(photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
The disturbing allegations against Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger have
brought the rabbinate in Israel to a new low.
The rabbinate, an
institution one would hope would serve as a bridge between Judaism and the
state, has been one of the chief culprits in distancing Jews from their heritage
and their God in heaven.
It used to be that Cyprus was the destination
last resort for couples seeking to be married because one of them was not
Jewish. Now, even fully kosher Jews are opting to be married abroad to escape
the draconian scrutiny of the rabbis here in Israel. It is for this very reason
that organizations such as Tzohar have found much success in the Israeli public
for doing what the rabbinate has failed to do; namely create a welcoming
environment for Jews to celebrate life-cycle events.
Actually, the real
problem is that there is no civil marriage in Israel. All Jews are forced to get
married through the rabbinate, no matter how they feel about their Jewishness or
belief in God. Why does the rabbinate fail to understand that by forcing secular
couples to be married by the rabbinate, they are increasing mamzerim in Israel?
Halacha defines a mamzer as the product of specific illicit sexual unions. (A
child born out of wedlock is not a mamzer.) When a couple gets married according
to Jewish law, if the woman were to sleep with another man, this would be
considered adultery, and a child conceived by such a union would carry the
unfortunate stigma of being a mamzer, unable to marry a kosher Jew.
is happening is the following situation: A secular couple is forced to marry
according to Halacha. They have little sensitivity to Halacha or to its
minutiae. If the marriage does not work out, these couples, during their period
of separation, date other people and perhaps sleep with them. This would not be
considered to be “cheating” by either one of them, as this was during a period
of official separation.
Nevertheless, until a get, or bill of divorce, is
issued, Halacha sees this couple as fully married, and the woman as guilty of
adultery. If she were to get pregnant during this period, the baby would be a
A religious couple having marital difficulties would hopefully be
sensitive to this fact, and would not sleep with other people. But religious
people are already committed to the halachic system. Why are we forcing people
who do not commit to such a system to endanger themselves like this? Let me be
clear here. The secular couple does not think they are doing anything wrong. And
I would dare say that morally, they are correct. They were not
No one is hiding anything. Everything is out in the open. But
halacha has its own rules, and Halacha sees this as a most serious sin. Why not
let this couple be married through a civil service, and if the marriage should
end, according to most rabbis it would not necessitate a get.
issue is conversion. The stories I hear, coming from potential converts, are
infuriating. Young people, usually in the army, are seeking to convert to
Judaism out of a deep love for God and the Jewish people. They have already
committed themselves to Jewish destiny and fate by joining the IDF. They spend
years studying for conversion but are being turned away, or are turning
themselves away from conversion for not fitting into a haredi interpretation of
Jewish law or practice.
The rabbinate expects potential converts to be
more pious than 99 percent of world Jewry. There are women who scrupulously keep
the mitzvot and who are denied conversion for merely wearing pants (which is not
a violation of Jewish law); meanwhile the chief rabbi himself is facing charges
I have gotten to know some of these women and it is our loss
that we turned them away. We will yet pay for these mistakes as those denied
conversion integrate themselves into Israeli life.
Yet another issue is
kashrut supervision. Proprietors of kosher restaurants are complaining of
stringencies upon stringencies being heaped upon them by supervisors that barely
supervise. Recently, a movement has even started of kosher restaurants that are
voluntarily giving up their kashrut certificates while remaining kosher, to
escape the rabbinate’s clutches. Why has the rabbinate fostered such a
situation? Instead of bringing honor to God and Judaism, the rabbinate brings
disgrace and frustration to the public it is supposed to serve.
It is my
hope and prayer that the election this summer of new chief rabbis will be used
as a opportunity to clean house.
The writer is a doctoral candidate in Jewish
philosophy and currently teaches in many post-high-school yeshivot and