Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Fake Mohel, Rabbi (?) Yosef Tarab


At 2:56 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Spiritual leader inspires fear with a word in Israel --- Edict fuels concerns about ultra-Orthodox rabbis' power
by Sandro Contenta
Toronto Star
March 20,1999

HERZILIYA PITUACH, Israel - Benny Pour and Amnon Cohen-Schur have good reason to fear for their lives.

They have a rabbinical death sentence hanging over their heads. And their only "crime" was to question the credentials of the young rabbi in charge of their Sephardic synagogue in this wealthy suburb of Tel Aviv.

The Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shalom Mashash, came to the young rabbi's defence by issuing a din rodef, an ancient decree in Jewish religious law that allows the killing of anyone threatening the lives of Jews. Mashash issued it even though no life is being threatened.

The decree has sparked a police investigation and has fuelled concerns about the power wielded by Israel's ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

It hit the Pours and Cohen-Schurs like a bolt from the blue as they attended a recent Friday service in the synagogue they helped build.

At the end of the service, a member of the synagogue's board of directors read Mashash's letter condemning unnamed members of the congregation for having "risen up" against the leader of the Heichal Mordechai synagogue, Rabbi Yosef Tarab.

"These people are subject to din rodef," said the letter from Mashash, who is also head of the holy city's rabbinical courts.

Rabbinical death sentence has huge impact since Rabin's assassination The stunned congregation knew exactly who "these people" were and all eyes turned to the Pour and Cohen-Schur families, who had for months charged that Tarab faked his rabbi's certificate.

Since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the words din rodef have the impact of a Scud missile on Israeli society.

Rabin's Jewish killer, Yigal Amir, said at his trial that at least one rabbi told him Rabin deserved to die according to din rodef because he placed the lives of Jews in danger by signing a peace deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Pour's son Shai, 17, was in the synagogue when the Mashash letter was read. "I couldn't believe it. Right away I thought of Yitzhak Rabin and how he was killed," he said.

Shai rushed home and told his father, who dismissed it. A week later, a terrified Cohen-Schur brought in dozens of posters he found plastered throughout their affluent neighbourhood. Under the heading "Cursed is he who strikes his neighbour in secret," the posters mentioned the allegations against Tarab and noted that his accusers were subject to din rodef.

Pour, 53, and Cohen-Schur, 49, were not named. The posters have been handed over to police.

"I'm afraid for my wife and my children," Pour, who owns a small construction company, said in an interview. "I grew up among Orthodox people and believe me, some of them are fanatics. They look up to these rabbis and they will feel obligated to carry out this commandment of din rodef."

He has hired private security guards to patrol his house at night, he said, and former friends now sit away from his family when they attend the synagogue. Recently, the family dog disappeared and was found a day later badly injured and unable to move.

Cohen-Schur, the owner of an investment firm, has installed flood lights and video cameras around his home and now spends most of his time working out of his house.

Both men have filed a complaint with police and a civil suit against Mashash for $1 million (U.S.).

Their nightmare began as a dream in 1992, when they decided to raise funds for the building of a synagogue for their Sephardic community - Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descent - who for years gathered to pray in the hall of a hotel.

With sizable donations of their own, they raised $2 million (U.S.) from private donors and had the synagogue built two years ago. Its spectacular stained-glass windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel rise smack in the middle of a neighbourhood known for the wealth of its Ashkenazi residents of European descent.

"We were so proud. This synagogue was our life," Pour said.

Cohen-Schur looked for a rabbi and found Tarab, 24, whose father had officiated at Cohen-Schur's wedding.

Tarab said he was certified as both a rabbi and a mohel. But when a baby had to go to hospital after the rabbi's first circumcision, Pour and Cohen-Schur went to the Chief Rabbinate, the sole authority recognized by the ministry of health to license those who perform ritual circumcisions.

The Chief Rabbinate could find no record of Tarab's mohel certificate. Tarab refused to comment when contacted by The Star, but admitted to the Ha'aretz newspaper that he had failed his circumcision exams.

Pour and Cohen-Schur then asked to see his rabbinical certificate, and all Tarab could produce was a photocopy bearing the names of three senior rabbis, including Mashash. Cohen-Schur contacted the rabbis and came back with letters from the three saying they had no recollection of Tarab. They ruled his photocopy invalid.

But two of the rabbis, including Mashash, changed their story after meetings with Tarab and came out solidly in his defence. Two months ago Mashash issued the din rodef.

Tarab still has not produced original documents of his certification.

Cohen-Schur then confronted Mashash. He got a letter from Mashash saying his din rodef was wrongly interpreted. "I never intended din rodef, heaven forbid, in the sense that anyone should be killed - may the word never be uttered. I meant that they were persecuting (Tarab) in order to dishonour him, as they thought he had committed a forgery. That was my whole intent and nothing more than that," Mashash wrote.

But Pour and Cohen-Schur fear the original decree still applies. Mashash's clarification was neither read to the congregation nor posted.

Despite repeated requests by The Star, Mashash's office said the rabbi was unavailable for comment.

Experts in rabbinical law say Mashash should have known better than to write his din rodef.

"The use of the term is so wildly out of context that I can't believe it was meant seriously," said Rabbi Ezra Bick, who teaches Jewish law and philosophy in Jerusalem.

Din rodef is a legal term found in the Talmud, the ancient books that interpret the Torah. It amounts to the law of self-defence. If someone's life is threatened by a rodef, an attacker who is in hot pursuit, he can kill the attacker and be exonerated under Jewish religious law.

In almost all cases, din rodef is applied after a killing has occurred.

Charges were never laid against rabbis alleged to have issued a din rodef on Rabin because evidence against them was deemed to be hearsay.

But Knesset member Yossi Sarid, chairman of the left-wing Meretz party, claims that his personal investigation of Rabin has uncovered new evidence.

"(Israel's ultra-Orthodox rabbis) have too much political power," Sarid said in an interview. "The use of din rodef is one of the most blatant examples of that."

LIVING SCARED: A death sentence issued by Rabbi Shalom Mashash, Sephardic chief rabbi Of Jerusalem and head of the rabbinical courts, means Benny Pour and his son Shai, far left, are constantly on guard, even in their Tel Aviv home.

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALWAYS insist on inspecting Smicha documents.
Actually it only takes one rabbi to issue an ordination
I have placed a technical explanation of the different ordinations in the Orthodox world

We have a system today in which there are really 3 levels of smicha and a 4th category that we allow to use the title Rabbi even though they don't really have a smicha and can't give smicha under our system.

All 4 from lowest level to highest:

1) Rav u'manhig
Really just permission to use the title Rabbi. Just a community leader/teacher. No permission to give wide psak and likely no right to give smicha (todays) to others.

One caveat, such an individual may have been given a very narrow right by their teacher to give psak in a very narrow area to a very limited degree. Beyond that, they must forward questions to a recognized posek.

The following 3 groups can give smicha at their level and below:

Yoreh Yoreh can give psak except in more specialized areas like Dinei Nidah and can't be a judge.

3) Yadin Yadin can be a judge and rule in dinei Nidah.

4) There is a level of smicha that deals with making rulings in regard to Temple work. Obvously, not as practical an area (for now) and as far as I know is not widely given. Usually, people giving/receiving such smicha today are people who have strong emunah in regard to the immediate comming of the Moshiach.
This is called Yechachin Yechachin
A proper Orthodox rabbi will have a Yorea Yorea


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