In Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 33:53, we are commanded: “Drive out the inhabitants of the land and settle in it because I have given this land to you to possess.”
According to the Ramban (Nachmanides), we learn from this verse that settling the Land of Israel is one of the 613 commandments from the Torah.
Nechama Leibowitz points out that “there can be no complete observance, in all spheres of life of the mitzvoth of the Torah outside of the Land of Israel. The Torah cannot be observed in its entirety except in a society wholly governed by its precepts and not in an alien framework ruled by other ideals. There are personal religious obligations that can be observed anywhere…but the Torah as a whole implies a complete social order, a judiciary, national, economic and political life. That can only be achieved in the Holy Land and not outside it.”
In an ideal world, this would bring about a Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name). However, today there is an abuse in power in Israel and instead of the ideal there is also corruption which ends up causing a Chilul HaShem (desecration of God’s name).
Many of the religious problems in Israel today have to do with the Chief Rabbinate being stricter than necessary in the areas of conversion, marriage, divorce, funerals, Kashrut and the Temple Mount.
In Jewish law, there is a range of varying opinions which can all be valid. It doesn’t make sense that only a few opinions are accepted and everyone else is shut out.
In fact, that is one reason why we have both a Sepahrdic and an Ashkenasic Chief Rabbi.
Israel has a lot to learn from the Diaspora where members choose their own community rabbi who presides over the conversions, weddings, divorces, funerals etc.
An individual who is converting, getting married or divorced will not be comfortable going through this process with a rabbi that they have no connection to.
There are a wide variety of points of view in the laws of keeping kosher, some stricter and some more lenient. There is no reason that every restaurant has to conform to more rigid and more expensive standards than Jewish law requires.
There are also different viewpoints on the issue Jews ascending the Temple Mount. Both assessments should be respected without the Chief Rabbinate choosing sides.
The good news is that many Jewish leaders who are originally from North America are bringing American values to Israel.
Rabbi Seth Farber of Itim is helping sincere converts handle the bureaucracy of dealing with the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Interior.
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz started an independent kosher certification called Hashgacha Pratit (pivate supervision) with his own set of mashgichot that certify that the food is Kosher.
Tzohar Rabbis help make brides and grooms who are not necessarily observant feel comfortable having a religious wedding service.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick has been active in trying to ensure that Jews can observe Jewish law while visiting the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin trains toanot (female rabbinic advocates) to represent women who are going through a divorce in the rabbinic courts.
The list can go on and on…
What we learn from here is that it is no use to sit around complaining about the Chief Rabbinate. Those who want to make a change must come and settle the Land of Israel and help make changes from within.