Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rav Herzog and the Tel Aviv Election

In response to my post on Chaim Herzog's account of his father's election to the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel, I was asked to post about the highly contested election for the position of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv which R. Herzog lost. Here is what Chaim Herzog has to say about that, from Living History, pp. 20-21, beginning with the funeral procession in Israel for R. Herzog's father, the rabbi of the Orthodox community of Paris:

The procession moved to the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv on Allenby Street, where my father recited the kaddish and tributes were paid to my grandfather by the leaders of the city. From here our convoy proceeded up the Jaffa-Jerusalem road... Our first stop was at the Etz Haim Yeshiva, at the entrance to the city [of Jerusalem]. Here rabbis and students emerged, and again the appropriate prayers were recited...

We made it to the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the chief rabbi of Palestine and a saintly figure, great scholar, and philosopher, cam out and stood behind the truck. The prayers were recited, my father again said kaddish, and Rabbi Kook delivered a eulogy. When he finished, my father spoke. Though we did not attach any significance to this even, Rabbi Kook was in the last months of his life--indeed, this was his final public appearance. While my father was not a candidate to replace him, this meeting was later much remarked upon. My father was running for rabbinical office in Tel Aviv, not for the chief rabbinate. That he was the last man to follow Rabbi Kook on the podium, as it were, was later seen as a sort of passing of the rabbinical baton...

While in Palestine, we visited friends' orange groves and went to kibbutzim, but the bulk of our time was spent in Tel Aviv, where my father campaigned for the city's chief rabbinate. His main supporter was a Rabbi Yitzchak Pinchas, who was pushing his candidacy against the Mizrachi (a religious party). My father met all the leading luminaries, religious and not so religious, demonstrating his Talmudic prowess, delivering sermons in the Great Synagogue, and giving Talmudic discourses both in the great yeshivot of Jerusalem and in centers of learning in Tel Aviv. In the yeshivot, scholars tried to upset his theses, interrupting his remarks and arguing vociferously, but he floored them with his phenomenal memory and profound understanding of the Talmud. By the time his trip was over, he had made an indelible impression. However, the struggle in Tel Aviv was a political one, and Rabbi Amiel of Antwerp, the Mizrachi candidate, won the war of backroom politics, receiving twenty-one votes to ten for my father and three for the renowned Rabbi Soloveitchik of the United States.
For a perspective on R. Soloveitchik's candidacy, see R. Jeffrey Saks' article "Rabbi Soloveitchik Meets Rav Kook" in Tradition 39:3. He lists the following additional sources in his note 1:
Shaul Farber, Community, Schooling, and Leadership: Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's Maimonides School and the Development of Boston's Orthodox Community (PhD diss., Hebrew University, March 2000), pp. 81-85. See also: R. Tsevi (Hershel) Schachter, Nefesh ha-Rav (Jerusalem: Reishit, 1994), p. 84; Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 36-8; and Shlomo Pick, "The Rav: A Pressing Need for a Comprehensive Biography," B.D.D. 10 (Winter 2000), pp. 48-9, and p. 52, esp. at note 30.

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