May 20, 2013

Reforms in the Rabbanut

A big deal is being made regarding the reforms now implemented by the Minister of Religious Affairs and his Deputy Minister (Naftali Bennet and Rav Eli Ben Dahan). They themselves, and their supporters, are making a big deal about the significance of the reform, and the haredi politicians are all over the airwaves making a big deal of the reform stating that this is a step in destroying religious services and is a direct attack on religion.

The reform consists of 3 main features:

  1. the ability to register for marriage at any Rabbanut office around Israel, no longer being required to do so in your own home town's office
  2. separation of religious services from politics
  3. the unification of religious councils
I am not sure what is the big deal from either perspective. 

The major reform here is that they are making the Rabbanut and Religious Council offices slightly less inefficient. I do not quite know how they are separating religious services from politics, at the same moment that they are making political deals in order to get a Chief Rabbi to their liking appointed, but in theory that is a good thing.

From the other perspective, I am not sure how disconnecting religious services from politics or allowing people to register with any Rabbanut in the country is undermining religion, how it is undermining the future of Judaism in Israel or how it is a reform in halacha. A person going to marry still has to register with a Rabbanut office - what difference does it make which one? All Rabbanut offices enforce the same rules,  probably with slight differences between offices - so who really cares in which office this person registers? 
Perhaps the Rabbanut needs to make an effort to ensure all offices and rabbonim are all working on an identical sets of halachic rules and guidelines, and the difference between offices would be minor differences not related to halacha.

Not everything needs to be turned into an "end of the world" scenario or a "saving the world" scenario. 

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  1. Saving money and making the process more pleasant is certainly a "big change" and a "big deal" (less tax hikes in other areas if money here can be saved)

  2. each rabbinate and each moetza doesn't necessarily go by the same rules. there are moetzot that don't allow ethiopians to marry unless they do a quick dip in the mikva. before he died a few years ago the rav of petach tikva wouldn't allow indian jews to marry in his district. some moetzot enforce the 90 day investigation period, some don't. some allow non-rabbinate rabbis to officiate at weddings, some don't. i am sure that there are other differences.


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