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The new Acting Chief Rabbi: Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz

On Sunday, the term of the current Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, is expected to end. The two were supposed to end their 10-year term a year ago, but this was extended by special hour orders due to the political difficulties of electing a new candidate, and also due to the war.

The political cloud that surrounds the issue of the new Chief Rabbinical Elections is particularly complicated this year, and it is difficult to get down to all its considerations and details: This began in an organized manner with a deal between Deri and Smotrich about a religious-Zionist Ashkenazi rabbi and a Haredi Sephardic rabbi; but on both sides there were different complications, with Smotrich on the Ashkenazi side establishing a special committee that selected Rabbi Meir Kahane as a candidate, but soon discovered that there was not enough consensus around him (although this was the purpose of the committee in the first place); On the Sephardic side, it seems that Deri has difficulty deciding between the brother of the current Chief Rabbi (Rabbi David Yosef) and his own brother (Rabbi Yehuda Deri – Rabbi of the city of Be’er Sheva), when each choice raises suspicions of nepotism. In addition, there are reports of cracks in the agreement between Deri and Smotrich – so everything seems to be up in the air.

In any case, according to Israeli law, in a situation in which a new Chief Rabbi is soon to be elected, the eldest rabbi of the Chief Rabbinate’s Council will serve in an Acting capacity. Today, it is Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, 86, a former rabbi of the city of Ra’anana, as well as one of the founders of the Shas party, a Knesset member and Minister of Interior during the 80s. Rabbi Peretz is a native of Morocco and is known as a Torah prodigy – with rabbinate training at the age of 24, and the beginning of his tenure as city rabbi at the age of 30. And now, from the youngest of the city rabbis, Rabbi Peretz will become the oldest Chief Rabbi.

Some criticism was passed on the appointment, due to Rabbi Peretz’s complicated health condition, whom has undergone strokes in the past, and according to some reports, has not been functioning in recent years. The Director-General of the Ministry of Religious Services even changed his opinion regarding the competence of Rabbi Peretz in order to enable his appointment to the position. However, it is important to remember that there is no legal reference to the situation in which the elder of the rabbis is not qualified, and if Peretz is not appointed Chief Rabbi, there may not be Chief Rabbis in Israel. In the end, apart from the best health wishes for Rabbi Peretz, there are two leading solutions: Change the law, or hold elections soon.

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