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Religious Leadership in Israel’s Religious Zionism: The Case of the Board of Rabbis

Filed under: Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)


The Board of Rabbis was a rabbinical body that was founded in 1948 as part of the Hapoel Hamizrahi movement and united the religious Zionist rabbis. From a central and influential status in religious Zionist public life in the 1950s and 1960s, the Board deteriorated to an insignificant formal body. Its activity in the 1950s took on a national-halakhic character, manifested mainly in the publishing of the HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations for over a decade and in the composition of a special prayer for Independence Day. In the 1960s, the Board’s activity became more organizational and party oriented. In the early 1970s there was a shift in the Board’s, and the Chief Rabbinate’s, relation to the state of Israel. The “bastards affair,” and the impeachment of the chief rabbis Unterman and Nissim that followed, generated harsh disputes within the Board. The new religious leaderships that developed in that period also contributed to weakening the Board’s status. The Board’s experience indicates that to be effective and relevant, a rabbinical body must have a clear and undisputed policy.  


The religious leadership of religious parties is usually seen as essential to their being. In Israel one must distinguish between ultra-Orthodox (haredi) parties, in which the religious leadership wields exclusive and total authority, and the national-religious movement, in which the religious leadership is central but lacks decision-making authority. The Board of Rabbis of Israel’s National Religious Party (NRP), an institution that was established in 1948 shortly after Israel’s establishment, has declined over the years and today is a meaningless body despite its continuing formal existence.

A religious leadership’s ability to survive in a complex political framework such as religious Zionism requires developing a clear course, free of internal disputes, and a clear policy regarding the relationship with the political stratum. Otherwise the religious leadership is beset with internal crises and rapidly declines.

Religious Leadership in Religious Parties and in Religious Zionism

The existence of a religious leadership within a political party poses a fundamental dilemma. In Max Weber’s terms, a religious authority’s source of legitimacy is traditional, as opposed to rational or charismatic authority.[1] Donald Smith points out that religious parties are prone to tension because two parallel authorities, religious and political, act within one party.[2] Such tension will exist especially when modernity is part of the party’s values, and it is evident in the religious-Zionist movement.

Eliezer Don-Yehiya differentiates between the two types of leadership, religious and political, by three criteria: qualifications required, resources available, and responsibilities. The qualifications of the religious leadership are knowledge of the Torah and mystical qualities; those of the  political leadership are executive and influential abilities. The religious leadership’s main resource is morality; the political leadership’s is political power. The religious leadership’s responsibilities concern matters “between a man and his maker”; those of the political leadership involve matters “between a man and his fellows.”[3]

Since it was founded as a movement in 1902, religious Zionism has placed the synthesis between Zionism and the Torah at the heart of its ideology. Its slogan since its earliest days has been “the Land of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.” Religious Zionism’s approach to the state clearly differs from that of the ultra-Orthodox, who refused any share in the secular-Zionist framework.[4]

But the difference between religious Zionism and ultra-Orthodoxy does not end there. Religious Zionism is simultaneously committed both to tradition and modernity. Asher Cohen shows that at the time of Israel’s establishment the movement struggled with the possibility of realizing the vision of a Torah state, and at last relinquished this because of the problems involved in trying to integrate two parallel commitments, with their potential contradictions.[5]

One aspect of this problem concerns the status of a religious-rabbinical leadership within the party’s framework. Binyamin Baron notes that whereas the ultra-Orthodox world upholds the notion of emunat hahamim (trust in the wise), religious Zionism exhibits disagreements on this topic that reflect the movement’s fluctuations over the past generation.[6] Those fluctuations, in turn, stem from two trends that developed in religious Zionism over the years: the Torah-oriented, “hardali” trend and the modern trend.[7] The first is characterized, among other things, by emphasis on observance of the commandments, a certain reluctance toward modernity, and obedience to rabbis in political matters.[8] The second is characterized by synthesis between religion and modernity, greater openness, and daringly innovative halakhic decisions.[9]

Beyond the NRP’s Board of Rabbis, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is a religious leadership that influences religious Zionism. The Chief Rabbinate’s ties to the religious-Zionist movement were evident from the beginning, and Shulamit Eliash points out that most of the Chief Rabbis were clearly identified with religious Zionism.[10] Don-Yehiya claims that “the NRP’s involvement in the matters of the Chief Rabbinate, and its role in establishing the Chief Rabbinate and in cementing its authority, brought the party to feel a sort of guardianship over this institution.”[11]

In regard to the Chief Rabbinate, Yechezkel Cohen distinguishes between two periods.[12] During the British Mandate, the religious-Zionist political leadership was independent of the Rabbinate. After Israel was established, however, the political leadership conformed to the Rabbinate’s positions. For example, in the early years of statehood the political leadership objected to the law conscripting women to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while supporting the law for national service for girls, just as the Chief Rabbinate demanded. In 1974, the NRP did not join the Rabin government because the “Who is a Jew” law was not modified according to the demands of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren.

Asher Cohen describes three approaches the political leadership has taken to the rabbis: the innovative approach, which questions their authority; the traditional approach, which justifies their authority; and a middle way, which moderately criticizes the rabbis but recognizes their authority.[13] In any case, the existence of both the Chief Rabbinate and the Board of Rabbis meant the latter confronted “a religious leadership beside a religious leadership.”

Despite the Chief Rabbinate’s central importance for religious Zionism, not all analysts link religious authority in religious Zionism to the Chief Rabbinate. Giora Goldberg asserts that the Board of Rabbis’ religious influence within the NRP “was always minor.”[14] Dov Schwartz links the Board of Rabbis to the “rule of the Torah” as a vision that was not realized.[15] Otherwise, however, the Board of Rabbis’ significant role in religious Zionism has not been studied.

The Founding of the Board of Rabbis

In Israel’s early years religious Zionism was represented by two movements, HaMizrahi and Hapoel HaMizrahi. The former had a bourgeois/civil/right-wing leaning in economic matters, and an activist tendency in matters of security and foreign affairs. The latter had a social leaning and a moderate tendency in political matters. HaPoel HaMizrahi was then stronger, holding eight Knesset mandates to HaMizrahi’s two.[16]

Don-Yehiya characterizes the NRP as a party with “institutionalized factionalism.”[17] This originated in HaPoel HaMizrahi, which had several factions. The Board of Rabbis grew from the El HaMakor (To the Source)[18] faction. El HaMakor’s political views were to the right and it was the least compromising on religious matters. Hence it championed unification with HaMizrahi, which took similar positions.

