Over the past century, eminent rabbinic figures have helped the Jewish nation navigate halachic issues relating to the State of Israel and its armed forces. Many of these rabbis who impacted our nation have been memorialized with streets named after them.
An early example is Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine and founder of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. In the years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Rav Kook wrote numerous responsa addressing issues relating to yishuv Eretz Yisrael, rebuilding the land of Israel. Half a dozen streets across the country attest to the nation’s admiration of this saintly figure who loved, and was deeply concerned for, all members of the Jewish nation.
During the War of Independence, Rav Shlomo Goren was a sniper on the front lines in Jerusalem and was often called upon to resolve questions concerning religious observance under wartime conditions. Word spread about his halachic expertise and, in 1948, Rav Goren was appointed the first chief rabbi of the army, a role that he served with distinction for over two decades. He later became the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. As the IDF’s first chief rabbi, Rav Goren established religious guidelines for the armed forces and wrote many responsa concerning observance of Jewish law in the military.
It makes sense that Rav Goren was honored with a street named after him in Jerusalem’s Old City, as one of the most iconic photos of the Six-Day War in 1967 was of Rav Goren holding a Torah scroll and blowing the shofar at the Western Wall.
Presently, many prominent rabbis are guiding our nation and answering our war-related questions, including Israel’s chief rabbis, Rav Asher Weiss and Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, to name just a few.
Permit me to share an extraordinary question submitted by a soldier to Rav Rimon. The soldier’s question and Rav Rimon’s answer reflect the true heart and soul of our nation’s holy army: One is required to bow his head during Tachanun when lifnei Hashem—in the presence of the Almighty. Generally, if there’s no Torah present, then one is not considered “in front of Hashem” and doesn’t bow their head during Tachanun. We do not have a sefer Torah in our Gaza base. Should we bow our heads when saying Tachanun, as the Almighty’s presence is found among the soldiers, as stated in multiple biblical passages?
Rav Rimon’s response is splendid (please email me to receive a copy of the teshuva), but for the sake of brevity, Rav Rimon answers affirmatively, and declares that, in his many visits to soldiers during the war, he has felt the presence of the shechinah among our troops. He then ends with an inspiring blessing for the soldiers.
This article would not be complete without mentioning the unsung heroes: the soldiers’ wives who are tasked with the impossible job of keeping their families strong and positive, while their husbands are defending our homeland.
I would also be remiss in not giving a shoutout to the myriad Jews who are going on missions to Israel, attending rallies, donating funds, advocating on social media, picking vegetables, cleaning hospitals, etc. Nor can we overlook the many people who cannot do enough for our soldiers, such as sending gear, barbecuing, making tzitzit, purchasing tefillin. These magnificent acts of chesed are helping to heal Israel’s fragmented society. It is heartening to see our nation reuniting, thanks to the tremendous unity being modeled globally by Jews and friends of Israel.
This war is truly a national effort, bringing out the best in our rabbinic leadership, soldiers and civilians. We are blessed to be part of Am Yisrael.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at [email protected].