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Jun 25, 2014

one chief rabbi law proposal passes first reading

Another long-discussed, and perhaps controversial, law proposal has advanced this week...

The Knesset voted for the first reading on the law proposal to stop electing two Chief Rabbis - one Sefardi and one Ashkenazi, and move to only one. The new law also includes changes to the structure of the batei din - instead of one of the Chief Rabbis acting as head of the batei din, the head of the batei din will in the future be chosen from within the batei din - chosen by the President of the State of Israel. The Knesset voted in favor of the law (22-14). It now has to be prepared for its final readings.

The law proposal explains that the chief rabbi serves in public office with very broad tasks and issues he is involved in, and his time to dedicate to dealing with the batei din is limited - it is better to have someone dedicated to the batei din.

Main opposition was from the Haredi MKs.

MK Aryeh Deri (Shas) said this is a bill submitted by the same people who would do away entirely with the chief rabbinate, if they could, and it is just their way of taking revenge for losing the electiosn to the chief rabbinate.

MK Maklev (UTJ) said only people who dont understand what the role of a rabbi is have a problem with two chief rabbis.

MK Eichler (UTJ said that the Knesset should have no interest in the chief rabbinate. Does anybody care or check to see how many social workers, bituach leumi clerks, officers, and many others are employed but dont actually do anything? Eichler said he doesnt even think one chief rabbi is necessary, but the fact that the Knesset is dealing with it means their intention is to harm Judaism and religion.

MK Feiglin (Likud Beyteynu), the original sponsor of the bill, said that as sponsor of the bill his goal is definitely not to harm religion. When the Torah becomes two-headed, what can be greater than coming back to the united nation with one torah. The law is looking to go in that direction.
sources: NRG, JPost, Bechadrei, Kikar

besides for the opportunity for jobs - which might or might not be true - I don't understand why the Haredi MKs care so much about this, whether there is one chief rabbi or two. The Haredi community pretty much ignores the chief rabbinate and the rabbanut system anyway (though Sefardi Haredim do identify with it a bit more than the Ashkenazi Haredim do)! Why do they care so much that they consider this to be anti-religion and harmful, that they need to fight it and oppose it strongly? Many Haredim think the Rabbanut is a big waste and should be entirely disbanded. The Haredi MKs who dont give the Rabbanut the time of day are so worried about the honor fo the chief rabbinate?

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  1. The charedim care because two chief rabbis has enabled them to make all sorts of deals in the past- they'd support Shas' person if Shas supported theirs, etc. That's probably why Lau and Yosef got identical numbers of votes this past time.

    With one chief rabbi, they can't hondle as well.

  2. As I've argued before, this legislation will do away with the near 400-year old Rishon Letzion institution. With all due respect to MK Feiglin, this will not unite the country - it will do just the opposite. The Sepharadim will keep their Rishon Letzion no matter who the chief rabbi is and there will then be 2 authorities. The only thing that can unite Ashkenazim and Sepharadim when it comes to Halacha is a real Sanhedrin when Mashiah comes - there is no substitution.

    1. I'm not sure "we dont agree and this is the way it has been for years" is a good enough reason to stop a government from trying to pursue what they see as an ideal.
      they know thats how it was done, but thats when communities were divided in golus, whereas they want to promote the idea that in eretz yisrael, while each can act in accordance with his custom, there should only be one chief rabbi (who knows the various customs and can direct accordingly), just like there is only one prime minister, one chief of staff, etc.

    2. But you ignored the second argument. It is not the ideal since it will further divide the nation. Sepharadim (as I would) will feel that the Ashkenazi majority is taking away something that they have had for centuries and therefore, they'll certainly - without a doubt - create their own Rishon Letzion outside the Chief Rabbinate. This is fostering DISunity. Let's keep both rabbis withing the Chief Rabbinate to achieve the unity that is required.

    3. Why can't an Ashkenazi be Rishon leTzion? Why can't a Sephardi be chief rabbi? Why is an Ottoman-created position so important? Would this be any worse than Ovadiah Yosef continuing to call himself Rishon leTzion after he left, or with Charedim having their own authorities?

