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The Legacy of Rav Elyashiv
It's hard to imagine a greater chilul Hashem than this. A former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel is going to prison. For massive bribery and corruption. The classic antisemitic trope of the cheating, money-grabbing Jew is being displayed to the world in the person who holds the office that represents Judaism.
In case you haven't seen the news yet, Rabbi Yona Metzger, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 2003 to 2013, is accepting a prison term rather than going to trial. This is for pocketing about two million dollars in bribes and from funds that he was supposed to transfer to charity.
breach of trust, money laundering and tax evasionbreach of trust, money laundering and tax evasionbreach of trust, money laundering and tax evasion
While the responsibility for the crimes is Rabbi Metzger's alone, the responsibility for the chilul Hashem lies with others. Because long before the revelations of these particular crimes came to light - indeed, before Rabbi Metzger was appointed to the position of Chief Rabbi - there were numerous allegations of severe improprieties. In 1998, when Rabbi Metzger was about to be nominated as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, a number of allegations surfaced against him, including fraud, sexual harassment, forged signatures on wedding contracts, and threatening other rabbis. Rabbi Metzger's certification to serve as chief rabbi of a large city was suspended, and a disciplinary hearing was established, presided over by Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Rav She'ar Yashuv Cohen and Rav Simcha Kook. In the end, an agreement was reached whereby the inquiry would not be completed if Metzger would agree not to accept the role of chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.
And so when Rabbi Metzger later accepted the appointment as Chief Rabbi of the entire country, Rav Bakshi-Doron was furious. As he wrote to the Chief Rabbinic Council, "It never occurred to me this rabbi [Metzger] would have the chutzpah to stand for chief rabbi of Israel after promising not to contest Tel Aviv's rabbinate."
How did it happen that a rabbi under such a cloud was able to secure such a position? After all, it's not as though there were no alternatives. Thank God, there is no shortage of wonderful rabbis in Israel. In particular, there was an outstanding candidate for the role, Rav Yaakov Ariel. So how on earth did the position get awarded to Rabbi Metzger?
The answer is Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv and his court (which included Rabbi Yosef Efrati and Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein) pushed for the appointment, and they were powerful enough to get it. They wanted it because despite Rabbi Metzger's national-religious background, he had become more charedi and promised allegiance to Rav Elyashiv's rulings, such as with regard to invalidating the heter mechira. (See the excellent article by Rabbi Shaya Karlinksy, The Price of Halachic Power.) And they knew full well about the allegations, as the Jerusalem Post reported:
"Asked Saturday night if he had made known his suspicions against Metzger to Rabbi Shalom Eliashiv, the head of the non-Hassidic Ashkenazi haredi world, whose directives to support Metzger gained him his upset victory, Bakshi-Doron replied that he had sent important rabbinical messengers, including the son of the late sage Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, to tell Eliashiv "who was Metzger." Eliashiv is said to have replied to one of the messengers, Rehovot Chief Rabbi Simcha Kook, "Af al pi chen [nevertheless, Metzger should be supported]." ...Ma'alot Dafna Rabbi Nahum Eisenstein, a close aid of Eliashiv, noted that "nothing has been substantiated, nothing proven. Halacha [Jewish law] holds by the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Things have to be proven in a proper way, otherwise we don't believe anything."
Rav Elyashiv and Rabbi Tropper
Alas, this was not the only time that Rav Elyashiv's court empowered a person known to be corrupt who ended up causing a massive chillul Hashem. There was also Rabbi Leib Tropper, who was empowered by Rav Elyashiv's court and many other charedi Gedolim as the most important person in the field of conversion, despite decades of allegations of improprieties. My own very limited knowledge of Tropper made me immediately realize that he was a deeply problematic person, and I publicly asked why he was being given such power. A few weeks later, video and audio recordings eventually surfaced that displayed Tropper committing unspeakable acts, which finally caused him to lose his position - though Rav Elyashiv's grandson still honored him by speaking at an event of his several months later. (And then there was the time that several of the Gedolim signed a letter attesting to the righteousness of the monster Elior Chen, which Rav Chaim Kanievsky justified to my neighbor by saying that he signed because his rabbis signed.)
I think that most people would agree that when a rabbi with an extremely shady reputation is put into a position of great power, at least some of the responsibility for any resultant chilul Hashem lies with those who put them into the position of power - in this case, the chareidi Gedolim system. The question is, how many times does this have to happen before responsibility should also be placed with those who profess allegiance to the chareidi Gedolim system and thereby empower it?