Rabbi Katriel Fishel Tchorsh of El HaMakor founded the Board of Rabbis in August 1948, a few months after Israel was established, and headed it until his death in 1979.[19] The rabbis who were invited to the Board’s founding convention were naturally identified with Religious Zionism. The event opened with a long speech by Rabbi Tchorsh in which he enumerated the new institution’s goals.[20]

The scope of the Board’s responsibilities, however, was unclear from the start, and disputed among the rabbis. “Our intention,” Rabbi Tchorsh stated, “is not to create a special stage inside our movement, a kind of ‘Council of Torah Sages,’ [but rather] to create a sort of constant advisory institution that will assist the highest institution of our movement….”

Here he was referring to the parallel model of the Council of Torah Sages in the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Yisrael party, while implying that unlike Agudath Yisrael, the Board of Rabbis would not be an authority that imposed its opinions on the political leadership. Moshe Krone, who later became chairman of HaMizrahi’s World Center, wrote that “nowhere was it written that the movement must accept the Board of Rabbis’ opinion upon itself on all matters, and one must admit that the rabbis themselves did not demand it, [though they did] demand to be taken into account more than, they felt, was usually done.”[21]

Rabbi Tchorsh further referred in his speech  to “the general question that is involved both directly and indirectly with our movement, the question of the spiritual character of our state. . . . this painful question is being discussed in the highest echelon of the Chief Rabbinate, [but] is not moving forward.” Another responsibility for the Board of Rabbis, then, was “to unify the religious forces in the Land” so as “to clothe our Land in the garments of holiness.”

The variety of topics Rabbi Tchorsh mentioned reflects the rabbis’ vagueness about the new institution’s goals. HaPoel Hamizrahi’s organ Netiva[22] cited at length the discussion that took place at the first convention. Most speakers raised issues they thought the Board of Rabbis should deal with, such as education, the honor of the Torah, relations with the Chief Rabbinate, absorbing immigrants, and religious problems in the army. Two speakers questioned the Board’s efficacy. One wondered: “What is the means and what is the force that would compel the institutions to implement our decision?” Another remarked: “Happy and blessed are you, dear rabbis, that you have so many problems you cannot solve.”

Eventually the Board of Rabbis founded several committees.[23] One, the Halakha Committee, was entrusted with halakhic clarifications. Here the Board tried to compensate for the Chief Rabbinate, which many of its members felt did too little to realize the vision of a Torah state. A second committee was charged with appointing rabbis in towns and settlements. In this way the Board became a sort of trade union for rabbis, which later led to disputes within it. A third committee dealt with religious matters within the branches of HaPoel HaMizrahi. It focused on the Settlement Adoption Project to be discussed below.

Over the years, the Board of Rabbis’ activities fell into three spheres: the national, internal/organizational, and partisan.

The Board of Rabbis’ Activities on the National Level

The Board of Rabbis played a leading role in national matters mostly in the 1950s.  The Board pursued five main activities: publishing the HaTorah VeHaMedina (The Torah and the State) compilations, composing the prayer for Independence Day, preparations for the shmita year, the Yarhei Kala project, and the Settlement Adoption project.

The HaTorah VeHaMedina Compilations

The founding of Israel raised a set of problems in matters of state and halakha.[24] The religious leadership needed to form a framework in which to implement the halakha in the new reality of a modern state. The HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations, launched shortly after Israel’s establishment, constituted the major project in this context.

The idea was suggested at the founding convention of the Board of Rabbis, and was implemented shortly thereafter within its framework. From 1949 to 1962 thirteen compilations were published, and the project’s success is evident to this day. Because of great demand, a second edition of the abstracts of the articles in these compilations was published in 1991 under the title BeZomet HaTorah VeHaMedina (At the Junction of Torah and State). The publication of the Tehumin compilations, appearing yearly since 1980, is a continuation of the HaTorah VeHaMedina series.

The topics discussed in these compilations fall into five areas:

1. Legal and juridical matters, including monarchy in Israel. These topics are prominent in all the compilations, and concern the role of Torah law in the reality of renewed sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

2. The Land of Israel, and especially the matter of shmita (the Sabbath year). This topic was discussed mostly in the period before the shmita year of 1952.

3. Laws of the military and war. The early compilations devoted more articles to this topic than the later ones, possibly because the security situation moderated somewhat.

4. Laws of marital relations. These were dealt with more in the later compilations.

5. Miscellaneous topics, such as conversion, circumcision, and Shabbat, all of which also received more attention in the later compilations.

The editor of the compilations was Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, one of the Board’s prominent members and later a major figure of religious Zionism.[25] In an interview to the religious-Zionist newspaper HaZofe, he mentioned two main reasons for the compilations. First, religious Jewry’s slogan of a Torah state “required proposing an actual program and a clear character” for this state. Second, there was a need to emphasize that “any attempt to decide halakha on one’s own prudence, also in the area of political life, goes against the Torah’s principles no less than in any other area of life.”[26]

Rabbi Yisraeli thereby criticized approaches in religious Zionism that were regarded as deviating from Orthodoxy. Rabbi Yisraeli situated his own approach between two approaches that were contradictory “yet shared a common point of departure.” One, the ultra-Orthodox position, views the state as conflicting with halakha, and the coming of the Messiah as the only possibility for the Torah state. The second maintains that the values of halakha should be relinquished because they were not intended for political life.

According to Rabbi Yisraeli, both of these effectively nullify any possibility of founding a state according to the Torah. In the HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations he charted a middle course that offers a real possibility of fulfilling the Torah-state vision, but only as the start of a long process.

The publication of these compilations, however, raised the question of the relationship between the Board of Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate. In his introduction to the first compilation, the head of the Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Tchorsh, wrote that the compilations did not intend to prescribe halakha for action, “which is not in our authority,” but only in the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, along with “the great sages of the Torah and the formulators of its laws.”[27]

In 1965, Rabbi Yisraeli was elected a judge in the High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, and this may have brought an end to the compilations. Meanwhile, publication began of the Shvilin compilations, which were different in format from HaTorah VeHaMedina and are discussed below. The HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations did not have any real effect in fulfilling the vision of a Torah state. Their contribution was in the very innovation of dealing with the topic of laws of state. The Tehumin compilations, published since 1980, are a kind of sequel to HaTorah VeHaMedina. The effect was also evident in various books on issues of the military and war, the police, settlements, medicine, and so on.