    4. An Ashkenazi cannot be Rishon Letzion because Sepharadim need a Sepharadi to make Halachic decisions according to Sepharadim. Whether or not an Ashkenazi is capable of doing so doesn't help the fact that the mindset of Sepharadim will not accept an Ashkenazi as the Rishon Letzion.

      Why can't a Sephardi be chief rabbi?

      I never said he cannot. Actually, I'm advocating for the status quo of both chief rabbis.

      Why is an Ottoman-created position so important?

      1) Tradition
      2) It morphed from an Ottoman-created position into an Israeli-government sanctioned position.

      Would this be any worse than Ovadiah Yosef continuing to call himself Rishon leTzion after he left, or with Charedim having their own authorities?

      Sepharadim - for the most part - want to work within the government. They don't want to rebel against the official government policy. (However, if they're mistreated, they will do so.)

      Rav Ovadia still called himself Rishon Letzion for another bad government decision - making the chief rabbi position for only 10 years instead of for life. It was always a lifetime position beforehand.

      See also here.

    5. Not sure if my comment went through, so I'll summarize:

      1. No, the position was not lifetime before him. Look it up.

      2. Lots of Israelis are neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. They manage, and the Rabbinate caters to them.

    6. Nachum,

      1) You are incorrect. This is one of the things Rav Ovadia ZT"L fought over.
      2) The Italians fall under the Ashkenazi category. The Teimanim fall under the Sepharadi category. One cannot have 10 different chief rabbis, but the status quo of 2 works nicely and has worked nicely until now. Why change?

    7. 1) I told you to look it up. R' Yosef and R' Goren succeeded R' Unterman and R' Nissim, neither of whom died in office.

      2) Italians are not Ashkenazim. Yemenites are not Sephardim (or even Edot HaMizrach). Neither are Ethiopians, Indians, Georgians, or others. There are almost 300,000 Yemenites in Israel. They manage.

    8. Nachum,

      1) That's true, but it became a 1-term limit specifically for Rav Ovadia's term. Rav Unterman ran against Rav Goren and lost. It would have stayed w/ Rav Unterman had he won. Rav Nissim ran against Rav Ovadia and lost. It would have stayed w/ Rav Nissim had he won.

      2) That's exactly what I was saying! Even though Italians are not Ashkenazim, they would fall under the category of a an Ashkenazic chief rabbi. And even though Yemenites are not Sepharadim, they would fall under the category of the Sephardic chief rabbi - since they have many similarities. (Rav Ba'adani is part of Rav Ovadia's Mo'etzet, for example).

    9. What "similarities"? Their minhagim are completely different. They're "similar" in that like (some) Edot Mizrach, they come from Arabic-speaking countries and are not Ashkenazim.

      Incidentally, R' Ovadia himself came out in favor of a single chief rabbi in 1977.

    10. Yes, many minhagim are completely different. However, I cannot believe you will not believe that there are similarities:

      1) They are culturally similar
      2) They were geographically close
      3) Rav Ovadia had Rav Ba'adani in his Moetzet
      4) I belong to a Sepharadi synagogue in Chicago - where there is not Teimani synagogue - and we have lots more Teimanim than Ashkenazi synagogues.

      Re: Rav Ovadia in 1977, that was solely because Rav Goren was putting him through heck. There's a reason he hasn't repeated this idea since then.

    11. Do you have any support for your libel of R' Goren? Any evidence, or did you just make it up?

      Do you even have any proof that R' Goren ever called for such a thing?

      Yemen, by the way, is about as close to the nearest Edot Mizrach country as, say, Spain is to Germany. There are about as many cultural similarities between Spanish-Portuguese Jews and Yemenites as there are between Indian Jews and Polish Jews.

    12. Libel?!?!?!

      It is very well-known that Rav Goren put Rav Ovadia through heck and back while serving as chief rabbis together. Look it up.

      I never said that Rav Goren called for anything. Please reread my comment.

      Yemen is very close to Egypt and Sudan. Check your local map.

      There are about as many cultural similarities between Spanish-Portuguese Jews and Yemenites as there are between Indian Jews and Polish Jews.

