Since the decades before the founding of the state, Israel has always had two chief rabbis – one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. But now Justice Minister Mk Tzipi Livni, Religious Affairs Minister MK Naftali Bennett and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan have proposed passing a bill that would see Israel having only one state-endorsed and funded Orthodox chief rabbi.
Israel's current chief rabbis David Lau (left) and Yitzhak Yosef (right)
Only One Chief Rabbi, Livni, Bennett, Ben-Dahan Say
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Since the decades before the founding of the state, Israel has always had two chief rabbis – one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi.
But now Justice Minister Mk Tzipi Livni, Religious Affairs Minister MK Naftali Bennett and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan have proposed passing a bill that would see Israel having only one state-endorsed and funded Orthodox chief rabbi, the Jerusalem Post reported.
"Israel has one prime minister, one president, one Supreme Court president and one IDF chief of staff; the time has come for us to only have one rabbi for one nation. The State of Israel should have one chief rabbi to unite all parts of Israeli society and a rabbinate that will give services to all parts of the Jewish people instead of maintaining a formal, old-fashioned separation,” Livni, who is secular, reportedly said yesterday.
"The only question is why didn't this happen sooner. Today, when Ashkenazi people marry Sephardic people and Yemenites and any other origin, there is no reason for two chief rabbis,” Bennett who, like Ben-Dahan, is Zionist Orthodox, added.
But Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of the Reform Movement in Israel, reportedly pooh-poohed the proposed law – and the chief rabbinate itself.
"The State of Israel is not Iran and Judaism in Israel and in the Diaspora don't need a Vatican. In a reality in which the Orthodox community doesn't listen to the chief rabbis' decisions anyway – the job is just a symbol of the Orthodox monopoly and the undemocratic and un-Zionist idea that there is only one right way to be Jewish,” Kariv reportedly said.
But if the new bill passes it would do something even more revolutionary that unify the chief rabbinate – it would reportedly separate the chief rabbinate from the country’s state Orthodox beit din (religious court) system. Both the head of the beit din system and his deputy would be picked by the dayanim (rabbinic judges) of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, mimicking the way Israel’s (secular) High Court of Justice justices pick their court’s president.
Until recently, both chief rabbis had to be trained and experienced dayanim.
But that changed with the election of the scandal-plagued Yona Metzger a decade ago.
Metzger – who had no qualification or experience as a dayan – was elected in a backroom political deal arranged by then haredi-leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who wanted a pliable and weak Ashkenazi chief rabbi who would not stand up to haredi leaders and who would, through his inexperience and questionable moral character, weaken the chief rabbinate Eliyashiv had grown to hate.
To stop unqualified chief rabbis like Metzger from supervising dayanim, Livni, Bennett and Ben-Dahan want to sever the state’s beit din system from the chief rabbinate and by making the choice of its head and deputy head as nonpolitical as possible.
But Israel’s newly elected chief rabbis, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef have nothing to fear.
If the Livni, Bennett and Ben-Dahan bill becomes law it won’t take effect for almost a decade – until the next chief rabbi election almost 10 years from now.