Composing the Independence Day Prayer

One of the controversies between the ultra-Orthodox and national-religious communities concerns the special prayer that was composed for Independence Day, consisting of the Hallel prayer with certain additions. Because it was the Chief Rabbinate that made this prayer public, the common perception is that the Chief Rabbinate wrote it. But it was the Board of Rabbis that initiated its composition, after the Rabbinate published general directions as to the character of Independence Day without clearly specifying the order of prayer .

It was Rabbi Yisraeli, together with Rabbi Moshe Zvi Nerya, who redacted the order of prayer. In a letter to the Chief Rabbinate they requested endorsement, and indeed the prayer was authorized by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ben Tzion Uziel, after he deleted a few passages from the original version proposed by the Board of Rabbis.[28]

The issue of composing a prayer for Independence Day was subsequently raised at the Board of Rabbis’ second convention.[29] Rabbi Reuven Katz, Chief Rabbi of Petah Tikva, criticized the order of prayer as “contrary to the decision of the elders of the rabbis,” meaning the ultra-Orthodox rabbis. He maintained that the additions to the prayer, as proposed, went against the halakhic principle of “Thou shalt not add.”[30] But Rabbi Uziel, who took part in the meeting, declared that he had authorized the order of prayer: “Great miracles were performed for us, and so we made sure that the people would come to the synagogue for a prayer of thanksgiving and not only fulfill their duties through parties and festivities.”

Here, as in the case of the HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations, the Board of Rabbis emerged as a leader on halakhic matters at the national level.

The Preparations for the Shmita Year

The shmita year is one of the main commandments that are dependent on the Land of Israel. Once in every seven years it is forbidden to tend the soil of the Land, and the Land becomes ownerless. When the first settlements were founded in the Land late in the nineteenth century, it was clear that making lands ownerless would destroy the nascent endeavor.

Before the shmita year in 1889, a halakhic solution was found: a sales permit.[31] This allows land to be sold to Gentiles and thus avoids the requirement to make it ownerless. The ultra-Orthodox rabbis staunchly opposed this solution, claiming that the permit was not halakhically valid. Religious Zionism, however, supported it as part of its ideology.[32]

The first shmita year for the sovereign state of Israel was 1952. On this issue, too, the Board of Rabbis played a prominent role despite its ostensibly being the Chief Rabbinate’s responsibility. The matter was on the agenda as early as the Board’s second convention. Rabbi Yisraeli suggested that in the reality of a sovereign state, the sales permit might be irrelevant. “It may be,” he said, “that through maximal utilization of the sixth year in attuning the cycle of seeds and widening the areas of sowing, one might be able to greatly reduce . . . the works forbidden during the seventh year.”[33]

In an article in the third issue of HaTorah VeHamedina, he proposed an alternative solution. Instead of selling the land to Gentiles, the ownership over it would be renounced and it would not belong to any Jewish owner.[34] Although the Chief Rabbinate did not accept Rabbi Yisraeli’s suggestion, he devoted himself to the preparations for the shmita year in accordance with the sales permit. The committee that he headed organized gatherings of rabbis to study and discuss the relevant halakhot. Consultations were also held with farmers and agronomists about the various tasks that could be postponed or moved up.

The Board of Rabbis also organized lectures on the topic and published instructions about the shmita year.[35] In the fourth issue of HaTorah VeHaMedina, Rabbi Yisraeli proposed preparing for the shmita year in accordance with the sales permit, which the Chief Rabbinate accepted.[36]

Thus, although Rabbi Yisraeli adopted the Chief Rabbinate’s position, the Board of Rabbis was central in implementing the sales permit in Israel’s first shmita year.

The Founding of the Yarhei Kala Project

One of the last relics of the Board of Rabbis’ extensive activities is the Yarhei Kala project, which was founded in 1951 and renewed a practice dating back to the Mishnah. Yarhei Kala involves convening people who are not yeshiva students during the summer to study Torah in a vacationlike atmosphere. During the early days of statehood, this was a significant innovation for several reasons. It entailed historical renewal; widened the pool of Torah students after the Holocaust, during which many yeshivot were destroyed; and marked an achievement for the national-religious world. The fact that Yarhei Kala is the last remaining project of the Board of Rabbis attests to its success.[37]

The Settlement Adoption Project

This project was intended to fill a void in towns and settlements in which the Chief Rabbinate’s activity was not sufficiently evident, and provide religious, educational, and other services. The closing report of the Board of Rabbis’ fourth convention in 1954 stated that “dozens of rabbis travel from place to place, teaching Torah and deciding halakha for its followers.”[38] These rabbis also dealt with practical matters such as ritual baths, religious boundaries, providing ritual objects, and so on.

At the Board of Rabbis’ fifth convention in 1957, Rabbi Tchorsh said the Settlement Adoption project aimed to appoint new rabbis in these towns and settlements. He called to the yeshiva students: “Rise up for our Torah and our holiness, and set out for these towns and settlements to be guides and mentors for Torah and belief and for restoring the life of Torah in the Land, for the sake of the state’s spiritual character.”[39] Although it is unknown how many yeshiva students responded, what was significant was the exhortation to affect the character of the state.

In all the seven conventions held by the Board of Rabbis during this period, issues of Torah, halakha, and spirituality were prominent on the agenda.[40] This started to change as early as the 1960s, when the Board turned its focus to organizational matters.

The Board of Rabbis’ Activities on the Internal/Organizational Level

The Board of Rabbis engaged in two main spheres of activity during the 1960s: the massive publication of Shvilin compilations (an average of two per year) and serving as a trade union for Israeli rabbis. These activities reflected the Board’s great organizational power during that decade.

The Shvilin Compilations

Nineteen sixty-two was the only year in which two Board of Rabbis compilations were published: HaTorah VeHaMedina and Shvilin-their last and first issue, respectively.

The HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations consisted of articles by rabbis, mainly from religious Zionism, addressing weighty halakhic questions on state-related topics. As noted, this involved major innovation and set the stage for possibly formulating a vision of the Torah state. The compilations’ introductions outlined the Board of Rabbis’ activities, but this was secondary to the articles.

The Shvilin compilations, however, highlighted the Board’s organizational activity. They gave much coverage to the conventions and the decisions that were reached, as well as the rabbis’ thoughts on current affairs. These publications also offered articles on Torah-oriented topics, but they were less important.