      I'll agree with you there. The Spanish-Portuguese are culturally similar to the Ashkenazim. But I wasn't talking about the Spanish-Portuguese - I was talking about Sepharadim in general.

  3. you do realize that no chief rabbi, the sefardi or the ashkenazi, is making halachic decisions for anybody... nobody is calling the chief rabbi with questions like his dairy spoon fell in the meaty pot, showing bedika cloths or questions about the mikva, showing a chicken and asking if it is kosher.

    the chief rabbi is busy with setting policy in the rabbanut,in the kashrut organizations, the batei din somewhat, meeting with religious leaders and leaders of state, such as the pope, he is busy making religious issues within the legislative process more compatible with religion, giving shiurim and maybe visiting schools...and a myriad of other functions.

    there is very little psak coming from the chief rabbis.

    1. Setting policy in the Rabbanut, Kashrut organizations and Batei Din doesn't involve making Halachic decisions???

    2. not on a personal level that one would say a sefardi wouldnt rely on an ashkenazi chief rabbi...

      as a matter of fact, the rabbanut mostly functions according to ashkenazi customs, and sefardim rely on it plenty. for example, non-chalak meat, bishul akum....

    3. Rafi, sorry to call you out on this but thousands of people are approaching the chief rabbis for personal halachic decisions. Please, the chief Rabbis don't only travel around the world and go to siyumim and school events. Very little psak coming from them? There is a big difference between your claim and about simply not knowing what they are doing because the chief rabbanut does not have a twitter account and that they are not sitting on important issues that affect the whole country and world Jewry in general, and specific people as well. Link to Shut HaRav HaRashi from Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l Three books which have the response that Rav Mordecahi Eliyahu replied to simple people.

      The Haredim in fact respect the rabanut more than they want to admit.

  4. how is it that sefardi soldiers never rebelled when rav goran or other ashkenazim were the chief rabbi of zahal?

  5. the kneset should add the waxman amendment: to calm fears of people worried about ashkenazi domination, for the first 20 years after the law is passed, the chief rabbi will be zulu,

  6. Setting policy in the Rabbanut, Kashrut organizations and Batei Din doesn't involve making Halachic decisions???

    you're proving rafi's point very nicely. during their 10 term, the chief rabbis switch responsibilities after five years. rav yosef will be in charge of kashrut issues for 5 years and then rav lau will take the reins. same with the beit din. so, in actuality, sefardim have always accepted an ashkenazi making decisions for them and vice versa.

    1. I'll grant you that. But, these bureaucratic jobs are not the main issue of contention. See Josh's comment above where he makes the point better than I did. A chief rabbi has more halachic responsibility than just these positions.

    2. rav kook tz"l wanted a chief rabbi to be the person who set the moral tone of the nation, not someone who you ask about the platta. for that we have sms tshuvot.

      a quick google search tells me that only RME tz"l has such a collection of piskei halacha. is he the exception or the rule?

    3. Are you guys also ignoring that the chief rabbis are the rabbis of the rabbis? When a senior rabbi has an exceptional issue, or even less, the chief rabbis are the address, or at least one address.

      Again, here is the chief rabbi answering 'little people' questions. This is so sweet:


  7. wasn't there someone running for a local rabbinate who is sefardi but he ran for the office of the ashkenazi city rabbi? he said that he learned in ashkenazi yeshivot and that is all that mattered.

    1. I dont know if this is who you are referring to, but there was such a case in Netanya. Rav Shlush the son was running for the ashkenazi chief rabbi position. His father was (is) the sefardii chief rabbi.

  8. With regard to the Ethiopians - they fully accept the halachot of Rav Ovadia Yosef

    With regard to the Teimanim, do you think they themselves would accept one rabbi? LOL. Seriously though, I think that Rav Kapach was the last "chief rabbi" of Israeli Yemenite Jewry, and definitely worthy of being the Sephardi Chief Rabbi and I am not sure if anyone approaching his stature was able to replace him. I read a story of two Teimanim who came to Chief Rabbi Eliyahu with a mahkloket and after asking them if they would accept his psak no matter what and they agreed, Rav Eliyahu told them his psak was for them to go to Rav Kapach to decide.


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