'Do not issue stringent rulings that may drive people away'

Rishon LeZion calls upon Rabbis to exercise halakhic discretion, take into account that unwarranted stringency repels people.

Mordechai Sones,

Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef at Rabbi's conference
Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef at Rabbi's conference
Yaakov Cohen

The Rishon Lezion, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, calls upon Rabbis of Israel to exercise redoubled caution when ruling on halakhic issues.

At the Chief Rabbinate's conference attended by dozens of rabbis at the Kinar Hotel, the rabbi said, "We, the rabbis, are not the owners of the Torah, that view is forbidden, and impossible to allow, and every rabbi must exercise discretion as to where to be stringent and where to make things easier."

He added that "Rabbis of Israel should try not to be stringent with the public. It is necessary to rule according to the essence of the law, and not to issue stringencies to the greater public. When people hear stringencies, sometimes it can drive them away [from observance]."

Rabbi Yosef told the rabbis of the cities that they should be aware that there is a misconception among the public regarding the halakhic concept of koach d'hitra adif - "the ability to be lenient is preferable."

"People think that a rabbi who permits things is to be preferred, but that is not true. The meaning is that if a rabbi is wise and looks for a way to permit something, it is better [to do so] than to prohibit due to doubt [about the right decision]." However, the Rishon Lezion stressed that everything should be done within the framework of the halakhah.

According to him, "Only in matters of agunot and mamzerim (children born of an adulterous relationship, ed.) there is a mitzva to make a special effort to be lenient, because the Torah has compassion on them, as the verse says: 'I saw the tears of the oppressed and they have no consolation.' Like Maran my father zt"l, who, thanks to his greatness in Torah, found a solution to the thousand agunot of the Yom Kippur War (women whose soldier husbands were unaccounted for and who were therefore halakhically precluded from remarrying), and left not one single open file."

The Rishon Lezion also called on the rabbis to concentrate more power on youth. He told how his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt"l, while serving as Rabbi of Tel Aviv, would himself visit the principals and administrators of non-religious schools, and would request to come and talk to students about Judaism.

"Maran's secretary would say to him: 'It is not respectable that the rabbi calls to invite himself', and Maran would answer him: 'I do not care about honor, I care about the people of Israel who do not know Judaism, and I want to teach them'."

The Chief Rabbinate's Conference for Rabbis of the Cities and Local Councils was held for the first time by the Chief Rabbinate at the initiative of the Executive Director, Rabbi Moshe Dagan.




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