When, in 1962, the first Shvilin compilation appeared before the last HaTorah VeHaMedina one, it was not yet clear that HaTorah VeHaMedina would be ended. The appointment of Rabbi Yisraeli, the editor of HaTorah VeHaMedina, as judge in the Great Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem may have left a void that could not be filled. In any case, apparently Shvilin was not originally intended to replace HaTorah VeHaMedina, but only to add an aspect that it lacked. This is evident from the opening statement of the first issue of Shvilin, probably written by Rabbi Tchorsh, who edited these compilations:

The problems of our daily lives are many and diverse. Because they require clarification and rapid responses, we could no longer make do with the HaTorah VeHaMedina compilation that is published by us-by the HaMizrahi and HaPoel HaMizrahi Board of Rabbis’ Press. In HaTorah VeHaMedina we deal with clarification of halakhot and questions of lifestyle, while in the present publication we shall try to shed light on problems of daily life, to chart ways of life, and to respond to what is done and heard in our reemerging state, using signposts in the spirit of the Torah.[41]

Interestingly, the last HaTorah VeHaMedina issue does not mention anything related to Shvilin. This may have been due to lack of enthusiasm, or have been unintentional. Presumably, though, the appearance of the new Shvilin compilation made it easier to terminate HaTorah VeHaMedina.

Unlike the first decade of the Board’s existence, when it was active in Torah-oriented matters on the national level, the Shvilin compilations symbolize the shift toward organizational activity, especially the Board becoming a kind of trade union for rabbis. Factors contributing to this change included Israel’s further elaboration as a state, the emergence of the Rabbinate system, the dwindling of the initial waves of immigration, and especially the decline of the vision of the Torah state, which became nothing but a slogan.[42]

These changes posed new challenges for the Board of Rabbis, which the Shvilin compilations addressed. Over twenty years and thirty-five issues, they were the Board of Rabbis’ organ. During the 1960s, they appeared about twice a year. During the 1970s this decreased, reflecting the decline of the Board of Rabbis.

The Board of Rabbis as a Trade Union

The term trade union does not seem appropriate to a rabbinical institution. Should not rabbis, at least in appearance, avoid such matters as salary demands and the like?[43] The Board of Rabbis, however, indeed ended up functioning-unofficially, of course-as a trade union for the rabbis of Israel, tending to their terms of employment and salaries all over the country. The Board was founded to deal with spiritual matters, and the shift to technical concerns naturally caused controversy, especially between the Board’s two main figures, Rabbi Tchorsh and Rabbi Yisraeli.

At the Board of Rabbis’ eighth convention on 4 June 1963, Rabbi Yisraeli declared:

the Board of Rabbis . . . is not a trade union at its core. It was not the goal of improving physical conditions that united our founders, and this is not the attitude that distinguishes the Board from the other organizations. The one and only goal at the heart of the Board of Rabbis is: we all receive the burden of the heavenly kingdom from each other.[44]

Rabbi Tchorsh, however, saw no problem in acting as a trade union in addition to the other activities. In the first issue of Shvilin, he wrote: “The work is plentiful and diverse…from filling the functions of a trade union-protecting the working rabbi-to clarifying halakhot and ways of life for the people.”[45]

Most rabbis seem to have supported this approach. The clearest proof is that the Board did in fact act as a trade union. At the eighth convention,  one rabbi explained that “no industry worker can survive if he is not affiliated with a union,” and hence “this organization of the Board of Rabbis is very important.”[46] Indeed, charts showing rabbis’ pay appeared in various issues of Shvilin, and much space was devoted to their social rights.

The Board of Rabbis’ Activities on the Partisan Level: A Case of Obeying Da’at Torah?

Religious Zionism’s struggle with the term da’at Torah, which means always obeying rabbis’ positions, also concerned the Board of Rabbis. At the time of its establishment, Rabbi Tchorsh announced that the Board was not a “Council of Torah Sages.”[47] In other words, it would not act according to the Agudath Yisrael model, where the religious leadership had the last say and the political strata had to obey it. Still, the Board aspired to become an authority of da’at Torah, and when this did not happen it caused great disappointment.

As early as the first issue of Shvilin, Rabbi Tchorsh mentioned that some lamented the fact that “rabbis are dealing with politics,” but “we say: gentlemen, this is not politics, this is a rabbi’s duty.”[48] Other rabbis of the Board expressed frustration at not being obeyed as a da’at Torah. The early issues of Shvilin included complaints such as: “We rabbis have ceased to lead the way for this movement,”[49] “The Board of Rabbis’ impact on the party’s leadership is not visible,”[50] “Those who head this movement aim to reduce the rabbis’ involvement in works and in influence on the creative life.”[51] The main argument was that “the correctness of a democratic choice is not always congruent with the essence and the spiritual needs of the party,” and hence “the spiritual leaders should be . . . incorporated into the party’s cells of action.”[52]

In his speech at the eighth convention,[53] Rabbi Yisraeli discussed the relationship between the rabbis and the movement. His basic point was that the rabbis must be obeyed. He stated: “we demand further reinforcement of the Board of Rabbis’ status within the movement,” and “there is a difference between the halakhic decisions of laymen and those of rabbis.” He also compared the Board to the Council of Torah Sages:

We do not have [this] institution . . . ,  we do not aspire to that name, for none of us sees himself as permitted to call himself a great sage. For us, the title “learned scholar” [talmid haham] is also honorable…. We stand before great decisions in the life of the state, and we want the voice of the Torah to be heard loud and clear in these decisions.[54]

The Board of Rabbis, then, viewed itself as a religious authority within the party and was disappointed when it was not heeded as such. Indeed, the party did not want the Board to decide political matters for it. Even Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, a party leader who was neither a member of the religiously moderate religious-kibbutz nor LaMifne trends, voiced annoyance at the rabbis’ meddling. His words at the ninth convention left no doubt about the political stratum’s position:

I am proud as a member of the NRP that such important rabbis are found within our camp, and I know the complaints that I hear time and again from rabbis within the party’s institutions about the Board of Rabbis’ lack of influence over the party, . . . and on this topic I must say: the National Religious Party, HaMizrahi and HaPoel HaMizrahi, now does not refrain from dealing with any problem of the state . . . and among the people…. And hence sometimes the NRP finds itself in a delicate situation and is often attacked from one side or the other, because it is not extremist, neither to one side nor the other.[55]

Warhaftig made it clear that obeying the rabbis would not comport with the party’s delicate situation. He offered some examples of why the rabbis’ approach was wrong, principally the Shabbat Law. This law seemed to give much leeway for the rabbis’ involvement: Shabbat is discussed extensively in the halakha with a high degree of severity, and it is one of Judaism’s major symbols.[56]

Ever since the Days of Rest Law was passed in 1951, it was clear to the religious members of the Knesset that it was no substitute for a national Shabbat Law. Warhaftig observed that while the Days of Rest Law had declarational value, it did not organize Shabbat observance in the various spheres of the state.[57] In 1957, he presented a proposal for a Shabbat Law that included observance of the day in almost all sectors. Attorney-General Chaim Cohen opposed it, and offered his own proposal for a more circumscribed Shabbat Law.

