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Rabbi accused of bribery appointed Head of Jerusalem Rabbinical Court

Are extortion and bribery integral parts of Judaism?



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In May 2012, Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar appointed Rabbi Yisrael Yifrah to head the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, a court that is just one level below the Great Rabbinical Court. Shortly before that, Rabbi Yifrah had his name removed from a list of candidates to the latter court because he was accused of bribery, extortion, and refusing to compel abusive husbands to grant their wives a divorce. His new post is substantial. In Israel, all civil events from birth to death pass through religious courts and authorities. The laws regulating this were inherited by Israel from the Ottoman Empire, which used millet courts to rule its confessional communities; millet is derived from the Arabic millah, a word roughly meaning nation. Thus, all citizens defined as Jewish by Israel’s Ministry of Interior and living in the Jerusalem District would eventually be at the mercy of Rabbi Yifrah. This is critical, since Jewish law requires the consent of both spouses before granting a divorce. Since divorces are regulated by Jewish law, the Halakha, rabbis have enormous weight in divorce cases; accordingly, bribery cases thrive.

Rabbi Yisrael Yifrah

Rabbi Yisrael Yifrah

Mavoi Satum (“Dead End” in Hebrew) is an Israeli advocacy group that helps women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. Following the appointment of Rabbi Yifrah, this group said that it has received complaints and evidence-based testimony indicating that Rabbi Yifrah has committed extortion, asked for and offered bribes, and refused to compel divorce even in cases involving domestic violence or rape. The organization made the accusations in a letter sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. Yet, the appointment was approved by Judicial Ombudsman Eliezer Goldberg, a retired Supreme Court Justice. Other publications by local media corroborate the allegations; Rabbi Yifrah is quite a dark star. Does the Halakha sanction bribery? Are extortionist rabbis kosher?

“That’s not fair! He represents neither Judaism nor the State,” would probably be the answer of Israeli authorities to my last questions. Yet, Rabbi Yifrah gets his salary from the state. He wasn’t fired after apparently well-based accusations of bribery and extortion had been reported. That means that he and his views are supported by the state. He doesn’t represent Judaism; yet, his fellow rabbis support him, as his recent appointment as head of a prominent religious court shows. Does the Jewish state sanction extortion? If Rabbi Yifrah were an exception, the state could claim I am leading a smear–campaign against it. After all, the charisma of this man could be so large as to be labeled “irresistible.” Religious and state authorities would succumb to his charm without any possibility of requesting the fulfillment of the law, be it civilian or religious. This is an appealing theory, but obviously wrong.

Shmuel Eliyahu - Tzfat's Chief Rabbi

Shmuel Eliyahu - Tzfat's Chief Rabbi

In 2011, I published On Racist Rabbis, where an odd edict by Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, was analyzed. Rabbi Eliyahu is an employee of the State of Israel and a leading religious figure in one of the four holy cities of Judaism (the others are Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias). Yet, he felt comfortable issuing a decree instructing residents not to rent rooms or houses to Israeli Arabs (in other words Palestinians with Israeli citizenship). The latter are full citizens of the State of Israel. Subsequently, posters appeared all over the town, saying: “Don’t rent rooms to Arabs. Don’t give work to Arabs. Don’t give Arabs any foothold in our community.” Jews renting rooms to Israeli Arabs got telephonic threats. One such a case was of Eliyahu Zvieli (89, survivor of WWII) who rents rooms to three Palestinian students. He reported “People have called the house and threatened to attack, they said they would burn it down if we don’t leave.” This is a very wrong interpretation of what the Bible says, though it may be justified with texts appearing in the racist Talmud. However, this is not only a wrong interpretation of the Israeli law, it is illegal. One cannot define a discriminating room-rental policy in a country where allegedly, all citizens are equal.

Yet, Rabbi Eliyahu is free, preaching unlawful policies, highly-respected by his peers, and getting a generous salary from the State of Israel. “OK, so there are two ultra-charismatic, unstoppable rabbis committing crimes. So what?” I will not endanger my being accused of conducting a biased research; let’s bring into the article another monster rabbi. Three is the charmed number, isn’t it?

