(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most respected halachic authority for haredi Lithuanian Jewry, said Thursday that the attorney-general's attack on Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger seemed to be motivated by impure motives.
"The rabbi was astonished by the attorney-general's decision," said a spokesman, "especially at a time when criminal files are being closed against politicians without any words of rebuke against them."
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also came to the defense of Metzger.
"Rabbi Ovadia told Rabbi Metzger not to resign," said a Shas spokesman. "He said he was certain that Rabbi Metzger would be cleared in the end."
Elyashiv's and Yosef's support for Metzger were not a surprise since both rabbis were instrumental in getting Metzger elected. Metzger's election effectively blocked the appointment of Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, a respected religious Zionist halachic authority who would have posed a threat to haredi interests.
A Metzger spokesman said that former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Avraham Shapira, a senior religious Zionist leader, also defended Metzger. However, Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, a close aide and student of Shapira's, denied it.
"All he did was bless him like he would bless any Jew who comes for a visit," said Magnus. However, a Metzger spokesman said that Shapira told Metzger to continue to fight for the respect of the rabbinate and added that Metzger was gifted with special talents.
The Metzger spokesman said that former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu told Metzger he was "pure and clean as snow" and should not resign.
Eliyahu's spokesmen could not be reached at press time.
On Monday Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said that Metzger should step down as chief rabbi even though there was a lack of evidence for criminal indictment "in view of serious flaws in Metzger's behavior" which made him unfit for the job.