The “Who is a Jew” debate that erupted in 1958 halted all discussion of the Shabbat Law. Only in 1964 did Warhaftig, as minister of religious affairs, present a proposal for the Shabbat Law in accordance with a coalitional contract with the Labor Party. This time Minister of Labor Yigal Allon opposed it, arguing that the matter of Shabbat regulations fell under his responsibility.

Allon eventually proposed a scaled-down form of the law that did not include the city of Haifa. The religious MKs objected to its being called the Shabbat Law, and it was legislated as the Amendment to the Days of Rest Law. The NRP MKs supported it; the ultra-Orthodox ones opposed it because of Haifa’s omission.

The Board of Rabbis debated whether the Shabbat Law should be accepted without the inclusion of Haifa. Rabbi Yisraeli argued in favor.[58] Rabbis Tchorsh, Nathan Zvi Friedman, and Baruch Yashar referred to the discussion of the Shabbat Law in the first issue of Shvilin, and all opposed the compromise on Haifa. Rabbi Tchorsh described the dilemma:

Should we accept the Shabbat Law as it is, excluding Haifa from the sphere of the obligation to observe Shabbat . . . to save the whole country from desecrating Shabbat, without considering the situation in Haifa, or perhaps, once the city of Haifa is not included in this law, we should abandon it completely, come what may.[59]

He concluded that “the problem should be handed over to the Torah sages, the members of the . . . rabbinate,” and quoted: “and he shall act according to the Torah-that is the proposal and this is its solution.”[60] In other words, the Shabbat Law compromise should be rejected because the Chief Rabbinate rejected it.

The law was indeed not passed because of the Chief Rabbinate’s opposition, and Warhaftig was critical:

And more than once we have seen that the rabbis, and also our own Board of Rabbis, did not understand and did not support the course by which we wanted to solve problems. Over the past years we have seen a few laws that, to my great distress, were not passed, perhaps because the rabbinical world did not understand us and did not come to the conclusion that there was no other way. Thus the Shabbat Law was not passed because they wanted more, I too want more, but what can we do when in that reality it was impossible….[61]

The Rabbinate should not, in his view, have preferred “all or nothing.”[62]

Thus the rabbis sought unsuccessfully to be obeyed by the political leadership, and this caused perpetual tension. The Board of Rabbis remained a symbolic institution for the party, without significant policymaking authority.

The Matter of the Bastards (Mamzerim): Between the Board of Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate

During the 1960s, the Chief Rabbinate had to deal with complex, controversial problems. The main one was the issue of the bastards (mamzerim). A brother and sister of the Langer family were born to a mother who had not received a religious divorce (get) from her first husband and went on to marry another man. Hence, the brother and sister were proclaimed bastards-a grave designation since bastards are forbidden from mixing with the Jewish public. Indeed, the problem arose when the brother and sister wished to marry but discovered that they were forbidden to do so.[63]

If, however, the mother’s first husband was non-Jewish, and the marriage therefore invalid, then the brother and sister could marry. The Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court ruled that the first husband’s conversion was halakhically sound, and therefore the brother and sister were indeed bastards. The case was appealed to the Great Rabbinical Court, which accepted the ruling. This was also the position of Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Isser Yehuda Unterman. But Rabbi Shlomo Goren examined the issue while still chief rabbi of the IDF, and claimed that in light of evidence that the first husband behaved like a non-Jew, his conversion was not valid and so the brother and sister were not bastards.

Chief Rabbi Unterman’s view was accepted in the rabbinical world; Rabbi Goren’s was considered innovative. He was seen as someone who tended to be lenient on halakhic matters, and there were calls to appoint him as Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. In the campaign for the fall 1972 national elections, a coalition of the Labor Party and the NRP emerged that supported Rabbi Goren, and with him Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for Sephardi Chief Rabbi. The contenders on the other side were Rabbi Unterman, who was over eighty years old, and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim. They were supported by parts of the NRP, as well as the ultra-Orthodox camp.

The Board of Rabbis worked for the election of Rabbi Goren. This may have been linked to the Board’s criticism of the Chief Rabbinate’s functioning under Chief Rabbis Unterman and Nissim.[64] Rabbi Yisraeli, however, advocated Rabbi Unterman’s reelection.

The NRP worked tirelessly in support of Rabbi Goren.  Minister of Religious Affairs Warhaftig suggested changing the composition of the electing body, which consisted mainly of rabbis. The assumption was that most of the rabbis supported Rabbi Unterman, and they could be replaced with politicians, most of whom would support Rabbi Goren. When this turned out to be impossible, it was suggested that the electing body consist half of rabbis, half of public figures. Rabbi Yaacov Ariel[65] describes how Rabbi Yisraeli staunchly opposed this suggestion.

Warhaftig made another proposal: the body would be made up half and half, but the religious affairs minister would be able to add ten rabbis to it. Rabbi Yisraeli opposed this too, arguing that, whereas the left wing wanted the Chief Rabbinate to be elected only to solve the problem of the bastards, this would result in the Rabbinate’s destruction. The Board of Rabbis, however, accepted Warhaftig’s proposal.  Thus a deep rift formed between the Board and Rabbi Yisraeli,  and his name was deleted from the list of those recommended for election to the Chief Rabbinate’s Council-an election that took place concurrently with the elections for the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Yaacov Ariel asserted that omitting Rabbi Yisraeli from the list led to the collapse of the Board of Rabbis.[66]

The elections for the Chief Rabbinate were held on 15 October 1972. For the first time, two serving Chief Rabbis-Unterman and Nissim-were defeated. This was done with the support of the NRP and most of the Board of Rabbis. The Board’s backing for Rabbi Goren, which led to his election, caused a deep rift to form within it. His election also led, naturally, to a solution of the issue of the bastards.