Rav Dov Lior

Rav Dov Lior

On June 2011, Rav Dov Lior was finally arrested (see Monster Rabbi). He is the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba in the Occupied Territories. He is also Head of the Kiryat Arba Hesder Yeshiva, and Heads of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria. He is a spiritual leader of the ultra-nationalist party National Union; Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is a spinoff of it; Rehavam Zeevi—who endorsed ethnic transfer until he was assassinated—was one of the movement’s questionable leaders. Born as Dov Leibland, he studied at the Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook's Mercaz haRav Yeshiva, where the head rabbi treated him like a son. This is important. In Netanyahu’s Mule, I described the historical pact between Zionists and Pharisees—namely the rabbinical orthodoxy—during the 19th Century, that eventually created the State of Israel. Nowadays, Netanyahu is one of the prominent Zionists leading the pact, while Rav Dov Lior is one of the prominent rabbis endorsing it; thus his apparent immunity is not surprising.

His main activity is providing religious justification for Jewish violence against the rest of humanity. His arrest last year was the result of his endorsing (he wrote a preface) of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira’s Torat Hamelech. The book contains a series of Talmudic interpretations on the “Teachings for the King;” in other words a set of instructions for Netanyahu, the closest thing nowadays to an actual king. Yet, the term “king” may be used to describe a secular ruler. One of the interpretations in the book justifies killing non-Jews by the Jewish-state. In other words, all Israeli victims got what they deserved, and the Israeli criminals that committed the crimes are automatically absolved. Is this the meaning of Judaism? Is this an example of the Jewish Heart?


Real Judaism is based on the Bible, not the Talmud | NKUSA

All this is horrific; yet, it is hard to understand why Rabbi Dov Lior was arrested only in 2011. His past includes several moral pitfalls:

+Rav Dov Lior has legitimized killing non-Jews during wartime; this is used by the IDF while using Palestinian human shields—including children.

+Rav Dov Lior ruled Jewish women should not use sperm donated by a non-Jewish man, claiming that a baby born through such an insemination will have the negative genetic traits that characterize non-Jews. He literally said: “Gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring.”

+Rav Dov Lior is directly connected to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Leading rabbis have testified that he was the source of rulings labeling the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a "rodef" and a "moser" (“pursuer” and “giver,” in other words a traitor who endangers Jewish lives). Yigal Amir—Rabin’s assassin—used to travel to Hebron to get advice from the rabbi.

+Rav Dov Lior instructed Baruch Goldstein, who massacred many Palestinians praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994. After the massacre, the rabbi ruled that Goldstein was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust” (and the ADL didn’t sue him!).

+Menachem Livni, who headed a terror organization dubbed the "Jewish Underground" and was convicted of murders testified that the spirit behind the underground was the Rav Dov Lior. The latter was very specific in his demands, and according to the testimony of the murderer, Rav Dov Lior was involved in the details and decided how and when they would act. Lior pressured the hesitant perpetrators to blow up six buses with all their passengers. The buses were loaded with explosives with the object of killing hundreds. Only the delay enabled the Shin Bet to arrest them at the last minute.

None of these acts justified his arrest. Only a short and insignificant preface to a book was used as an excuse to justify Netanyahu’s self-praise on his rule. “Yet, he was arrested!” my few Zionists readers are saying by now. Please, do not despair for the rabbi’s well being! Rabbi Dov Lior was released a few hours after his arrest—apparently after having enjoyed a cup of coffee with the local commander—enabling Prime Minister Netanyahu to state proudly: “Israeli law applies to all Israeli citizens.” The fact is that it doesn’t. Some are worth more. Some are even above the law, capable of preaching and acting against it, in the name of the state. By allowing this, the State of Israel undermines its allegations of being a legitimate organization, as expanded in Is Israel Sovereign?

Jesus warned about this type of racism and hypocrisy two millennia ago. Matthew 23:15: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

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