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Apr 18, 2013

Proposed Law: One Chief Rabbi

For a long time there has been talk about the "need" to go to a on-Chief-Rabbi system instead of having two Chief Rabbis in Israel.

The two rabbis generally split the tasks, with one filling the position of head of the Beis Din for 5 years, and the other being head of the religious councils, and then switching positions for the next 5 years. In addition, one has been representative of the Sephardi community, while the other of the Ashkenazi community.

The movement to [s]elect only one Chief Rabbi promotes a number of reasons behind the idea - ideas such as; unity, waste (double offices, double salaries, assistants, etc), just as there are multiple eidot of Sephardim and multiple eidot of Ashkenazim, yet one of each represents them all, so one can represent the Sephardim and Ashkenazim together, and more.

At the end of the day, the movement never really got much traction. It was always just a bunch of people complaining about the desire to change the system. There is too much power and money involved for the affected political parties (by this I mean all the religious parties) to be willing to give up such a position too quickly.

That might change now, if MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) is to have his way.

MK Feiglin is preparing a new bill for submission, proposing a law that would change the Chief Rabbinate to be a position of only one Chief Rabbi - whoever wins the most votes in the electoral body. Feiglin claims to have a lot of verbal support for his idea and has started working on signing up other MKs to add their names to his proposal. The first MK to sign was MK Rav Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid).

According to NRG, Feiglin explained in his proposal that the division between eidot is a result of 2000 years of exile, during which the Jewish people stayed faithful and kept the Torah in an exceptional way. As well, keeping tradition and details of customs has been very important over the generations. However, with the Jewish people having come back to its land, our goal should be to work towards unity among the people and the Torah should not appear to be two different Torahs. the goal is not to do away with the traditions and customs of the past, but the need to set a goal of unity for the future.  

The gedolei torah born and raised in Israel, Feiglin says, have found the way to pasken for a wide swath of people and for anyone who the specific edia identity is not so crucial, while also for the various eidot at the same time. This law, Feiglin says, would bring the rabbinical world and make them part of the revolution sweeping through the people of Israel returning from exile - from a divided community to the historical position of one nation. The time has come, he says, to advance the process of returning to Zion not just from a national and social perspective, but also from a religious perspective.

As part of the bill, Feiglin specifies that one rabbi would be chosen, regardless of which eida he comes from,  and that would be whoever wins the most votes in the electoral body. He would carry the title "Rishon l'Tzion" and would be the head of the rabbinical council. Separately, someone would be chosen to be in charge of the beis din and would also be a member of the religious council. This law, Feiglin says, would be a big step to bringing the nation to unity.

Feiglin gave some additional specifics in his Facebook post about the proposal he is forming. Specifically, in  the details of how the law would work and what amendments would need to be made to the existing laws on the books, he says, the words "asheknazi" and sephardi" would be removed from all laws.

He adds there the text of the proposal:

הכנסת התשע-עשרה

יוזם: חבר הכנסת משה זלמן פייגלין

הצעת חוק לתיקון חוק הרבנות הראשית לישראל, תשע"ג- 2013.
1. סעיף 4 (א) סעיפים (1-3) ימחקו ובמקומם יבוא:
(א) ואלה חברי המועצה:
(1) הרב הראשי לישראל-הראשון לציון, ונשיא בית הדין הרבני הגדול שייבחרו בבחירות ישירות, חשאיות ואישיות באסיפה של רבנים ונציגי ציבור (להלן – האסיפה הבוחרת);
(2) רבני העיר מכל אחת מן הערים ירושלים, תל-אביב-יפו, חיפה ובאר שבע;
(3) עשרה רבנים שייבחרו בבחירות ישירות,חשאיות ואישיות באסיפה הבוחרת, (להלן – חברי המועצה הנבחרים);

2. המילים: "אשכנזי" ו-"ספרדי" או "אשכנזיים" ו- "ספרדיים" ימחקו בכל החוק. 
3. בכל החוק, במקום "הרבנים הראשים לישראל" ובסעיפים 5 (א) , 18. , 19. , 20. ו- 23. במקום "רב ראשי לישראל" יבוא "הרב הראשי לישראל – הראשון לציון , ונשיא בית הדין הרבני הגדול".
4. סעיף 17 ימחק.

דברי הסבר

החלוקה בין העדות השונות בישראל היא תוצאה של כאלפיים שנות גלות, בהם שמר עם ישראל על תורתו ואמונתו בצורה מפליאה. לשמירת המסורת ופרטי המנהגים כפי שנוצרו במהלך הדורות יש משקל רב בפלא זה. יחד עם זאת עתה כאשר עם ישראל חזר לארצו מטרתנו היא לפעול לאחדות העם ולהחזרת תורה לתפארתה שלא תהא כשתי תורות. אין כוונתו למחוק את מסורת העבר, אך יחד עם זאת רוצים אנו להציב יעד של אחדות לעתיד. הנצחת ההבדלים בין העדות השונות במסגרת תפקיד ממלכתי לכל אחד מבני העדות, מפגרת אחר המציאות המתפתחת. גדולי התורה ילידי הארץ חניכי ישבות ארץ ישראליות , מוצאים את הדרך לפסוק לציבור גדל והולך של מי שזהותו העדתית כבר לא משמעותית מחד , ולבני העדות השונות כל אחד לפי דרכו מאידך. בתיקון החוק אנו מאפשרים לעולם הרבני להיות שותף למהפכה שעובר עם ישראל השב מהגלות, ממעמד קהילתי מפורד, אל ההיסטוריה במעמד של עם אחד. הגיע העת לקידום תהליך שיבת ציון לא רק מבחינה מדינית וחברתית אלא גם מבחינה דתית. 
לפי הצעה זו יבחר רב ראשי אחד למדינת ישראל שיישא גם את התואר החופף והקודם לו "הראשון לציון". הרב הראשי יעמוד בראש מועצת הרבנות הראשית. במקביל יבחר נשיא בית הדין הרבני הגדול שיעמוד בראש מערכת בתי הדין ויהיה חבר במועצת הרבנות הראשית מכוח תפקידו. 
אנו מאמינים כי חוק זה נושא בשורה גדולה של אחדות לעם ישראל.

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  1. some shas MK said that there is no need to change the existing system, it will be too easy to upset people, why change this position when there are cities with two chief rabbis, and while have two chief rabbis is not "yahareig v'lo yavor", still why stir up trouble?

  2. your comment pretty much confirms what I said - the main opposition is from religious political parties, because they have a chance at losing power and money. At any given election period, none of the religious parties can be sure their candidate will take the job.
    "some shas people" means Shas is nervous about the chance of losing that position. That any given religious party is worried about it because they might lose power or some jobs does not equal the good of the country.

  3. Sorry, Moshe, FAIL.

    I understand and support the underlying concept, but we are not ready yet. As long as the vote is political, that there is an age limitation to the position, then nothing will come of this. Look at the current situation: we have a rabbi out in front not because he is the best talmid chacham, but rather because he is a better face to the non-religious and is running a campaign (or people are running it for him).

    What we need first, is for the rabbanim to meet more often. Actually, we should institute the new Sanhedrin. They already have a chosen a head.


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