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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Father-Son Chief Rabbi History

Rav Yitzhak Yosef Shlit"a, who was appointed as Rishon Letzion, is, of course, the son of Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlit"a.  The appointment of both father and son as Rishonim Letzion is not unprecedented.  However, it hasn't happened in 94 years.

According to Wikipedia Hebrew's List of Rishonim Letzion, Rav Yaakov Sha'ul Elyashar ZT"L was Rishon Letzion from 1893-1906.  His son, Rav Hayim Moshe Elyashar ZT"L was Rishon Letzion from 1919-1921.  (According to the list in English, however, Rav Hayim Moshe Elyashar was Rishon Letzion from 1914-1915.  I would guess that the Hebrew version is more authoritative.  Also, a different Wikipedia page says "Nissim Danon—In 1917, Palestine was occupied by the British. Danon was succeeded as chief rabbi after WWI by Haim Moshe Eliashar who assumed the title of Acting Chief Rabbi.")

See an article (in Hebrew) and a video of Rav Ovadia Shlit"a praising his son, Rav Yitzhak.  He said to his son to care for the Agunot and have Ahavat Yisrael.  He concluded by saying that he is not just a rabbi of Haredim or just for the religious, but a rabbi of all of Israel.

On the Ashkenazic side, Rav David Lau Shlit"a is the son of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlit"a, the first such father-son pair for the much-more-recently-established Ashkenazic Chief Rabbinate.  See an article (in Hebrew) and a video where the elder Rav Lau also praised his son, and noted that Rav David Lau is the 39th (!!!) generation of rabbis in his lineage, but the first born in Israel.


At Wed Jul 24, 07:08:00 PM 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome Mashiah Ben Yosef and Mashiah Ben David

At Thu Jul 25, 01:31:00 AM 2013, Blogger Cosmic X said...

Mazal Tov to our new Chief Rabbis!

There are several MKs that want to change the law so that only one Chief Rabbi will be elected.

Personally I think that this is a mistake for two reasons.

1) Both chief rabbis are extremely busy. How will one rabbi be able to do the work of two?

2) The institute of "Rishon LeTzion" existed before the Chief Rabbinate, as can be seen from your post. I don't see the non-Ashkenazic community cancelling this institution if the "Chief Rabbi" that gets chosen in the next elections is an Ashkenazi.

At Thu Jul 25, 01:32:00 AM 2013, Blogger yaak said...

Good points, Cosmic. My feelings exactly.

At Thu Jul 25, 03:01:00 PM 2013, Blogger Jacob said...


It's interesting that you bring up R' Haim Moshe Elyashar. One can't help but detect an eerie parallel between the latest election of the rabbinate and the one that occurred nearly 100 years ago, which also pitted the forces of religious Zionism against the traditionalists when a young Zionist-affiliated Rabbi Yaakov Meir challenged R. Elyashar, the traditionalist son of a former Rishon Letziyon.

BTW - the Hebrew Wiki version is the correct one, R' Haim Moshe Elyashar was elected Rishon Letziyon at a meeting of the leading rabbis in Palestine in August 1919 (he was also the first Rishon Letziyon with which the title of Haham Bashi was left out). A year and a half later, in Feb. 1921, the process of electing the Ashkenazic and Sephardic chief rabbis was formalized along with the creation of the title 'Rav Haroshi Le-Eretz Yisrael'. Rav Kook was unanimously elected on the Ashkenazic side, while the Sephardic votes went as follows: 27 for R' Yaakov Meir, 12 for R' Elyashar and 12 for R' Benzion Uziel.

At Fri Jul 26, 11:42:00 AM 2013, Blogger Jacob said...

Also, I find Rav Y. M. Lau's statement of his son being the 39th generation of rabbis is truly remarkable. If true, (using an average generational gap of 30 years) that would trace back their lineage to the 900s. I wonder if they have actual documentation to back up that claim.

At Fri Jul 26, 11:54:00 AM 2013, Blogger yaak said...

I don't remember where I saw it, but I believe the elder Rav Lau mentioned being descended from Maharam Padua. From what I remember, but I could be wrong, it sounded like the 39 began with him, but that would have to mean a lot of young fathers (less than the 30 year gap). It could be that it started earlier though.

At Fri Jul 26, 12:59:00 PM 2013, Blogger Jacob said...

Indeed that must be true. Just going back to the Maharam of Padua's presumed birthday of 1482 would assume an average generational gap of 13.6 years.


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