Israel’s Channel 2 News reported yesterday that it’s not just the price of cottage cheese that is high in Israel. Many Israelis are boycotting and going without their favorite dairy food, but going without a spouse is another matter. Desperate single men and women are shelling out the big bucks — or, rather, Shekels.
These lonely hearts parted yesterday with their money to the tune of NIS 2,700 (close to $800), basically for the sound of a shofar. Actually, it was the sound of thousands of shofars blown at the same time Tuesday evening by Yeshiva students under the direction of kabbalist Rabbi David Batzri at Amoka, near Safed in the Galilee. The ceremony took place near the gravesite of Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel, who lived during the time of the compilation of the Mishna two millennia ago. Ben Uziel died a bachelor, but single religious Jews ironically come to pray at his grave for luck in finding a mate.
Rabbi Batzri is apparently reputed in certain circles for having mystical powers that aid individuals in finding their soul mate, and evidently some think what he is charging is worth it. For the NIS 2,700, you get your name and up to four other names you submit read aloud during the prayer service led by Rabbi Batzri. And if you forego the payment plan of 28 payments of 96 NIS each and pay everything up front, you get a blessed bottle of wine, a Kiddush cup and your choice of a tallit or shofar.
When the Channel 2 reporter tried to cut a deal with the organizers of the event, it wasn’t easy. In the end, he was offered two bargain options. In the first, he could pay NIS 50 less, but he would get only two names read. The other was an NIS 1,800 discount, but in that case the names he submitted would not be read by either Rabbi Batzri or his close circle, but rather by some run-of-the-mill students. And he could forget about the tallit or shofar, too.
This is by far the not the first time that Rabbi Batzri has made the news. Other mentions include reports of his being investigated for incitement to racism against Arabs back in 2006.