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Moshe Sharify
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Sharify Family. "Moshe is an adult in a boy's body" say his parents.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Nisan Sharify and his son Moshe
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Moshe Sharify
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


By Rhonda Spivak, August 13, 2010

Fourteen Year  Old Moshe Sharify, A  Quiet, Pious Genious Desperately Wants to become A Rabbi- The Youngest In The World. Several prominent Rabbis Across Israel Have Given Him Their Backing, And Even Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger Thinks He’ll Make A Great Rabbi. He was invited by the Chief Rabbinate to take an ordination examination.  But After Completing the Test, He Was Told His Paper Wouldn’t Be Marked.  The Reason? An Unofficial, Internal Rabbinate Ruling That Doesn’t Allow Anyone Under 22 To Even Take The Examination.
Fourteen year old  boy wonder ,Moshe Raziel Sharify  who lives with his  family in Ramat Poleg, Netanya  would like to become the youngest Rabbi in Israel, and most likely the word , after having  recently written examinations for the Rabbinate which were held in Jerusalem and administered in by the Chief Rabbinate.
In the last year, the young student has been tested by some 10 well known and senior Rabbis for his knowledge of Jewish law, all of whom have been clearly impressed with the  the  length and breadth of his knowledge and intellectual capabilities. The consensus among them appears to be that he is a genius.
However,  Sharify’s proposed route to the Rabbinate has already become  a matter of significant controversy.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo  Amar remains steadfast in maintaining that notwithstanding that Sharify  was tested,  his examination  ought not  to be marked as he is not eligible for the Rabbinate until he reaches age 22.  Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, on the other hand, had initially supported Sharify’s  quest to become a Rabbi at age 14.  

Oded Weiner, Director General of the Chief Rabbinate’s office told the Jerusalem Post that “There is an internal decision made many years ago by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate   that  no one under the age of 22 is eligible  to be examined  for the rabbinate.”

He clarified that this internal decision “is  not a  formal regulation. It is not something  that is on the books of the Knesset. It is an internal decision.”

Sharify’s father,  Nisan Sharify who has a doctorate in law from Bar Ilan University and practices  taxation law, says he will petition the High Court of Justice to have his son’s examination marked and counted, like the examinations of  all other candidates.

“There is no legal regulation that says he must be 22 to become a  rabbi, and he has already been tested after being recommended by many rabbis as the genius of his time.  His test should be marked officially and since I have no doubt he has passed, he should become a rabbi now.” 

He notes that even  if his son were to become a  Rabbi at age fourteen, he will not be permitted to deal with matters of marriage and divorce as this is “something that only a rabbi who is a dayan can do.”

When asked whether anyone has ever taken examinations for the rabbinate, before they were age 22, Weiner responded, “As far as I can remember in the last five years , there was never such an outstanding exception. Maybe  the Department of Examinations of the Chief Rabbinate allowed it if someone  was within a few months of being  age 22 or within a year of being age 22.”

The young man’s mother Ronit who has a doctorate of political science from Bar Ilan University   she spoke to Metzger   directly and he supports  her son’s examination being given a formal mark so that it can be counted and Moshe will get this Rabbinical ordination.  “Metzger is in favor of this, “ says Ronit.

Haim Hemdinger, the director of  Metzger’s office confirmed  that  after Metzger had initially expressed this attitude there was a meeting of the  Council of the Chief Rabbinate, at which Metzger’s opinion did not win out.  According to Hemdinger “at the meeting  Rabbi Amar led the opposition to allowing  a 14 year old to be allowed to write the test,” and Amar’s position was adopted by the Council.  

Nevertheless, the young Sharify was sent a letter from the Department of  Examinations and Certifications  of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to invite him to  take the examinations for the rabbinate on July 12, 2010 in The International Convention Center. He paid the examination fee and arrived early. 

Nisan, Moshe’s father, says that once his son got that letter calling him to the examinations he thought that  it had been decided finally to allow his son to take the examinations and have them marked just like anyone else’s.

But, Hemdinger told the Post that the father “knew that we were allowing the son to take the test  so as to encourage him, but that it wouldn’t be counted as he was too young.” 

THE ELDER SHARIFY, for his part contends, that there was some talk of that happening originally, but that he understood that that position had changed and that in the end his son received permission to write the exam and have it counted like anyone else.

“It makes no sense to have him take the test if it can’t be counted,” Nisan  said.

The father notes that in the letter his son received there was nothing suggesting  that his son’s test results wouldn’t be counted.” 

Furthermore, Nisan says, “I have  learned that Rabbi Amar tried to convince the examiners to stop my son from completing the test, but gave way when  one of the examiners said they convinced him  it would  hurt my son’s  feelings to do so. But, afterward, I understand that Rabbi Amar said my son’s  examination booklets were not to be checked and ought not be considered .”

Moshe says  that during the examination itself  which “lasted  from about 11 o’clock a.m. to 4:30 p.m-  an examiner , whose name he didn’t know  came in and  flipped through his examination booklets and  said “very good.”  

The young man says that at the beginning of the Examination “ Rav Amar appeared and wished everyone luck in the examination” but that “ later he appeared again in the examination and spoke to someone for a few minutes. I didn’t see who it was. I saw that he was delayed there” 

When  the young  Sharify went to hand in his examination paper, he says that  he was told that “ Rabbi Amar did not want to have his examination booklet  checked.”

When contacted,  the  head of Rabbi  Amar’s office, Yitzhak Peretz told the Post that  “No one can be examined for the Rabbinate until they reach the age of 22, and Moshe Sharify is no exception.”

Peretz added “ What is so urgent? Why can’t he [Moshe]wait?”

When asked why the Rabbinate sent him a letter telling him where to appear for the examination, Peretz responded he went to the post office and paid the fee but that the Rabbinate didn’t know he was 14 years old. “ He didn’t tell anyone that.  Anyone can go and pay the fee.  The letter was se

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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