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Dec 24, 2012

Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak or haRav Amnon Yitzchak?

A number of years ago there was a big debate over foreign college credits and degrees. the debate was whether the Israeli Ministry of Education recognizes certain foreign degrees, or college credits, and how they should be looked at and integrated into Israel. I remember the big problem was that if an undergraduate degree was achieved by using credits that Israel does not accept, or in a college/university that Israel does not recognize, then even if one had an acceptable graduate degree, or higher, that too would be rejected, because one cannot have a graduate degree without first having an undergrad degree!

Who would have thought that an election ticket could generate a similar discussion, but regarding usage of the title "haRav". The big question raised and discussed in the media and by the election board was the validity of calling Rav Amnon Yitzchak by the title "Rav". One would think he was running for the position of Chief Rabbi rather than simply being the guidance of and leadership behind a political party. His title is irrelevant in this situation.

Rav Amnon Yitzchak wanted the election ballot to bear not just the name of his party, "Koach l'Hashpia", but also to include the phrase, "under the leadership of haRav Amnon Yitzchak". With the reuqest about to be accepted, the SHAS representative to the committee protested Yitzhak's attempt to use the title "haRav", claiming that Yitzchak never received smicha - and he pointed to Yitzchak's own statements on the Internet, on his own website and on his followers websites in which Yitzchak says straight out that he is not a certified rav. Therefore, said the SHAS rep, the title "haRav" should not be affixed to Yitzchak's name on the ballot, but either it could say simply "Amnon Yitzchak" or it could say "Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak" - seemingly "Rabbi" is a less official title than "haRav"...

The issue needed to be checked, and eventually it was made into an official decision. The title haRav could not be used by Amnon Yitzchak, because he has not received smicha. The election ballot is an official document of the State of Israel, and titles can only be used on them if they can be backed up with documentation.

The official ballot will now say "Koach l'Hashpia, under the leadership of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak".

Interestingly, Rav Amnon Yitzchak himself, until his request to use the title on the ballot, spoke proudly of how he does not have smicha and is not an official rav, and has even considered use of such a title to be degrading and a sign of personal interest and profit rather than of spiritual pursuits.

He has said so in many of his speeches, and one can easily find an explanation on the website of "the rav's fan club" which is linked to from Rav Amnon Yitzchak's own site.

In the FAQ section of the website, the one and only question displayed is if Amnon Yitzchak is a rav. In the author's answer, he takes pride in the answer being negative, he says haRav Amnon Yitzchak is much greater than just a rav. There are all types of rabbis, just like there are all kinds of doctors. Anybody can become a rav, after just some months or no more than a year of studying, with the most common type of rav being someone certified as a mohel or shochet or a wedding rabbi. Often someone with the title of rav has only expertise in one niche of Torah but does not know much from the other sections of the Torah.

Whereas, Rav Amnon Yitzchak, he continues, is an expert in all sections fo the Torah. there is not a wuestion he cannot answer. Also, Rav Shach did not have smicha from the Rabbanut yet he was the Ashkenazi gadol haDor, and all the ashkenazim listened to his psak and learned his Torah..

Getting smicha from the Rabbanut,he continues, is only for the purpose of someone getting a parnassa, while Rav Amnon Yitzchak never planned on getting a parnassa form his Torah, so he never bothered to get the smicha from the Rabbanut. He does not take the issue seriously because as he is such a talmid chochom that if he wanted one he would simply call the chief rabbi and ask him to print out a certificate for him.

In response to the issue above, of trying to get the title included in the ballot but the request being rejected, he derides the title even more saying everyone knows how the title haRav is the lowest possible title one can have... for many years they derided Rav Amnon saying he isn't a rav, but suddenly they forced upon him the title of "Rabbi" which is a much greater title than haRav, similar to Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Eventually he will even be given the even greater title of "Rabban".

As I have said, Rav Amnon Yitzchak and his party are definitely one of the more colorful aspects of this election season.

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