rabbis-recall-the-breaking-of-a-heifers-neck-atoning-for-a-disturbing-death/2012/02/17/

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