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Illustration Photo: Israel Bardugo
Illustration Photo: Israel Bardugo
 
 

14-year-old takes Rabbinate exams

Chief Rabbinate hopes to encourage gifted teen by allowing him to sit ordination exams, but rules his answers will not be checked or bear any weight towards future rabbinical degree

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 07.18.10, 08:23 / Israel Jewish Scene

While his classmates spent the summer holidays at the beach or at the pool, vacationing in Israel or abroad, Moshe's focus was on a completely different subject. While they were trying to solve crossword puzzles or Sudoku, Moshe's gifted mind continued to race ahead. Last week, the boy fulfilled his dream of sitting the Chief Rabbinate's ordination exams - and he is only 14 years old.

 

The rabbis that examined the boy, who will soon be starting the ninth grade, say they have yet to encounter such a phenomenon.

 

Moshe, the son of a well known Religious Zionist family from the Sharon region, is an expert on the six books of the Mishnah, the Poskim (Jewish legal scholars) the Rishonim (sages of the 11th – 15th centuries) and the Acharonim (the later sages).

 

Over the years, a long line of prominent rabbis and religious judges, both from the National-Religious and ultra-Orthodox streams, have tested the boy, and were left flabbergasted by his knowledge. One of them was quick to seize the opportunity and immediately introduced the boy to his son-in-law, a yeshiva student, to study the Talmud with his group.

 

A few months ago, Moshe's parents contacted the Chief Rabbinate and requested he be allowed to sit the ordination exams. These exams are part of a course parallel to bachelor's degree studies, and are usually meant for married Yeshiva students over the age of 25. Moshe's family, however, hoped that the rabbis would recognize that their son is gifted, and allow him to take the test at a young age. The family had a similar case with Moshe's younger brother, who at the age of 13, already holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

Participation for motivation's sake

The Chief Rabbinate Council recently deliberated on the matter, and several rabbis, including the council's president, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, were leaning in favor of granting the request. But opposition from his Sephardic counterpart, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, led the council to ultimately deny the request and force Moshe to wait a few more years.

 

On the eve of the exam, the head of Metzger's bureau, Haim Hemdinger, decided that the gifted child could take the exam, but without his answers being checked or bearing any weight in the future should he wish to pursue a rabbinical degree. The decision was made in hopes that Moshe's participation would encourage him to continue down this path and grow in knowledge of the Torah.

 

The Thousands of yeshiva students who arrived at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to take the test this week were shocked to find young Moshe there as well. When one of them looked through the boy's notebook, he discovered just how far Moshe's knowledge of the Halacha extends, and quickly called Rabbi Amar's attention to it. "He doesn't stop writing, it's an entire book," the yeshiva student told the chief rabbi, who was at the ICC at the time. "He doesn't miss a single opinion from the Poskim."

 

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who had tested Moshe himself and was very impressed with his proficiency in the material, told Ynet he was disappointed with the Chief Rabbinate's decision not to take the boy's potential into account. "Throughout the generations the Jewish people would nurture such people, who are destined to grow in Torah studies," Rabbi Eliyahu claimed.

 

He added that ordination to the Rabbinate would have encouraged the boy and given him motivation, without fear of him being elected for any kind of rabbinical office at such a young age.

 

Moshe's farther refused to comment and said he was instructed by rabbis not to go public with the story for fear of the evil eye.

 

 

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