Rabbi Yisraeli’s Retirement from the Board of Rabbis

Two main speakers addressed the Board of Rabbis’ tenth convention on 28 May 1972. Rabbi Yisraeli severely criticized the Board for its role in the elections and announced his retirement from it. Rabbi Yehuda Ushpizai, then Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, defended the Board.[67] The controversy over the dismissal of the Chief Rabbis brought to the surface fundamental differences that had emerged earlier in the issue of the Board acting as a trade union for rabbis.

Rabbi Yisraeli gave an overview of the Board of Rabbis’ achievements, mostly in its early years: the HaTorah VeHaMedina compilations, the composition of the Independence Day prayer, the shmita year, and so on. On the issue of the elections, however, he accused it of arrogance, not knowing the worth of others, and lacking respect for Torah scholars, referring specifically to the Board acting to prevent the appointment of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. He asserted: “The Board of Rabbis cannot be . . . a trade union. . . .   our members have shamed the Board of Rabbis by withholding a qualification from a person [referring to an ultra-Orthodox rabbi] who, according to all his attributes, was deserving of this qualification.”

He said further:

I do not think all these rabbis who are assembled in the Board of Rabbis actually hold an opinion that is so much in opposition to my own. But their voice is not heard, and the group that heads the Board of Rabbis makes its opinion known and creates the impression that this is the opinion of the Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Ushpizai, in response, maintained that the Board’s sole intention was to enhance the honor of the Rabbinate and protect it from the ultra-Orthodox camp, which, he claimed, sought to harm it.

As noted, Rabbi Ariel asserted that for all intents and purposes the Board of Rabbis collapsed with Rabbi Yisraeli’s retirement. Indeed, despite attempts at restoration, its gradual decline clearly dates from this period.

The Board of Rabbis’ Decline

Internal disputes were one reason for the Board of Rabbis’ decline.  Another was the emergence of new rabbinical leaderships in the 1970s.  Their sources were mostly in the hesder (combining Torah study with military service) and other Zionist yeshivot. These leaderships also set the tone in the Gush Emunim settlement movement. The yeshivot in question, Don-Yehiya points out, were clearly identified with the Land of Israel trend.[68]

One of the most prominent rabbis identified with this religious leadership was Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli. After retiring from the Board of Rabbis, he continued to serve as a judge in the Great Rabbinical Court until retiring in 1980. In 1978 there was an unsuccessful attempt to nominate him as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi; it was the NRP that thwarted it.[69] Rabbi Yisraeli’s memorial volume states that: “so was lost the historical opportunity to bring closer the various groups of Judaism, and maybe even prevent the rifts that emerged in Israel in later years.”[70] The Board of Rabbis, too, had an interest in blocking his path.

After Rabbi Yisraeli’s retirement from the Board, Rabbis Tchorsh and Ushpizai tried to continue its activities. Nevertheless, during the 1970s the Board’s role greatly diminished. For instance, during the 1960s the Shvilin compilations were issued twice a year; in the 1970s, a total of only three times.  The issue for 1979, a year before Rabbi Tchorsh’s death, refers to the Board’s difficult situation:

It is no secret that over the last few years a change has occurred in the relationship between the movement’s leadership and the Board of Rabbis-and not for the better. To our great distress, there is no understanding of the great value to the national religious movement in the existence of an organized group of Torah scholars and rabbis who identify publicly with the ideas of the movement and act within it bravely and publicly to further its avowed and untainted ideas.[71]

The article also refers to a termination of these rabbis’ representation in the movement’s elected institutions, politicians choosing not to consult with these rabbis, and a cut in the Board’s budget. The rabbis attributed the Board’s dire situation to the party. Nothing is mentioned about disputes within the Board, which also impelled the decline. At the end of the article, the Board calls on the party “to mend while it is still possible, and to enable the Board of Rabbis to set forth with new momentum as in . . . the Board’s days of glory.” But nothing came of this exhortation.

The Board of Rabbis was in too dismal a state to turn back the wheel. It is doubtful whether any action by the party could have restored it. After Rabbi Tchorsh’s death on 21 September 1979, the Board’s activity declined even further. The Board’s last Shvilin compilation, which was dedicated to Rabbi Tchorsh’s memory, was only published four years after his death via the Moreshet publishing house; the former issues were published directly by the Board. The end of the Shvilin volumes manifested the Board’s condition more than anything else. The Yarhei Kala project, as noted, is the only remaining relic.

Rabbi Ushpizai was appointed as head of the Board of Rabbis after Rabbi Tchorsh’s death, and Rabbi Yosef Gliksberg, Chief Rabbi of Givatayim, succeeded him a few years later. Although, during his tenure, there was an attempt to revitalize the Board, today it only symbolically unifies the NRP’s rabbis. Otherwise it has no influence on the national, level, partisan, or organizational level.


Although there were many reasons for the Board of Rabbis’ decline, the major one is the fundamental disagreement between Rabbi Tchorsh and Rabbi Yisraeli about the course it should take. External reasons, such as the emergence of alternative leaderships, were significant but played less of a role, as evident in the sharp deterioration after the single event of the 1972 elections to the Chief Rabbinate. The basic issue between Rabbi Yisraeli and other Board members was whether or not the Board was a “trade union.”

Any religious leadership that might emerge in the future will need to plot a clear course. At present, no religious leadership exists that is clearly reminiscent of the historical Board of Rabbis. For one to develop, the national-religious movement may need to construct a model for incorporating a rabbinical leadership within its framework, something that has yet to be done.

*     *     *


[1] Max Weber, “The Types of Authority and Imperative Co-ordination,” The Theory of Social and Economical Organization (Glencoe, IL: Free Press), 1947, 324-63.

[2] Donald Smith, Religion and Political Development (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), 124.

[3] Eliezer Don-Yehiya, “Religious Leadership and Political Leadership (Manhigut Datit UManhigut Politit),” in Ella Belfer, ed., Spiritual Leadership in Israel: Legacy and Goal (Manhigut Ruhanit BeYisrael: Morasha VeYa’ad) (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1982), 106. [in Hebrew]

[4] Eliezer Don-Yehiya, “Conceptions of Zionism in Orthodox Zionist Thought (Tfisot shel HaZionut BaHagut HaZionit HaOrtodoxit),” HaZionut, Vol. 9 (1984), 55-93.

