Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef spoke out on Thursday against the law that
will enable couples registering to get married to register wherever it suits
them instead of in their city or town of residence.
The change in the law
undermines the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, Yosef said.
attending a ceremony at the President’s Residence in which members of the Chief
Rabbinate Council declare their loyalty to the State of Israel and to the
council, signing a document to that effect.
At the same time, Yosef
acknowledged that some of the regulations governing marriage registration were
too stringent and should be relaxed, although without comprising Halacha. He
also mentioned the need finds halachic ways in which to observe the shmita year,
in which fields must lie fallow, while taking into consideration the needs of
both farmers and consumers.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau concurred,
saying it was important to ease the path for couples registering for
Lau said he had met with Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky
to discuss ways and means of determining the Jewishness of Israeli citizens from
the former Soviet Union who do not have documented evidence to prove their
There are enough people in Israel who would have
known them in the USSR who could vouch for their Jewishness, he said.
also called for unity within the Chief Rabbinate Council, saying this would send
a clear message to the population and reduce sinat hinam, or baseless hatred. In
doing so he referred to comments made earlier by Oded Weiner, director general
of the Chief Rabbinate, to the effect that history would have been much
different had the positive aspects of the biblical character of Esau been
recognized and channeled so that he could work in harmony with
Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eliahu Ben-Dahan, who had
initiated the idea of extending the period in which a couple can register for
marriage so that they have ample time in which to collect all the required
documents to prove their Jewishness, assured the council that he had not come to
destroy it, but simply to help improve areas that needed fixing.
agreed that extending the time frame was acceptable because the law, as it stood
previously, was illogical. It said that couples could register for marriage no
earlier than three months before the wedding date. Now they will be able to
register six months before their nuptials.
President Shimon Peres, who
individually congratulated each of the members of the Chief Rabbinate Council,
said the ceremony was unlike any other because of its profound historic
During the 2,000 years in which the Jewish people had lived
in exile, he explained, it had been the rabbis and teachers who were responsible
for maintaining Jewish tradition and identity.
“Had it not been for them,
we would have disappeared like other ancient civilizations,” Peres said. “We
were renewed as a nation in the State of Israel, but a large sector of our
people is still divided and living in the Diaspora, and therefore we are still
desperately in need of rabbis to instill Torah learning.”
said that when asked who is a Jew, his answer is always: “Someone whose children
and grandchildren will remain Jewish.”
In his address to the rabbis,
Peres implied that they should refrain from extremism. He told them to remember
that all mankind, regardless of creed or color, was created in the image of God.
He added that Judaism was a religion of morality and love designed for unity,
and that the rabbis must counsel the people on what to do and what not to do,
and provide a willing ear for people’s concerns.
He also urged the
rabbis, like the visionary prophets of old, to speak out against any injustice
perpetrated against Jew or Arab, Muslim or Christian, or anyone else. He
exhorted them to condemn violence wherever it takes place, deplore vandalism in
synagogues, churches and mosques, and publicly oppose all expressions of
Peres also noted that next week will mark the end of the 30-day
mourning period for Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and an outstanding
authority on Jewish law. He said Yosef’s influence and legacy would remain for
generations to come and should be a source of inspiration for the Chief
The members of the council include two Israel Prize
laureates, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former Ashkenazi chief rabbi
of Israel and father of the incumbent, and Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the
chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek in the North.
Both have been mentioned as
possible candidates to succeed Peres when his sevenyear term concludes next
Grossman has also been seen as a possible candidate for Ashkenazi
The other members of the council are Shmuel Eliyahu, chief
rabbi of Safed; Shimon Elituv of Matei Binyamin; Yosef Glicksberg, chief rabbi
of Givatayim (who is serving his seventh five-year term); Yehuda Deri, chief
rabbi of Beersheba; Avraham Yosef, chief rabbi of Holon; Ratzon Arusi, chief
rabbi of Kiryat Ono; Yitzhak Peretz, chief rabbi of Ra’anana; IDF Chief Rabbi
Rafi Peretz; Ya’acov Rojza, a neighborhood rabbi in Bat Yam; Yitzhak Ralbag of
Jerusalem; Shlomo Shlush, chief rabbi of Haifa; and Ya’acov Shapira, head of the
famed Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Former chief rabbis Yehuda
Metzger and Shlomo Amar, who had not attended the swearing-in ceremonies of
Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau earlier this year, were also absent from Thursday’s