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May 19, 2015

Chief Rabbinate angling to get more involved in affairs of State

The Rabbanut seems to want to expand its role, while the government has been trying recently to limit the Rabbanut's role and responsibilities.

Chief Rabbi Lau has created some waves, and made some people nervous, when he called on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to propose a law that would require the government to consult with the Chief Rabbinate on all legislation that is being considered for passage in Knesset.

Under Rabbi Lau's proposal, the government would be required to get an opinion from the Chief Rabbinate on any and every piece of legislation, just like it currently gets an opinion from the relevant ministry or authority. The Chief Rabbinate consultant would not be a single person, i.e. Rabbi Lau himself, but would be made up of some advisory board that would discuss the matter and come to an opinion from the perspective of Judaism. Rabbi Lau explains that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and while the democratic part is taken care of, The Jewish part also has what to say about all matters of legislation and should at least be involved and considered as part of the process.

Some people are taking Rabbi Lau's suggestion as a form of pushing the Rabbanut into affairs it does not belong in, which will ultimately lead to religious coercion when the Rabbanut will insist on its opinion being the influential one.

Personally, I like the idea. I don't know what the "Jewish opinion" is on many matters of State, and I would bet that most people do not, including many rabbis and halachic authorities. The Bostoner Rebbe himself recently expressed that he is grateful the religious are not yet a majority and therefore do not have to form opinions on how the state can possibly function within halachic parameters. So, I think it would be a great learning experience to have a body debating the Jewish approach to the great variety of issues the State has to deal with and formulating opinions.

Obviously, for now, the proposal does not include an insistence that the State accept the opinion, but at least such an opinion should be formed and heard, and ultimately considered..

The one thing that scares me about it is how biased or unbiased this body would be. We all know how many opinions there are on any given matter. Wouild such a consulting body be taken over by a group of people with interests? Would it become a body that is overwhelmingly machmir or meikil on every nuance, or would it be balanced?

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  1. Well, even the King would have to check certain things out with the Sanhedrin, no?

    Since the Mamlakhtim (die-hard State loyalists) see the Knesseth as a stand-in for the King, then they shouldn't have any problem with this.

    Even though the fact that we're suppose to ignore they king when he comes to cancel a misswah (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 3:9) doesn't appear to concern them

  2. Think this might be a good idea. Anything that might have to do with Jewish law (jewish identity, etc.) should be studied first by the Rabbinate to get their approval. Because whatever they decide would have to be better than the knesset and the G-Dless supreme court who stick their noses where it doesn't belong; it is the 'Jewish' state, we think.

  3. Right. Because they're doing such an amazing job taking on the things they're already responsible for. And because we have such a lack of available rabbinic scholars around here.
    Rabbi Lau should take care to bring the level of services the rabbinate is already supposed to provide up to an acceptable level before he demands to expand their sphere.

  4. If this suggestion had been made in Israel's first 20 or 30 years, when the official rabbinate consisted of Zionists who saw the need to integrate the halacha with the functioning of a modern state, it might have made sense.

    But now? When the official rabbinate is Chareidi and essentially rejects Zionism? IY"H this won't be taken seriously for even a moment.


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