In his address to the Sixth Lod Conference, Rabbi David Stav, a dati leumi contender to become the next Ashkenazi chief rabbi explains his vision for the rav fulfilling the post. Rabbi Stav, who is a founder of the Tzohar Rabbonim organization as well as the current rav of the community of Shoham, feels there must be radical change in the Chief Rabbinate towards better understanding and meeting the needs of the nation.
Rabbi Stav was among the four candidates for the post who took part in a panel discussion at the closing of the conference, addressing their vision for the future of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, particularly the role of the Chief Rabbinate and the state authority. The other candidates are Rabbi Dovid Lau (Chief Rabbi of Modi’in/a son of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita), Rabbi Yaakov Shapira (Rosh Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav/a son of former Chief Rabbi HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Kahana Shapira ZT”L), and Dayan Eliezer Igra (a dayan on the Chief Rabbinate Rabbinical Supreme Court/rav of the community of Kfar Maimon).
Rabbi Lau feels that Yiddishkheit has what to say about economics and defense, reminding the audience that King David required permission from the Sanhedrin before heading out to war. He feels that the Rabbinate should play a role in these vital matters too. He feels that if and when the Chief Rabbinate exhibits concern and opts to be heard, the nation will be attentive. He feels “they will understand the words come from those who truly and genuinely care, from one who cares about Am Yisrael, one premised on Torah values.”
Rabbi Igra feels the connection is a natural one, one that eventually ties into Halacha. “The king and the royal family are given to the people and they will decide the form of government. We are a democratic government and we are speaking about this point – how we make the connection between the kingdom and the power of the Torah.”
“There is a need for a righteous state and the rabbis must be heard. It is not always easy and there isn’t always agreement. However we do not have to enter into political issues l’chatchila. There is an array of issues on the daily agenda. The state is trying to pass the budget. Are the rabbonim to become involved in the budget…? I do not believe that every rav has to be an economics professor. I am confident there are many economists in Israel today who are religious and believe in the Torah and consult appropriately. Ultimately, the Torah has an opinion but not every rav is proficient in economics or technology and when the Chief Rabbinate will become involved in these matters, I believe it brings additional honor to the Chief Rabbinate.”
“Today, we are in a different era, one that is totally different that the era of Rav Kook and Rav Herzog. Today, in Knesset, there are 40 MKs who classify themselves as “dati” and there are others who are traditional. The affinity of Klall Yisrael to Toras Yisrael has undergone major change, a revolution. There is no doubt that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s voice must be heard, particularly on the issues of justice and tzedaka.”
Rabbi Stav feels that if the Chief Rabbinate is to address worldly matters, it must acquire the tools to address these matters. “At times, we hear two security experts who are diametrically opposed. The rabbis are called upon to express the Torah view must have an understanding, see the reality towards discussing the issues pertinent to social issues and the economy.”
Rabbi Stav explained that he and his colleagues have held different opinions on issues in the past, and this is legitimate as we learn in the Torah. “In order to address national issues we must change the disc” the rav added, “for the rabbonim must understand we are not in a shtieble but we are dealing with a state, a nation. One must have a broad view of the nation’s needs in order to express an opinion. This can be accomplished by attaining an understanding of the issues at hand and then to express a Torah view without connection to a pure Torah hashkafa.”
“There is no doubt that the chief rabbi, regardless of his personal opinion, must act in response to seeing injustice or economic hardship”, explaining the rav must take the step out of his area towards assisting those in need in all areas required.
Rabbi Shapira feels the value of Torah is education and the more the voice is heard the more the words may have an influence. The rabbi added that the problems facing the people today are many, all serious. “Even the person atop of the pyramid would like to avail himself of the opinions of the hundreds of rabbis, to consult with them. The Chief Rabbinate must have broad shoulders, to involve many talmidei chachamim in Eretz Yisrael – to stand to the right of the rabbonim and to involve themselves in the matters the chief rabbis are involved in.”
Rabbi Shapira stressed the Chief Rabbinate must address issues of morality and ethics, education and Halacha, and the institution of the Chief Rabbinate must become the address not only for those who observe Torah and mitzvos, but also for those who do not.
Rabbi Shapira also feels the Chief Rabbinate lacks the extended arm to reach the people, and towards accomplishing this, it would be wise to reevaluate the process of how neighborhood rabbonim are appointed.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)