Undermining A Current Rov, By Inviting Another Rov – A Halachic Analysis

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)

Is there no end to the madness?

Imagine a few board members of a shul inviting a new Rabbi to take over a shul – while the existing Rav – a venerable Talmid Chochom is still there. With no membership vote, and without telling anyone – the four issue the invitation to the new Rabbi and just inform the rest of the congregation that they hired a new Rabbi.

It happened, by the way, at the very same place that sold a 116 year old Brooklyn shul to a developer and scheduled it to be demolished.

Essentially, it seems that Shulchan Aruch has been displaced in the worldview of the board members doing the hiring, the firing and the shul demolishing.

True, the Rav issued a letter of resignation after they had offered the shul to another Rabbi, and after he was finally paid for two years worth of a salary, but the letter of resignation was only based upon the fact that the shul had been sold (nor, by the way, was the Rav consulted on the sale and the demolishing of it).

This author tried reaching out to the new Rabbi but did not yet hear from him. I am assuming that he may have been misled about how things had been handled – because otherwise, one can question how he could step into such a situation.

What follows is a discussion of the halacha of dismissing a Rav and the reasons for the prohibition.

THE RAMAH

The Ramah in Yoreh Deah (245:22) tells us that if a person has been established as a Rabbi in a community, he should not be removed from his position – even if someone greater has come. This is based upon a responsa of the Rivash 271. Indeed, the Ramah explains that the Rabbi’s son and grandson will always have precedence over another. The Ramah qualifies this last point that it is only when they [the descendents] fulfill the position in a G-d-fearing manner, and that they are at least somewhat scholarly.

The Ramah writes further

In a place where there is a custom to accept a Rabbi for a certain period of time or where it is the custom to choose whomsoever they wish, “Hareshus b’yadam – they have that permission.” He further writes: “But if the congregation accepted him upon them.. no one else may come and be on top of him or remove him.”

The Aruch HaShulchan writes (YD 245:29) that even though the Rabbi was only hired by the town for a certain number of years, nonetheless, they may never fire him.

There are some Poskim (Ohel Moshe CM 26) who understand that this is the intent of the Ramah, since Part II B of the Ramah seems to contradict Part II A. How so? Part B seems to clearly be addressing a city where the custom is to allow hiring for specific periods of time. If so, what is this further qualification?

These Poskim state that the new Rabbi may not take over the income-producing aspects of the job that the previous person had. He may, however, take new ones (see Ohel Moshe).

CH’SAM SOFER – TERMS ARE ONE-WAY

The Pischei Teshuvah CM 333:6 (at the end) cites a responsa of the Chsam Sofer, who writes that the contract terms are for the benefit of the Rabbi, but not for the congregation – namely that they may never fire him, but he may leave at the end of the stipulated period if he so wishes. [He also writes that the reason for the contract years in the first place is to avoid the appearance of slavery.]

IF THE RABBI BEHAVES INCORRECTLY

Of course, this is only when the Rabbi has not stumbled terribly or behaved against Shulchan Aruch. There is no doubt that if the Rabbi is ordering pizza from Momma Leona’s in Manhattan that he can be dismissed – even within the contract term.

Rav Shlomo Eiger (Yoreh Deah 245 in his Hagaos) writes that when the Rabbi is performing his function in a grossly improperly manner, then he may also be removed, but only after warning. He writes that if the Beis Din did warn him and he scoffs at the warning, then in fact, he should be removed. This view is also found in the responsa of the Meishiv Davar (Siman 10) that if a Beis Din is convinced that he is functioning in his position in an irreverent and mocking manner, he is to be dismissed.

The idea may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to the reader – that the Rabbi cannot be dismissed even after his contract expired and has an implicit “life-time” contract, so to speak. Nonetheless, the import of the Gemorah in Brachos 28a is clearly in accordance with this notion. There, Rabban Gamliel was dismissed by the academy because of his inappropriate back and forth with Rabbi Yehoshuah. Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah was hired in his stead. Yet when Rabban Gamliel was reinstated, they could not merely dismiss Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah. They thus retained him for one week out of the month, as the Gemorah clearly states there.

WHY THE IMPLICIT “LIFE-TIME” UNDERSTANDING?