[5] Asher Cohen, The Prayer Shawl and the Flag:  Religious Zionism and the Vision of the Torah State in the Early Days of the State of Israel (HaTalit VeHaDegel: HaZionut HaDatit VeHazon Medinat HaTorah BiYmey Reshit HaMedina) (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1988). [in Hebrew]

[6] Binyamin Baron, Da’at Torah and Emunat Hahamim in Ultra-Orthodox Thought (Da’at Torah VeEmunat Hahamim BaHagut HaHaredit), MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1996, 213-23 [in Hebrew]; Binyamin Baron, “Da’at Torah in Religious Zionism (Da’at Torah BaZionut HaDatit),” in Asher Cohen and Yisrael Har’el, eds., Religious Zionism: The Era of Transformations (HaZionut HaDatit: Idan HaTmurot) (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 2003), 475-532.

[7] Charles Liebman distinguishes among certain responses in the encounter between religion and modernity: expansion, departmentalizing, and adaptation. These concepts embody in great measure the differences between the various currents of religious Zionism. See Charles Liebman, “The Development of Neo-Traditionality among Orthodox Jews in Israel (Hitpathut HaNeo-Mesortiut BeKerev Yehudim Ortodoxim BeYisrael),” Megamot, Vol. 27 (1982), 231-39. [in Hebrew]

[8] On the expansion of this tendency, see Eliezer Don-Yehiya, “Religious Fundamentalism and Political Radicalism: The National Yeshivot in Israel (Fundamentalism Dati VeRadikalism Politi: HaYeshivot HaLeumiot BeYisrael),” in Anita Shapira, ed., Independence: The First Fifty Years (Azmaut: Hamishim HaShanim HaRishonot) (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1988),  431-70 [in Hebrew]; Yechezkel Cohen, Women in the Leadership of the Community (Nashim BeHanhagot HaZibur) (Jerusalem: HaKibbutz HaDati, 1991). 62. [in Hebrew]

[9] For more on the tendencies within this current, see Yitzchak Geiger, “The New Religious Zionism: Overview, Study, and Criticism (HaZionut HaDatit HaHadasha: Skira, Iyun UVikoret),” Akdamot, Vol. 11 (2001), 51-77.

[10] Shulamit Eliash, The Relationship between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Mandatory Government (HaYehasim bein HaRabanut HaRashit LeEretz-Yisrael VeHaShilton HaMandatory), PhD thesis, Bar-Ilan University, 1979, 90-122. [in Hebrew]

[11] Don-Yehiya, “Religious Leadership,” 121.

[12] Y. Cohen, “Women in the Leadership,” 59-63.

[13] A. Cohen, Prayer Shawl, 91ff.

[14] Giora Goldberg, The Parties in Israel: From Parties of the Multitudes to Electoral Parties (HaMiflagot BeYisrael: MiMiflagot Hamon LeMiflagot Elektoraliot) (Tel Aviv: Hotza’ot Ramot, 1992), 177. [in Hebrew]

[15] Dov Schwartz, “From Early Growth to Realization (MiReshit Zmiha LeHagshama),” in A. Cohen and Har’el, Religious Zionism, 61. [in Hebrew]

[16] Much has been written about the distinctions between HaMizrahi and Hapoel HaMizrahi. See, e.g., Moshe Una, In Separate Ways: The Religious Parties in Israel (BiDrahim Nifradot: HaMiflagot HaDatiot BeYisrael) (Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion: Yad Shapira, 1983), Ch. 4 [in Hebrew]; Naomi Cohen, “Religious Zionism: Crisis and Transformation” (Zionut Datit: Mashber UTmura),” in The Religious Zionism Compilation (Kovez HaZionut HaDatit) (Jerusalem: World Center, 1997), 323-31. [in Hebrew]

[17] Eliezer Don-Yehiya, “Stability and Transformations in a Camp’s Party: The NRP and the Revolution of the Young” (Yezivut UTmurot BeMifleget Mahane: HaMafdal UMahapehat HaZe’irim), State, Government and International Relations (Medina, Mimshal VeYahbal), Vol. 14 (1980), 25-52. [in Hebrew]

[18] For more on the differences between these factions, see Benyamin Neuberger, Religion, State, and Politics (Dat, Medina UPolitika) (Tel Aviv: Open University, 1997), 142. [in Hebrew]

[19] Shvilin, Vols. 33-35 (1984), 28-35.

[20] The details of the convention to be mentioned below are based on the protocol of the first convention, the Religious Zionism Archive at Bar-Ilan University (hereinafter RZA), P.M./645.

[21] Moshe Krone, My Rabbis and Teachers, My Brothers and Friends (Morai VeRabotai, Ahai VeRe’ai) (Tel Aviv: Moreshet, 1987), 439 [in Hebrew].

[22] “HaPoel Hamizrahi’s Rabbis’ Convention (Kinus Rabanei HaPoel Hamizrahi),” Netiva, Rosh HaShana eve (1949), 4-6. [in Hebrew]

[23] Pirkei Peula, report by HaPoel HaMizrahi movement, 1956, 77. [in Hebrew]

[24] Don-Yehiya, “Religious Leadership,” 111.

[25] Great in Torah and in Virtues (Gaon BaTorah UVeMidot), a book in memory of Rabbi Yisraeli (Jerusalem: Erez, 1999), 15-27. [in Hebrew]

[26] “The Editor and Appraiser (HaOrech VeHaMa’arich),” HaZofe, 7 January 1955, 5. [in Hebrew]

[27] Rabbi Katriel Fishel Tchorsh, “For the Appearance of the Compilation (LeHofa’at HaKovetz),” Hatorah VeHamedina, Vol. 1 (1949), 6-7. [in Hebrew]

[28] Rabbi Shmuel Katz, “The Chief Rabbinate and Independence Day (HaRabanut HaRashit VeYom HaAzmaut),” in The Chief Rabbinate of Israel:  Seventy Years Since Its Establishment, Its Authority, Its Actions, and Its History (HaRabanut HaRashit LeYisrael: Shiv’im Shana LeYisuda, Samhuta, Pe’uloteha, Toldoteha), Part 2 (Jerusalem: Heyhal Shlomo, 2002), 838-39. [in Hebrew]

[29] Protocol of the second convention, RZA, P.M./645. [in Hebrew]

[30] Asher Cohen characterizes the Zionist rabbis’ commitment to the ultra-Orthodox rabbis as the “fear of teaching.” See A. Cohen, Prayer Shawl, 45-46.

