Chief Rabbi Lau lambasts Yair Lapid

Lau particularly asked that Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, to publicly condemn the vile statements that have been made about the rabbinate.

David Lau
Only a day after Supreme Court President Esther Hayut voiced outrage and regret that politicians were inciting against the Supreme Court, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau voiced a similar complaint, saying that both the politicians and the Supreme Court want to undermine the Chief Rabbinate.
Speaking at the induction ceremony of the Chief Rabbinate Council at the President’s Residence on Wednesday, Lau apologized for using the occasion and the venue in order to air his grievance, and asked President Reuven Rivlin to join him in condemning the hatred and incitement by mayoral candidates in Tel Aviv and Holon who are directing their venom against the rabbinate.
Lau particularly asked that Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who in the past has been far from complimentary with regard to the rabbinate, publicly condemn the vile statements that have been made about the rabbinate.
“Is this really the future that the chairman of Yesh Atid wants for the people of Israel?” he asked.
The festering hatred in certain circles for the rabbinate is not a new phenomenon, he conceded. When his grandfather Yitzhak Yedidya Frenkel, who was chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, wanted to get into a taxi, the driver would cast a malevolent look at the traditional black garb of the pious and drive off before Frenkel could get into the car. “Is this the Israel we want?” he used to ask after such an episode.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, without specifically referring to the Greater Israel concept, said that the people of Israel did not conquer the land. “It’s a gift. God gave it to us. It’s written in the Bible.”
Yosef commented that people should not be selective about what has been handed down through the Bible, but should accept and observe it all. “If we are here on the basis of the Bible, then we have to do all that the Bible informs us that we have to do.”
Relating to the role of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate,” Yosef stated that its influence is felt not only in Israel but in all the countries of Jewish dispersion, especially when it comes to matters of conversion and marriage.
Interior Minister Arye Deri, who was standing in for Religious Services Minister David Azoulay, who is bedridden with cancer, asked all present to pray for Azoulay’s recovery. It was not the first time that he had done so.
Deri lamented that the Supreme Court sometimes overrules decisions taken by the Chief Rabbinate. Anything that undercuts the status of the Chief Rabbinate also has a negative impact on the whole country, said Deri.
Comparing the situation of the Chief Rabbinate with that of the civil courts, Deri said that while the State of Israel has established many civil courts and appointed many judges, there is an acute paucity of neighborhood rabbis to provide even the most minimal services for communities and individual families.
Deri also pointed out that those who denigrate the Chief Rabbinate cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that the Chief Rabbinate is the official authorized body by law to rule on issues such as kashrut and conversion as well as on many other issues affecting Jewish life.
He urged the newly installed Chief Rabbinate Council to be the gatekeepers of Jewish law and tradition in order to give religious politicians the strength to battle the Knesset and the government.
It saddens him that religious politicians do not always see eye to eye and have disputes among themselves.
Rivlin, who has a long line of rabbinic ancestors, suggested that today’s rabbis face new technological challenges and, depending on where they live, may face other challenges with which their forebears did not have to contend. Some of the essentials of the past may no longer be relevant, and, conversely, issues that did not come up in the past may be of vital importance today. Rabbis sometimes require different approaches to those of the past and must understand the culture and the technology that surround them.
He also urged council members to be alert to sensitive issues such as the recent Barkan wine debacle in which a rabbi discriminated against Israelis of Ethiopian background. In wanting to sanctify God’s name, he said, there is always the danger of desecrating it, as happened in the Barkan case.
Rivlin reminded all present that everyone is obligated to work together and do their utmost to avoid any form of discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis.
He recalled that the Sephardi chief rabbi’s late father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was one of the greatest of halachic authorities, declared that “our Ethiopian brothers and sisters are Jewish in every sense of the word.