What is the rationale for this life-time contract clause understanding? It seems that there is a three way debate as to the source of this notion. We will examine all three views, that of the Rambam, the Mabit, and the Rivash.

THREE OPINIONS

The Rambam (Hilchos Malachim 1:7) writes that it is based upon a verse in Dvarim (17:20) that a position of leadership is one that should continue. Although clearly the verse refers to a monarch, the Rambam writes that it refers to all leadership positions in Israel. The Ritvah and Rambam in Makos (end of chapter two) concur with this view, which is based upon the Sifrei on that verse regarding the words “B’kerev Yisroel.” So, succinctly, the Rambam’s reason is that leadership needs to be empowered and the Torah did so for the Rabbinate as well.

The Mabit (Volume III #200) writes that one may not fire the Rabbinic leader as a kal vachomer (a fortiori argument) from the fact that since it is a position that he may bequeath to his son, it is a kal vachomer that it may not be removed from him against his will. The Mabit seems to understand it as a right that is owned by the Rabbi, very similar to a civil right.

The third opinion is found in the responsa of the Rivash (#271). He writes that it is on account of the principle of maalin bakodaish v’ain moridin (See Shabbos 21b) – we only lift up things in matters of Kedusha and we do not lower. This view is also espoused by the Vilna Gaon (YD 245:39). This third reason deals with issues of Kedusha – holiness.

WILD WILD WEST

What is transpiring here is deeply disturbing. Rabbonim cannot be hired by individuals – it requires a kehillah voting. Rabbonim cannot be fired by individuals against Shulchan Aruch. And shul buildings cannot be demolished to make way for condominiums.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com




42 COMMENTS

  1. Just a warning here that there will be some comments here, using the alias YitzchokM or some other nickname, and s/he will try to defend the actions of this ‘board’.

    The person behinds the sale and during of the Rav had publicly admitted to hiring this individual to defend his actions online.

  2. I cant understand R` Hoffmans joy in stoking machlokes. Whith out going into detail there are reasons (that even Hoffman would agree) why the board did not renew the contract whith the rav. So don’t write about a situation that you don’t know about. Besides the current rav also took over for sombody that the board did not want (for a certain reason). So its not a new rav pushing out the old one its a kehila that currently has no rav. I think Hoffman should stick to torahdigeh topics instead of fighting political battels under the guise of torah.
    Im sure there is going to be negative comments. Just remember no situation is black and white. A lot of facts are not known so mix out. Its obvious that there is altrier reasons why Hoffman cant stop writing about a private community fight.

  3. There’s a good reason why some people want to keep this fight private… because they have something to hide. Or many somethings.

    From what I’ve read, thay want to raze a shul that sits on a 53×100 lot, build 9 condo’s on a 53×60 portion of the lot and leave the shul with only 40×53.

    And what will the shul get for it? $100,000.

    And as a final punch to the mispallelim, they turn around and sell the new shul to another local rebbe’la.

    No one “didn’t renew the rav’s contract”. The same guy who engineered the planned destruction, engineered the sale of the new shul as well.

  4. TruthPioneer
    Its obvious from what you wrote that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Just mix out and don’t belive everything your told. The anti group (including R Hoffman) are trying to spread rumors and total falsehood (propaganda) in order to shame people who they don’t agree to. Its a shame. There so much more than what meets the eye……. For your own sake don’t buy into it.

  5. NeedWhereToLive: Your claim is typical of those who are trying to sow doubt in peoples minds regarding the efficacy of certain commentators. For this reason alone everyone shouldn’t believe a word that NeedWhereToLive says.

  6. TruthPioneer:
    “There’s a good reason why some people want to keep this fight private… because they have something to hide. Or many somethings.”
    Or maybe they simply want to keep it private because it is really isn’t anyone’s business.

    “From what I’ve read, thay want to raze a shul that sits on a 53×100 lot, build 9 condo’s on a 53×60 portion of the lot and leave the shul with only 40×53. And what will the shul get for it? $100,000.”
    Oh, you forgot something. Its called a shul. Actually, two floors. I guess you are only reading what the good rabbi writes here, and that’s why you do not know the facts.

