Rabbi Israel Meir Lau
Speaking on Monday at the annual conference of the Rabbinical Center of Europe being held in Romania, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said that "a rabbi must distinguish between the glory of G-d and his own dignity."
Rabbi Lau spoke about the state of Jewry today, saying that "today a Rabbi must act on three levels, as the Rebbe of Lubavitch told me in a conversation with him 44 years ago. The Rebbe said to me, 'I don't want to correct your use of the concept "Outreach to those afar" because I don't know who's afar, only G-d knows. I prefer to use the term "bringing Jews closer".'"
Rabbi Lau added, "In my opinion, it's forbidden to abandon one Jew. Rabbis must work with three circles: the first circle is made up of those who observe the Torah and mitzvot and expect him to be a posek, a halakhic decisor. The second circle consists of traditional Jews and the rabbi's mission is to bring them into the first circle. The third circle includes Jews who have no Jewish identity and perhaps a mezuzah on the door of their home, though it's not certain there's a parchment in the mezuzah case. A rabbi should visit every sick person in his community who is ill for more than three days and visit any congregant in hospital. There's no doubt that such an act will move people from the third circle to the second and bring them closer to Judaism."
He attacked opponents of the Chief Rabbinate and implicitly criticized the Tzohar rabbis, who recently announced their own kashrut certification. "We are students of Hillel (the more tolerant Talmudic scholar whose contra was the stringent Shammai, ed.) and we will do not need to be taught that halakha goes according to Beit Hillel (a Talmudic dictum, excepting certain special cases, ed.). We will not be taught either in the street or in the media. There is also a group of rabbis who call themselves 'Rabbis of Beit Hillel," intimating that we are Rabbis of Beit Shammai".
"Today there is a new word, 'religionization', that is a buzzword, a mantra used with the word 'incitement'. To turn a Jew into a observant Jew [to these people] is religionization, akin to incitement. Incite him against what? Not to make compromises in keeping the Torah and not to perform only a third or a quarter. To all those who tell us to make 'corrections' in halakha or leniencies in halakha, I say - You come to change a work that you didn't create? That's vandalism. This is barbarity.
"You are asking the rabbi to 'correct' the Torah because we're in the 20th century? Change is heresy when applied to a basic Torah commandment from Sinai. The rabbis who speak today about making Judaism accessible and bringing halakha closer to the people are against Hillel ... Hillel spoke about brining the people close to Torah and not bringing the Torah close to them," said Rabbi Lau.
He concluded, "I appeal to all rabbis to love your communities. The role of the rabbi is to love peace, pursue peace, love people, and bring them closer to the Torah. That's the Rabbinate in the past, present, and future.”