Menachem Mendel

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The Race for the Rishon le-Tzion

Elections for the office of the Chief Rabbi of Israel have a colorful history that is filled with politics through and through. For a number of years it was customary to reelect the incumbent Chief Rabbi when elections for the Chief Rabbi were conducted. However, in 1972 Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ran against the incumbent Chief Sephardic (Rishon le-Tzion) Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim and won. It was during Yosef’s tenure as Chief Sephardic Rabbi that a law was passed that limited Chief Rabbis to one term of ten years. Guess who was one of the bill’s sponsors? Moshe Nissim, the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim.

Fast forward to the present day, next year elections are going to be held for the office of Chief Rabbi. According to today’s Maariv, guess who is planning to run for Chief Sephardic Rabbi? Rabbi Yehudah Deri, the current Chief Rabbi of Beer Sheva and brother of ex-con and former Shas powerbroker, Aryeh Deri. For those interested in the rise and fall of Aryeh Deeri, a new book has recently been published that shows how deep the Deri-induced corruption was in Israeli politics during the 1980’s and 90’s (see here and here [Heb.]). To top it all, guess what law the current Sephardic Chief Rabbi Amar’s supporters are trying to get approved? One that removes the term limit for Chief Rabbis.

As if anyone today really cares what either of the Chief Rabbis has to say.

9 Responses to “The Race for the Rishon le-Tzion”

  1. 1
    7azon Yesha3ya:

    equally if not more interesting is who is running for the post of the ashkenazi counterpart to replace the current scoundrel minion of rabbi eliashiv.
    otherwise, there was also much talk of eliminating the 2 chief rabbis system in favor of one at a time for both ashkenazim and sfaradim; the choice of rabbi being on the merit of his scholarship. wonder whatever happened with that!

  2. 2
    Rebecca Lesses:

    Who actually gets to elect either Chief Rabbi? The Knesset?

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    Rebecca,

    There is a committee made up of 150 members, of whom 80 are rabbis and 70 are public representatives.

  4. 4
    Geviha ben Pesisa:

    Yehudah Deri is a bigger fraud than his brother. He was a schoolteacher until he was shoehorned into the Beersheva job by his brother. His Talmudic bonafides are risible. Even more inane was the fact that when it turned out that Yona Metzger was unqualified to serve as a Dayyan, it was Tehudah Deri who gave him Yadin Yadin.

  5. 5
    DF:

    “As if anyone today really cares what either of the Chief Rabbis has to say.”

    Sure people care. Otherwise there would not be such a hallaballo over the appointment. Obviously people dont fanatically follow his words the way some bachurim follow their rosh yeshivah or chassidim follow their rebbe. He’s a RABBI, not a rebbe or RY. His presence lends prestige or legitiamcy to events.

    “ex-con and former Shas powerbroker, Aryeh Deri . . .. how deep the Deri-induced corruption was . . .”

    Don’t kid yourself, MM. Any politician of any stature is corrupt. Any prosecutor sufficiently mean-spirited and vindicitive can come up with material to prosecute a politician, and with the right judge you will get your conviction. Deri’s supporters, of whom them are many, are well aware he was the target of a hit job. That is, he may well have been in technical violation of the law, but he’s no diffeent in that respect than anyone.

    As far as the riddiculosu claims that R. Metzger is not “qualified” – gimme a break. Do you have any idea how semichas are handed out? There’s no stanadarized test system, you know. When kollel avreichim ned to leave the yeshivah and get a job, they’re given a semicha, and in the relatively rare cases that they need a yodin yodin, they’ll get that, too. You may call this corrupt, you may call this cynical, or you may call this traditional – call it what you will, but R. Metzger is by no means “unaqualified.”

  6. 6
    Menachem Mendel:

    “Sure people care. Otherwise there would not be such a hallaballo over the appointment.

    The only relevance that the Chief Rabbis have today is handing out jobs to their cronies and some ornamental functions. The people who are interested in the appointment are primarily driven by economic and political considerations.

    “Any politician of any stature is corrupt.”

    Read the reports on Deeri and then tell me if his behavior applies to every politician. Some some may come close, but he took it to a new level.

    As to whether Yehudah Deeri is qualified or not, I have no idea.

  7. 7
    DF:

    You are right that the main interest in the apointment is the economic and political considerations. But his office is still quite important, and it is partically in that sense I mean that people care what he has to say. I also think people like to hear a good speaker, so its important to have a learned and well-spoken chief rabbi.

    Re Deri – Politicians are corrupt in different ways. In reviewing the bio of the late Yitzchak Shamir z”l, who may be the exception to that rule, I recall for example how it was officially illegal in the 90s to meet with PLO representatives. And yet Rabin did exactly that, leading to the bloodshed of thousands. And yet Rabin’s supporters still speak of him as though he were some sort of saint. Is it any wonder that Deri, who never did anything remotely as disasterous for the country as Rabin, should still be regarded highly by his supporters?

  8. 8
    Menachem Mendel (Michael P.):

    Rabin never conducted negotiations with the PLO while it was illegal. Ezer Weizman and Yossi Beilin did, but not Rabin. Deeri and Shas abstained from voting against the first Oslo Agreement, so I guess that Deeri is also responsible for their deaths. Not to be belittle the deaths of those who were killed, but it wasn’t “thousands.” From 1993 until today a little less than 1,500 Israelis have been killed by terrorism. By the same reckoning, maybe Shamir is partly responsible since he totally rejected the London Agreement that Peres and King Hussein were working on in 1987.

  9. 9
    DF:

    Menachem – that is a weak, weak defense of Rabin. Of course he knew what they were doing. And If he didnt know what his own people were doing behind his backs (the old “she opened the bank account, not me” defense) that’s further an indictment of him. Supervisors get fired for not knowing what their subordiantes are up to. And at the very least, when it all became public, he didnt do anything to punish them, but to the contrary, actually emraced what they had done. Nothing Deri ever did comes remotely close to this. It’s not even in the conversation.

    When I said thousands I meant to include those maimed in addition to killed. But, as you surely recongize, it makes no difference. Every life is precious. 1500 Israelis lost to terrorism is population proportionate to 50,000 Americans. Their blood is on Rabin’s hands.

    Re Shamir – I personally dont know enough about the so-called “London Agreement” you refer to, so I can’t comment. But I’ve read enough editorials and articles the past few days that explcitly reject that opinion. Look at the Jerusalem Post, for one example.

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