    “And as a final punch to the mispallelim, they turn around and sell the new shul to another local rebbe’la.”
    Such utter nonsense. You know nothing about the facts. The shul was not sold to anyone.

    “No one “didn’t renew the rav’s contract”. The same guy who engineered the planned destruction, engineered the sale of the new shul as well.”
    Your ignorance is showing. But you can’t be blamed, since you only know what the good rabbi writes. In fact the previous rabbi was never going to last. Anyone claiming otherwise simply doesn’t know his history with the shul. Therefore, what the good rabbi achieved by writing this article is to drag the previous rabbi’s name through the mud.

  7. “The person behinds the sale and during of the Rav had publicly admitted to hiring this individual to defend his actions online.”
    Sure sure, but the good rabbi’s nonstop writing about this matter is not suspicious.

  8. “Or maybe they simply want to keep it private because it is really isn’t anyone’s business.”

    That’s all we need to know. That someone can SELL a shul for DESTRUCTION, and you consider it his private business. That’s the point Rabbi Hoffman is making, that this should be everybody’s business.

    (Besides, why is it someone’s private business? Unless he’s making good money off this.)

  9. Neither Rav Hoffman nor anyone else has truly explained why a shul must grant lifetime tenure to a mediocre Rav (and arguably to his mediocre children who obtain simicha) if there are options to bring in a more dynamic Rav who is both a talmid chochom but has the energy and personality to grown the membership of the shul and bring more mispallalim closer to yiddeshkeit. They should obviously treat the old rav with respect and compensate him in accordance with his contract, but this notion of tenure unless the incumbent is senile or engaged is pritzus can have really negative consequences if taken literally.

  10. The existing rav who was forced to resign is not mediocre to say the least, if anyone is its someone else ,it’s pretty obvious that the person posting comments by the name of “thinker 123” is either the same or employed by the people who pulled this off ,

  11. TruthPioneer
    it seems you are oblivious to the facts, destruction? its called rebuilding, and the shul is getting it for free. please try to make sense.

  12. TruthPioneer :
    “That’s all we need to know. That someone can SELL a shul for DESTRUCTION, and you consider it his private business. That’s the point Rabbi Hoffman is making, that this should be everybody’s business.
    (Besides, why is it someone’s private business? Unless he’s making good money off this.)”

    You are not interested in the truth. They are building a new shul. No. the good rabbi is wrong. This matter belongs to the board members only. If you were interested in the shuls perseverance you would not have woken up now. You would have raised the funds previously.
    If all the mecharchei riv were members there is no telling what would have happened to this shul. Many of you have ulterior motives. In hindsight we see how smart it was that they did not allow all of you to become members (which is their right, and is practiced by many organizations).
    Your slander about people making money of of this, is shameful. All the proofs are hearsay, and moreover don’t follow. The fact is the shul made a very good deal, and so business wise why would the developer pay even more for the property? You are all, including the good rabbi, mecharchi riv and spreading rechilus and are motzi shem ra.

  13. Okay.

    1. You claim this matter belongs to the board members only. The shul’s constitution says otherwise. Every member has a right to vote on the shul’s future.

    2. Ulterior motives? The only thing current members want is to preserve the shul in its current glory. The ‘Board’, on the other hand, sold a prime piece of property for the measly sum of $100,000 and a backyard replacement shul. This is a property estimated by professionals to be worth in excess of $4 million, more likely closer to $5 million.

    Is it not sensible to assume ulterior motives?

    The ulterior motives the actual shul members have is to keep it the way it is. If only everyone would have such ulterior motives.

  14. scb
    is that all you have to say? in the same vein- it’s pretty obvious that the person posting comments by the name of “scb” is either the same or employed by the people who are trying to spread machlokes.
    see? it sounds quite childish.
    [to set the record strait thinker123 is non of them]

  15. TruthPioneer
    Where were you untill now, a shul doesn’t become the way it is now over night. Its so ironic that untill the board sold the shul, it was starved of funds, now people wake up. Looks like machlokes does its job in getting people involved. How sad.

  16. thinker123
    After a research I would like to inform every body that the blogger thinker123 is not a Innocent blogger, he is jumping from site to site to defend the gang that’s Behind this transaction, he gets paid for it.

