Some of them, like No. 3 on the list, Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter, also wield considerable power through Knesset members, such as deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman, who are their self-avowed servants.
After the rage came sadness. Is this what has become of an ancient religious tradition that revered, above all, learning and knowledge l'shma, for it's own purpose? None of the rabbis on the list are renowned scholars or thinkers.
Ten of them are members of rabbinic dynasties, five are scions of the Abuhatzeira voodoo clan, and would never have attained a standing in the Torah world if not for their illustrious forebears.
They may have done well in business, though. Nine of them are mekubalim, kabbalistic miracle workers, or at least so they would have us believe, while two are hereditary leaders of large Hasidic sects.
Even the only woman on the list, Rabbanit Bruria Zvuluni, No. 13 with an estimated worth of NIS 20 million, is no source of pride. Her main draw, aside from her family connections - she is the sister of "The X-ray," Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan, No. 6 - is that the heads of Israel's organized crime families come to her with their disputes and respect her rulings.
But it isn't just the poor and the credulous, who may be deserving of our pity; some of the most powerful politicians, senior police, military officers and business magnates in Israel and the Diaspora are regular pilgrims to the courts of kabbala. Some discuss with them confidential matters of state and complex financial dealings, seeking guidance and affirmation before making a crucial decision.
When ministers, generals and bank owners put so much store in the advice of the miracle men, you have to wonder who is setting interest rates and whether it is just the cabinet members who get to decide on bombing Iran.
Many of those beating a path to the wizards' doors are not overtly religious. And by putting a kippa or scarf over their heads, and crouching close to hear the rabbi's every word, they are not committing themselves to keep Shabbat or kashrut. Of these rabbis, only the acid-tongued Alter and Amnon Yitzhak, who is famed for his fire-and-brimstone speeches against the evil secular leftists, will ever castigate a sinner asking for an audience. All the rest will receive them with respect and humility before their largesse and celebrity demands.
By Anshel Pfeffer - Haaretz.com