[31] For more about the sales permit, see: Rabbi Zev Vitman, Preparing for a State Shmita in the State of Israel (Likrat Shmita Mamlahtit BiMedinat Yisrael) (Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion: Zomet Institute, 1993) [in Hebrew]; Rabbi Shlomo Goren, “The Basis for the Sales Permit in the Seventh Year (Yesodot Heter Mehira BaShvi’it),” in The Doctrine of State (Mishnat HaMedina) (Jerusalem: HaIdra Raba, 1999), 219-63. [in Hebrew]

[32] Menahem Friedman, Society and Religion: The Non-Zionist Orthodoxy in the Land of Israel (Hevra VeDat: HaOrtodoxia HaLo-Zionit BeEretz Yisrael) (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1978), 445-73 [in Hebrew]; Ehud Luz, Parallels Meet (Makbilim Nifgashim) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1985), 108-12. [in Hebrew]

[33] Protocol of the second convention, RZA, P.M./645. [in Hebrew]

[34] Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, “The Seventh Year in Ownerless and Public Land, and the Forbidden Works in the Seventh Year (Shvi’it BeAdmat Hefker VeZibur, VeGeder Isurei Melaha BaShvi’it),” HaTorah VeHaMedina, Vol. 3 (1951): 122-41. [in Hebrew]

[35] Great in Torah, 53.

[36] “A Reasoned Proposal for Instructing Agricultural Arrangements for the Shmita Year 1952 (Haza’a Menumeket LeHora’ot LeSidurim Haklaiyim LiShnat HaShmita Tashya”),” HaTorah VeHamedina, Vol. 4 (1952): 137-39. [in Hebrew]

[37] See, e.g., RZA, P.M./644. [in Hebrew]

[38] The convention report, RZA, P.M./647. [in Hebrew]

[39] Ibid.

[40] The seven Board of Rabbis’ conventions during that period were held in the years 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, and 1960. The protocols of these conventions are found in RZA, 645-47. [in Hebrew]

[41] “With This Issue (Im HaGilayon),” Shvilin, Vol. 1 (Adar II, 1962), 1. [in Hebrew]

[42] A. Cohen, Prayer Shawl.

[43] Following the crisis in the religious services after the dismantling of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2004, and after rabbis’ salaries were not paid, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, proposed that the rabbis join the General Federation of Labor to protect their rights. This suggestion was the first of its kind.

[44] “Destiny and Mission (Yi’ud UShlihut),” RZA, P.M./648. [in Hebrew]

[45] Shvilin, Vol. 1 (Adar II 1962), 50. [in Hebrew]

[46] Quoted in Shvilin, Vols. 6-7 (Tishrei-Tevet 1964), 154. [in Hebrew]

[47] Rabbi Tchorsh, “Opening Words (Divrei Ptiha),” RZA, P.M./645. [in Hebrew]

[48] Shvilin, Vol. 1 (Adar II 1962), 50. [in Hebrew]

[49] Quoted in Shvilin, Vols. 6-7 (Tishrei-Tevet 1964), 152. [in Hebrew]

[50] Ibid., 157.

[51] Shvilin, Vols. 21-22 (Kislev 1962), 5. [in Hebrew]

[52] Ibid.

[53] The convention took place in Nissan 1962.

[54] Quoted in Shvilin, Vols. 6-7 (Tishrei-Tevet 1964), 126. [in Hebrew]]

[55] Quoted in Shvilin, Vols. 21-22 (Kislev 1969), 208. [in Hebrew]

[56] Asher Cohen, “Halakha and the State, Da’at Torah and Politics: Reciprocal Links between Religious and Political Leadership in the Religious Parties (Halakha UMedina, Da’at Torah UPolitika: Zikot Gomlin beyn Manhigut Datit UPolitit BaMiflagot HaDatiyot),” The Two Sides of the Bridge: Religion and State in the Early Days of Israel (Shney Evrey HaGesher: Dat UMedina BeReshit Darka Shel Yisrael) (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 2002), 440-41. [in Hebrew]

[57] Zerach Warhaftig, A Constitution for Israel: Religion and State (Huka LeYisrael: Dat UMedina) (Jerusalem: Mesilot, 1988), 265. [in Hebrew]

[58] Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, “On the Halakhot of a Coalition (BeHilkhot Coalizia),” Amud HaYemini, 1965. [in Hebrew]

[59] Rabbi Katriel Fishel Tchorsh, “And He Shall Act According to the Torah (VeKaTorah Ya’ase),” ibid., 10.

[60] Ibid, 12.

[61] Shvilin, Vols. 21-22 (Kislev 1969), 208. [in Hebrew]

[62] At a joint meeting of the MKs at Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog’s house in 1951, Warhaftig made a similar argument about the Days of Rest Law. See A. Cohen, “Halakha and the State,” 350-63.

[63] The story is told in full in a pamphlet published by Rabbi Goren, The Brother and Sister Ruling (Psak HaDin Be’Inyan Ha’Ach VeHa’Achot) (Jerusalem, 1973). [in Hebrew]

[64] See an example of this criticism in Shvilin, Vols. 21-22 (Kislev 1969), 4. [in Hebrew]

[65] Currently Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan.

[66] Rabbi Ariel interview, RZA, file 21. [in Hebrew]

[67] The following is based on the convention’s protocol, RZA, P.M./648. [in Hebrew]

[68] Don-Yehiya, “Religious Fundamentalism.”

[69] Warhaftig, A Constitution, 423.

[70] Great in Torah, 86.

[71] “The Board of Rabbis in the Test of Time (Hever HaRabanim BeMivhan HaYamim),” Shvilin, Vols. 31-32 (Iyar 1979), 7. [in Hebrew]

*     *     *

DR. ASHER COHEN is senior lecturer in the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University. He has published books and articles in the fields of religion and state in Israel and religious Zionism. These include Tallith and Flag: Religious Zionism and the Vision of a Torah State in the Early Days of the State (Jerusalem, 1998, in Hebrew); From Completeness to Escalation: The Religious-Secular Rift at the Start of the Twenty-First Century (Tel Aviv, 2003, in Hebrew).

AARON KAMPINSKY is a graduate student in the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University. He is presently working on a PhD thesis on Israel’s military rabbinate. His academic fields of interest are Israeli politics; religion and state in Israel; and religion, military, and society in Israel.