Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Is A Bad Joke

From Dr. Marc B. Shapiro‘s first lecture on Rav Isser Yehuda Unterman for Torah in Motion: "The chief rabbinate [of Israel] in the days of Rav [Abraham Isaac] Kook and Rav [Benzion Meir Hai] Uziel and Rav Unterman was the supreme religious authority for religious Zionists. If you wanted to know what the halacha was, you went to the Chief Rabbinate. They were the Gadolei Yisrael (the Great ones of Israel). Matters have changed today. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel today is a complete joke. It’s been taken over by the chareidim. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi today [Shlomo Amar] is a great talmud chacham (Torah scholar) although no one assumes he is the gadol (great one) of the Sephardim. He is a talmid (student) of Rav Ovadiah Yosef.

"They put in an Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi [Yonah Metzger] who is not a lamdan (a scholar of rabbinic literature). He’s not a Talmud Chacham (Torah master). He is a crown rabbi. He’s a figurehead. He was put in by Rav Elyashiv and the chareidim as a means of destroying the chief rabbinate because the Chief Rabbinate used to have gadolei Yisroel who stood as a counterweight to the chareidim. But if you put in someone who’s a nobody.  A psak din (a Torah ruling by a Jewish law court) came down by Rav Simcha Kook and others that [Rabbi Yonah Metzger] agreed to never run for Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv because they found his morality lacking. He wasn’t a reputable character. And he agreed not to run. But then he’s put in as the Chief Rabbi of Israel [for the Ashkenazim]. He wasn’t even a dayan (Jewish law judge).

"He’s not a religious Zionist. The Chief Rabbinate now represents no one."

"Rabbi [Norman] Lamm refuses to allow Rabbi Metzger to come to YU. I was sitting at a table and heard Rabbi Lamm say that he will never speak at YU."

"When I say he’s a crown rabbi, I mean that in Eastern Europe, you had two types of rabbis. You had rabbis required by the government to fill out marriages and divorces and you had a posek."

"No one goes to him for shailas (questions about Jewish law). You have plenty at roshei yeshiva at YU who can learn a million times better than him. He’s a figurehead. He goes to speak at places like the Park Avenue Synagogue. He’s not a gadol. He’s not even half of a gadol."

Wikipedia says:

Metzger faced opposition for other reasons, as well. Detractors noted that, by comparison to most of his predecessors, Metzger had very little experience as a rabbinic authority. Metzger had never served as a religious judge (dayan), though his role as Chief Rabbi would require him to sit as President of the Rabbinical Supreme Court for five years, before switching with his Sephardic counterpart to be head of the Chief Rabbinate Council.[24] Outgoing Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron wrote a formal letter to the Chief Rabbinic Council complaining about Metzger’s appointment. In his letter, Bakshi-Doron described a 1998 rabbinical investigation into Metzger’s personal conduct and credentials, following the publicizing of multiple accusations of sexual harassment, forged signatures on wedding contracts, fraud and threatening other rabbis.[25] The commission of rabbis found Metzger’s explanations of his actions "insufficient" and ruled him "unfit to serve as a rabbi." The commission, which included Rabbi Shlomo Amar, later agreed to drop the ruling on condition that Metzger withdraw his candidacy for chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, which he did. Bakshi-Doron was incensed to learn that, five years later, Metzger had now entered into the race for Chief Rabbi of the state. He called his appointment "a desecration of God’s name."[26]

Rabbi Yonah Metzger spoke at Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills on Aug. 11, 2007. Head rabbi there Steven Weil is famous for his no-predators policy which keeps out, among others, yours truly.

In my first 18 months in Los Angeles, I tried to sleep with as many women as possible, making me a type of predator. My behavior is a tad better these days but in my mind I still sleep with as many women as possible.

I guess Rabbi Weil’s no-predators policy does not apply to chief rabbis. I can’t blame him for this. Once you stand for something, you’ll never be able to live up to all your ideals with perfect symetry.

Dr. Shapiro says in this lecture given in 2008 that the "heyday" of Modern Orthodoxy was in the 1950s and 1960s. "The theme of many of these lectures is the decline of Modern Orthodoxy… I don’t mean heyday in terms of religious observance. There’s much more observance today than in the 1950s and 1960s. But you had gadolim in the 1950, 1960s and even the 1970s who were identified with Modern Orthodoxy and you don’t have that today… One of the trends is the movement towards glatt kosher. The Modern Orthodox are fighting back. The three Modern Orthodox rabbis of Los Angeles — Weil, Muskin and Kanefsky — have now given approval for next week for non-glatt meat to be sold. This probably hasn’t been done in 20 years where the rabbinate permits non-glatt meat. This is Rubashkin meat… The OU will no longer sell non-glatt meat. It’s the first attempt by the Modern Orthodox to go up against the glatt kosher. Most people have assumed that glatt kosher is the only kosher. We’ll see if this takes on anywhere else. I find it hard to believe that the Modern Orthodox rabbinate will be able to push this issue."

"What really shows Rav Unterman’s courage is that in Eastern Europe he was a Mizrachi rabbi [this cost many rabbis in Eastern Europe jobs]. The majority of rabbonim were not Mizrachi. The Mizrachi were problematic because they cooperated with the non-religious Zionists… Many famous [Modern Orthodox] rabbis would be considered gadolim by the chareidim today if they had not associated with the Mizrachi."

"The Rav [J.B. Soloveitchik] writes about what gave him courage to reject his family’s tradition and join Mizrachi. The Holocaust was a great influence. He concluded in this case that God Himself poskens (rules) on the side of the Mizrachi.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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