  17. @thinker123 > The shul was starved for funds bc people did not trust the people who illegitimately became trustees and have a checkered past. You remove them and the money will come flowing in. Guaranteed. People have told me that they would not give money because the trustees are shady characters.

  18. Shul was starved of funds? Not really.

    Before all this started, the shul had an offer for an investment of $250,000 to refurbish the shul and bring in a kolel.

    Guess who refused the offer?

    Yes. The same people who sold it.

  19. TruthPioneer:
    “1. You claim this matter belongs to the board members only. The shul’s constitution says otherwise. Every member has a right to vote on the shul’s future.”
    You don’t seem to know how to read. Every member voted on this issue. However, not every mispalel is a member.

    “2. Ulterior motives? The only thing current members want is to preserve the shul in its current glory. The ‘Board’, on the other hand, sold a prime piece of property for the measly sum of $100,000 and a backyard replacement shul. This is a property estimated by professionals to be worth in excess of $4 million, more likely closer to $5 million.”
    This comment demonstrates the lies being perpetuated by these mecharchei riv. Backyard replacement shul! When is this nonsense going to stop. All these numbers are simply made out of thin air. Actually, the shul got closer to $4 million when all is said and done.

    I suspect your ulterior motives.

  20. Gluck41Street:
    “The shul was starved for funds bc people did not trust the people who illegitimately became trustees and have a checkered past. You remove them and the money will come flowing in. Guaranteed. People have told me that they would not give money because the trustees are shady characters.”
    More fiction. Your a bunch of liars and mecharchi riv. There has been a problem with money for some time. No one thought about your excuse until now. Your all johnny-come-lately, with unhealthy imaginations.

  21. NeedWhereToLive:
    “Shul was starved of funds? Not really. Before all this started, the shul had an offer for an investment of $250,000 to refurbish the shul and bring in a kolel. Guess who refused the offer? Yes. The same people who sold it.”
    No these offers where to take over the shul. You conveniently leave out these little facts.
    You see, you guys can’t get your stories straight. One guy concocts a story that no one trusts the board members, hence no money came in, but you claim that people did offer money to refurbish the shul. So did they trust the board members or not. Stop these lies, and half truths. Your all a bunch of mecharchi riv, spreading rechilus and motzi shem ra.

  22. A.A.
    Looks like you are a very bad researcher because not one word is accurate. It is totally absurd and absolute sheker. Looks like you are part of the propaganda campaign who make up all these rumors. Or you are catching on their game.
    As I have written before I don’t have any thing to do with the the shul. If you don’t believe me, I don’t care.
    All these side points are proof that there very little comments that have any content.

  23. @123 we can argue about a lot of this for an eternity. The following however are facts: 1) The shul was not put up for sale on the open market 2) the building was sold to a friend of two of the trustees. 3) two of the trustees that put the building up for sale have a checkered reputation 4) in this market it is unheard of for a developer to buy real estate in a prime market without putting up cash 5) The building was sold for below fair market value 6) There is not one rabbi that is willing to come ur to say that they sanctioned the sale. The opposite is true. 7) there were members not told about the sale. I.e. The trustees were not transparent.

    It is not mutually exclusive that people don’t want to give money because of the reputation of the current trustees and that a kolel was willing to invest 250k.

    You throwing around hebrew words like mecharcherei riv does not make you right.

    In summary, Rabbi Hoffman said it best, the Wild Wild West where halachah, basic decency and law of the land does not matter.

  24. thinker123

    No one believes you, just read the following:

    A.A.
    After a research I would like to inform every body that the blogger thinker123 is not a Innocent blogger, he is jumping from site to site to defend the group that’s Behind this transaction he gets paid for it.

    Gluck41Street

    A.A. He could get paid and be innocent. I am busy with the development of he building and don’t have time to respond to all idiots. I have a family to feed.

  25. I was very disappointed that Rabbi Unsdorfer didn’t share his Halacha aspect during the Shabbos kiddish,
    We are still waiting for the:
    דבר ה׳ זה הוא הלכה

  26. A.A.
    Though I would love to answer the “researchers” question, but due to the fact that Your comment is not comprehensible I will not respond. Maybe rewrite it a bit clearer.

  27. thinker123

    Don’t take A.A. to seriously.
    He also informed me that I’m getting piad by the “developers”. Lol.

