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Mar 20, 2013

Possible deal to elect Ravs Amar and Stav as Chief Rabbis in the works

An interesting development since the elections have passed is a possible deal in the works for the election of the Chief Rabbi of Israel.

According to Israel Hayom, a deal has been made, though it is not [yet] being confirmed by those involved, by which HaBayit HaYehudi would support Rav Shlomo Amar for a second term as Sephardic Chief Rabbi in exchange for the support of Shas, or at least no opposition from them, for the election of Rav Dovid Stav as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi.

What is most interesting to me about this is that despite the bad blood that has recently been spilled between the two parties, they are finding ways to work together, to help each other, and get things they want/need taken care of. Tat's the way it should be, though so much bad blood is really not so necessary in the first place...

That being said, I personally don't care which rabbis are elected to be Chief Rabbis of Israel. To my life it will make no difference, and I do not see it making much of a difference to anybody's life. If the non-religious think that by supporting Rav Stav they are going to have an easier life form a religious perspective, they have got another think coming. Rav Stav is an Orthodox rabbi, and even though he is perhaps (and I dont know that he is) a bit more liberal than the average haredi rabbi, he is not going to do things that are against Orthodox policy and custom. The haredi don't use the chief rabbinate much anyway. The dati leumi also don't really benefit from a change in rabbis. They ate Rabbanut before, and will continue to do so, just as they used rabbanut services for lifecycle events and will continue to do so. So which rabbi is appointed to be chief rabbi really is not going to make a big difference to most people.

The biggest issue on the table might be how the Rabbanut will deal with issues of shmitta. With shmitta approaching in about 18 months from now, the next chief rabbis will experience 2 shmitta years during their coming term.

Really the selection of chief rabbi has become way too political. Instead of the best man being chosen, and I am sure all the candidates are tremendous rabbis and great potential chief rabbis, someone is chosen as a political deal. That almost ensures that the best man is not going to be chosen. The job of rabbi should be as minimally connected to politics as possible.

The best anybody can hope for from a chief rabbi is really that he find a way to lessen and minimize the bureaucracy involved in life cycle events. And that has nothing to do with what kippa he wears on his head.

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  1. I couldn't disagree with you more. The Chief Rabbi is a symbol, and the Chief Rabbinate is the symbol that many Israelis point to when they talk about all they think is wrong with religion.

    Before you can change their relationship to practical matters and halacha, you have to change how they see Torah and the rabbinate. A positive change in image, tone, message received is absolutely needed. Respect and even affection towards Torah has to be restored before anything else can happen. It won't depend solely on who sits in Heichal Shlomo; but that will be an important (even critical) part.

  2. I wonder how Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was elected. No one religious today doubts the the Rav was giant tzaddik, but back then, it was hidden, and he had also been without experience as a community rabbi. Was there wheeling and dealing as well?

    1. I think you are mistaken, Josh. Rav Mordechai Eilyahu was well known as a hacham and posek long before he was Rishon L'tziyon. I was at his house just days after he was elected, and he was receiving personal congratulations from all around the world. That day his wife mentioned how he had gotten a call from the Lubavitcher in Brooklyn; and he mentioned to me calls he was getting from rashei yeshiva in Bnei Brak. His reputation as a dayan was excellent, and he was good personal friends with his co-chief rabbi, Rav Avrum Shapiro. And, of course, in Religious Zionist circles he was a major figure long before he was chief rabbi.

    2. Good to see some personal relation. Can you add insight on how Rav Eliyahu was voted by merit and if back then this was sufficient to be accepted by the politicians? Why can't any well-known posek be elected chief rabbi now?

  3. I think you are missing the main point here. The function of the Chief Rabbi is not giving groundbreaking piskei halacha or making changes to kashrus supervision. Rather, it is to serve as the face of Judaism to the general population of the country, and, to a lesser degree, the world at large. Rabbi Stav is campaigning for the position specifically with the intent to present a different, non-Chareidi, nore "relevant" approach to those constituencies. One can think that this is great or that it is horrible, but it is definitely significant. For the past while, the Dati Leumi community has not looked to the Chief Rabbi as their leader. This may bring about a change.

    1. About the last line, I doubt it. While it might boost his image in the Hardali sector, the dati-leumi don't want any rabbi, and Rav Stav does not even seem like a great posek, rather another popular rabbi taking a job like the military rabbis.

      Previous to that, I think the Chief Rabbi is above all supposed to be a leading posek that the religious world will look to. I do not buy the line 'serve the face of Judaism'. Rav Stav would certainly improve the rabanut in some ways, but will need to work super hard to make sure the rabanut credibility is not damaged by this modernization. And especially, due to the shenanigans of the bayit Yehusi with Lapid, the chief rabbi would need to work to be the bridge between the Haredim and the DL.

      On Galei Yisrael tonight, when asked about making discounts on halacha, Rav Stav replied that he keeps by Rav Ovadia Yosef and does not move right or left of Rav Yosef's psaks.


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