The Rabbinate of Rubbish

Once upon a time…. as all good stories begin…. we had Chief Rabbis who were beloved by the whole population of pre-State and post-State Israel, by secular and religious Jews alike. Namely, our first and greatest Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and then Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog. Following them the Chief Rabbinate has been mediocre.

Some were involved in embezzlement of charity funds. One was arrested for  sexually molesting soldiers in the bathroom of Jerusalem’s central bus station.  Very few set the best examples for us to follow.

With the recent scandalous same-sex marriage of the Orthodox grandson of a former Chief Rabbi to another Orthodox gay man, on this matter the Chief Rabbinate has remained silent rather than publicly humiliating a fellow Orthodox Chief Rabbi’s wayward grandson.

Now the “Sanhedrinites” have voted to blacklist 124 American and some Canadian Orthodox ordained rabbis on grounds (totally false) of questions concerning marriages, divorces and conversions. These diaspora rabbis were mostly ordained in the premier yeshivot of American Orthodoxy, the Isaac Elchanan Seminary of Yeshiva University in New York and Yeshiva Ner Tamid in Baltimore. They are among the leaders of American Orthodox Judaism.

Interestingly, the Chief Rabbinate and the general Israeli rabbinate have no problems in visiting American and Canadian synagogue with open hands and arms outstretched reaching for non-Orthodox dollars. The Yiddish term is familiar. It is called”schnorrers”.

Why should diaspora Jews give tzedaka to people who do not practice tzedaka, who fail to understand the commandment of “tzedek tzedek tirdof”, pursue righteousness ? . Sadly, those rabbis have lost their way. They see only money but not the ohr ha emet… the light of truth.

In corresponding by e-mail with one of the diaspora’s leading and well-known modern Orthodox rabbis about this horrible version of “sinat chinam”, baseless hatred, he remarked “ha Yisraelim tzrichim lizrok otam l’pach zevel”   the Israelis should toss them into the garbage pile. They are rubbish who bring discord between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews”.

The American rabbinate, in particular, is not enamored of the offices of Chief Rabbis in Israel. They feel that just as in all diaspora communities, each city should have its own rabbi who represents the religious population.

We have, fortunately, no Pope in Judaism. No single rabbi, no matter how erudite and scholarly he may be, has the right to speak and to represent world Jewry.

The recent blacklisting has turned into blackmailing. No self-respecting rabbi in a diaspora land will accept the decisions of a closeted Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem.

During the Vietnam war, I was told of an Orthodox rabbi, a rosh yeshiva, in Brooklyn, who would create false semichot of ordination to keep young Jewish boys out of the draft. His fee was one thousand dollars per semicha and it was estimated, before his eventual arrest for tax evasion (he demanded payment in cash) that he had issued more than 40 false semichot. Since he could not deposit 40 thousand dollars into a bank account, he hid it someplace in his home where it was discovered by a cleaning lady who was suspicious and who reported it to the tax authorities. Naturally, the local Orthodox rabbis remained silent.

Now 124 of the brightest and dearly beloved of American and Canadian Orthodox ordained rabbis have been smeared with false charges of inappropriate religious procedures in matters of personal status of Jews.

Many thousands of Jews who arrived here from the former Soviet Union were denied conversions because they could not promise to keep their heads covered (women) nor to refrain from watching television on Shabbat.

If Moshe Rabbenu (Moses our Lawgiver) were to make Aliyah to Israel, he would not be recognized as a good Jew for having married a black , non-Jewish woman (Tzippoah the Midianite) and the Chief Rabbinate would not recognize his circumcision, demanding hatafat dam brit.. a drop of blood from a second symbol of the covenant with Abraham.

We Israelis, religious and secular, should let our Chief Rabbinate know how disgusting and how unkind is their recent deprecation of hundreds of Orthodox rabbis in the diaspora.

Their inexcusable behavior further separates diaspora Jews from their Israeli brethren.

The Orthodox rabbi who replied to my e-mail said it correctly: “they should be dumped in a pile of rubbish. No one needs them. Certainly not us who were legitimately ordained in Orthodox seminaries or yeshivot”.

We all remember what befell our holy Temple in Jerusalem centuries ago because of “sinat chinam”…baseless hatred.

What tragedy will fall upon us now? Perhaps the Women at the Wall will invite us to an oneg Shabbat barbecue at Robinson’s Arch !   Certified 100% kosher by a female shochet !

What could be wrong?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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