    It’s really great that they finally care about the future of thr Shul.
    Only, they would rather an outside Kollel takeover the reins rather then have the Shul rebuilt. Gd forbid.

    They seem incapable of an honest question about this, rather, anyone arguing with them must be paid by the “developers”.

  28. Gluck41Street:
    There is not one word that you say that is either true or pertinent.
    Just a few comments. There is no reason that a rabbi needs to be involved. All members were told. All those who wanted to invest had ulterior motives, e.g. to take over the building. It is mutually exclusive that people don’t want to give money, but yet there were some who did offer money. Your simply a liar, and are leaving out the important part of the story. The good rabbi’s halachic discourse is wanting and totally off base. Yes you are a mecharchi riv: your screen name demonstrates this very clearly.

  29. AA:
    Judging from your screen name you probably are one of those who enjoy a good Shabbos kiddush, namely the drinking. I don’t think that kiddush is the right time for דבר ה׳ זה הוא הלכה for you.

  30. thinker123 – Gluck41Street

    There is no reason to argue with a hired paid person that continues providing false information.
    Whoever is looking for the truth you can see it on:
    lubawitz.org

  31. A.A.
    Quite cheap. Am I supposed to prove that I’m not being paid?! If you don’t want to believe me I don’t really care. The fact is that the people behind the sale don’t even know me. But I understand that the only way you have what to say is by claiming that I’m paid. In other words you lost your case.

  32. A.A.:
    You relay cant read, Gluck41Street is your good friend.

    Gluck41Street:
    You don’t have to check it out, I am sure your part of it. You guys have unhealthy imaginations.

  33. A.A.:
    You guys are the biggest liars. Your a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black. You see in anyone who doesn’t share your unhealthy imagination as being a hired hand, when in fact you guys have hired people to represent your conspiracy theories. The site you guys are promoting is clearly being run by hired hands. Lets see them allow comments, and then we will go head to head with all the wild conspiracies.

  34. youdontsay

    What is a lie?
    The Letter to Rav ……..?
    The clip with the story of Rabbi Goldberg?
    The party on the C……?
    The letter from the בד״ץ?
    The appraisal?
    The lubawitz.org ?

    Sorry, You can’t answer to the point since you don’t have what to sell.

  35. A.A.:
    Everything is either a lie or ikar chaser min hasefer.
    Notwithstanding the halachic admonition contained in the letter it is irrelevant. The relevant people asked him to become rav.
    Irrelevant, since there was a reason for not wanting the name Bais Yitzchok. There is more to the story. This clip is a joke.
    The Crown Heights Bais Din has no business mixing into this matter. They are a controversial organization, which doesn’t even have much say so in their own community never mind in Boro Park.
    The appraisal is missing the point. It is not taking into account what the developer had to give to the shul.

  36. youdontsay

    I’m reading your nonsense and I’m laughing, I’m really enjoying it, I feel like talking to my child that doesn’t understand just screaming “give me a lollipop”, Your bosses are wasting money on you, ( it’s good as more as better)

    Every one is lying, every one is irrelevant (only a gang of 4 are relevant) and no one should mix, in your boss’s “Business” that all what you can say.

    I can’t wait to see you respond again because I will continue laughing.

    Thank you very much

    As always You can see more updates on “lubawitz.org”

  37. A.A.
    We are all laughing at the “researchers” comments. You see, its obvious that any One that doesn’t agree with him, must be on payroll, right? Plus A.A. really has alot to say. Especially the flag ship argument: we are all getting paid. Now that’s amazing! How many people are being paid by the boss, and how much money do we get for each comment? We all look on the “researcher” to let us all know. And the we will laugh again. Your argument have alot of toichen!
    Have fun and thanks for your business!

  38. I’m reading your nonsense and I’m laughing, I’m really enjoying it, I feel like talking to my child that doesn’t understand just screaming “give me a lollipop”, Your bosses are wasting money on you, ( it’s good as more as better)

    Every one is lying, every one is irrelevant (only a gang of 4 mecharchei riv are relevant) and no one should mix, in your boss’s “Business” that all what you can say.

    I can’t wait to see you respond again because I will continue laughing.

    Thank you very much