Chief Rabbi confuses Monty Python with history

Yona Metzger shows, once more, how ignorant are Israeli Orthodox rabbis

As the ultra-Orthodox keep trying to elicit more money from the government, one claim they make is that rabbinical studies should be a recognized form of higher education, equivalent to a BA. As if one needed an example of how bogus this claim is, Yona Metzger – you would be forgiven for not knowing that this intellectual and moral pigmy is Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi – provided a rich one today.

Interviewed (Hebrew) by the popular website Walla!, and asked to explain why the status of the rabbinate has plummeted in recent decades (and preferring not to mention his own myriad of scandals, from near-indictment for bribery to a claim he inappropriately touched men), Metzger said the following: “They say that in the days of the witchhunt, one gang kidnapped a woman, put a long nose on her, put a broom in her hand, and brought her before the knight, so he may sentence her to death. The knight asked ‘How do I know she is a witch?’, and they replied: ‘Don’t you see she has the hair, nose and broom of a witch?’”.

This scene is indeed familiar to most readers, but not because it is a famous episode of early modern days, but rather because it is a famous scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. You can view it here.


Israeli twitterers had a field day, putting Pythonesque quotes in the mouths of Talmudic rabbi. This being Passover, the rather obscure Rabbi Tarfon, who is mentioned in the Hagada, became a hit.

What can one say, when a high official – the coterminus president of the High Rabinnate Court, who is elected for ten years, the longest term of office in Israel – is caught dropping such a stunner? Perhaps one should be reminded of the awful ignorance of Israeli Orthodox rabbis – and of their habit of attacking Reform and Conservative rabbis, sneering that the others are “doctors”, using the word as a perjorative. They are often proud of their ignorance, and as a rule consider the very idea of general education to be anathema.

Reform rabbis, indeed, are often doctors. And as a result of this, unlike Metzger, they are unlikely to make a joke of themselves in public. So, next time Reform rabbis are being accused of being erudite, they should snigger and point at Meztger. Not that he is likely to suffer as a result: The Orthodox won’t care, probably won’t notice, the incident, and the secular Jews never held Metzger in any regard anyway.

We’ll just have to carry on with him as a laughingstock until his term expires, in 2013. Let’s hope that, though he will end his office as much a non-entity as he was when he entered it, he will provide us at least with some entertainment value.