14-Year-Old Sues to be Israel's Youngest Rabbi

A 14-year-old who took the ordination exam has sued to force the Rabbinate to grade his test and declare him a rabbi if he passed it.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 08:15

Moshe Raziel Sharify
Moshe Raziel Sharify
Israel news photo

14-year-old Moshe Raziel Sharify filed a suit with the Supreme Court on Sunday asking that the Rabbinate be forced to grade an ordination exam he took. Sharify, a child prodigy with an impressive grasp of Biblical and Talmudic studies, would become Israel's youngest rabbi if he were to be ordinated after passing the test.

The affair began when Sharify was allowed to take the ordination test despite his age, which was clearly printed on his application to sit for the exam. When he arrived to take the exam he faced opposition from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

Rabbi Amar seemed to be unaware that his colleague, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, had given Sharify permission to be tested.

While Rabbi Amar eventually agreed to allow Sharify to be tested, the Rabbinate has refused to grade his test, stating that according to internal rules, the minimal age to become a rabbi is 22 and that he should not have been allowed to write the examination. 

Prior to registering for the test Sharify had been tested on his knowledge of Jewish law by several renowned rabbis, including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Chaim Bezek, a senior dayan (religious judge) in the courts of Tiveria and Tzfat, and Rabbi Gidon Ben-Moshe, the head of Jerusalem's religious court. He had been ordained to give Jewish legal rulings on matters pertaining to Sabbath observance.

Sharify believes that he passed the ordination exam.

His suit - filed by his father's law office - mentions many famed rabbis of the past and present who were ordained at a young age, among them Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, and the Chofetz Chaim. In addition, Sharify notes that a 17-year-old young man was once allowed to take the ordination exam, and argues that if an exception was made for that man, one should be made for him as well.

Sharify's father, Dr. Nissan Sharify, said he is not pleased with the way the Rabbinate has handled the affair. He accused Rabbi Amar of failing to meet with the Sharify family to discuss the matter.

The suit alleges, "The defendants misled the plaintiff and treated him in a scornful, humiliating manner. In doing so, they ignored the fundamentals of Jewish tradition, and ignored the basic norms by which a normal society operates."

Said a prominent rabbi who asked to remain unidentified: "In Judaism, not all halakhic questions are black and white and can be answered using the logic and knowledge that are tested on written examinations. There are also those questions whose answers call for acquired wisdom, life experience and maturity within halakhic parameters. Young geniuses who have been ordained in the past were not expected to begin to serve the public in that capacity".