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Jul 25, 2013

Must the chief rabbis be shown respect?

In light of the results of the election for the Chief Rabbinate yesterday there have been a lot of over-the-top attitudes being publicized, as if Rabbi Lau is going to destroy the Rabbinate and only Rav Stav could have saved it. I get being disappointed that your preferred candidate did not win, but the talk being aired last night and today has really been over-the-top.

A particular opinion I found both silly and disturbing is this question asked of Rav Aviner.

Someone asked Rav Aviner if one must respect the elected Chief Rabbis in light of the fact that they are not the greatest rabbis of the generation.

To his credit, Rav Aviner responded that we must definitely respect them, as we must respect any talmid chacham, and how much more so the Chief Rabbi.

The question, though, makes some strange presumptions:

  1. Had Rav Stav and Rav Eliyahu won, the greatest rabbis of the generation would be the chief rabbis.
  2. Until now all chief rabbis were the greatest rabbis in their generations
  3. only the greatest rabbis need be shown respect, not "lesser" or "junior" or "minor" rabbis.
Basically, the question is completely ridiculous and even insulting all on it's own..

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  1. fyi
    this question was asked of rav aviner (and answered) before the elections.

  2. Let's assume we can achieve universal respect for the Chief Rabbis. That's still a long way from the near-universal obedience that someone would normally expect a Chief Rabbi to command. Is this now a ceremonial post in the eyes of all factions?

    1. I never really thought of the Chief Rabbis in that way. I don't hear them paskening on regular halachic issues of the day. They seem to declare halachic decisions on major social policy issues - shmitta, conversion, etc, but not on every-day halachic issues for the average person. I never saw their position as one that demanded obedience - I am not converting anyone, so it is not me who needs to be obedient on conversion policy - the state systems need to be, and I think they usually are.


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