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Bidding Information
Lot #    22347
Auction End Date    12/23/2008 12:11:00 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Letter by Israel's Chief Rabbis
Title (Hebrew)    כתב ע'ח הרבנים הראשים
Author    [Ms.]
City    Jerusalem
Publication Date    1956
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [1] p., 328:208 mm., light age staining, creased on folds, typewritten on stationary, signed in ink.
   Letter signed by:

R. Isaac Herzog (1888–1959), rabbinic scholar; chief rabbi of Israel. Born in Lomza, Poland, Herzog was nine years old when his father R. Joel Herzog emigrated to Leeds, England, to be the rabbi there. Though he never attended a yeshivah, he achieved the highest standards in rabbinic scholarship, receiving semikhah from Jacob David Wilkowsky (Ridbaz) of Safed. Herzog was awarded his doctorate of literature by the London University for a thesis on The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel (1919). Endowed with a brilliant analytical mind and a phenomenal memory, Herzog was soon recognized as one of the great rabbinical scholars of his time, besides being a linguist and jurist and at home in mathematics and natural sciences. The charm of his personality, which combined ascetic unworldliness with conversational wit and diplomatic talents, made a great impression.

Herzog served as rabbi in Belfast (Northern Ireland), 1916–19 and in Dublin until 1936, receiving the title of chief rabbi of the Irish Free State after 1921. He maintained excellent relations with political and ecclesiastical figures, and established a life-long friendship with Eamon de Valera, the Irish prime minister. By testifying before a committee of the Irish senate he succeeded in safeguarding shehitah against the provisions of a Slaughter of Animals Act (1935). Herzog was an ardent Zionist and a founder of the Mizrachi Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1932 Herzog declined an invitation to the rabbinate of Salonika. In 1936 he accepted the invitation to become chief rabbi of Palestine in succession to A. I. Kook and assumed office in 1937. With the exception of a few die-hard fanatics, who sporadically challenged him, Herzog enjoyed the respect of the vast majority, including the non-religious elements, particularly in the kibbutzim. As chief rabbi, he was president of the Rabbinical Court of Appeal and of the Chief Rabbinate Council, and thus, through the enactment of takkanot in matters of personal status, he was responsible for significant advances, reconciling the necessities of modern living with the demands of halakhah. He also served as president of the Va'ad ha-Yeshivot, established in 1940 to solicit financial support for the country's talmudic colleges. It was his initiative that led to Isaac Wolfson's building Hechal Shlomo, the seat of the chief rabbinate, and other important religious organizations and services.

Before, during, and after World War II Herzog was one of the representatives of Palestinian and world Jewry to the various conferences and commissions organized to find a solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine. He set forth the Jewish spiritual claims to the Holy Land and stressed the need of a refuge for the survivors of the Holocaust. Herzog, deeply stirred by the tragedy of the Holocaust, traveled to London (1940), the United States (1941), South Africa (1941), Turkey (1943), and Cairo (1944) trying to rescue Jews. Thus, in 1940 he received from Soviet Russia permits for staff and students of Lithuanian and Polish yeshivot stranded in Vilna to cross Russia to the Far East. In 1946 he traveled throughout Europe for six months in an attempt to find and rescue the many Jewish children, mostly orphans, who were hidden in monasteries and convents and with non-Jewish families during the years of Nazi persecution (see Massa Hazzalah, 1947). In the course of these travels he was received by the pope and many leading statesmen.

Among Herzog's published works are the first two volumes of the planned five of Main Institutions of Jewish Law 1936–39 (1965–672). His talmudic research is contained in Divrei Yizhak, partly published in his father J. Herzog's Imrei Yo'el (v.1, 1921) and partly in his father-in-law S. I. Hillman's Or ha-Yashar (1921), and Torat ha-Ohel (1948). Two volumes of responsa, Heikhal Yizhak, appeared in 1960 and 1967. The digest of responsa Ozar ha-Posekim (11 vols. to 1969) was founded by Herzog in 1940, as was the Harry Fischel Institute for Research in Jewish Law, one of the functions of which was to train dayyanim for the rabbinical courts of Israel. Massu'ot Yizhak, a religious settlement named after Herzog, located first in the Ezyon group in the Hebron hills and destroyed in 1948, was rebuilt near Ashkelon.

R. Isaac Nissim (1896–1981), chief rabbi of Israel and rishon le-Zion. R. Nissim was born in Baghdad. His father was a merchant and also a scholar. R. Nissim early attained a reputation as a scholar and, although he occupied no rabbinic office, his opinion was sought in religious matters. His method of study approximated closely to that of the Lithuanian rabbis and he engaged in halakhic discussion with them and with heads of yeshivot. He had ties with eminent rabbis of Erez Israel as well as with scholars of Germany and Poland. In 1925 he settled in Jerusalem, where he was closely associated with R. Solomon Eliezer Alfandari whose lectures he attended. In 1926 he published Zedakah u-Mishpat, the responsa of Zedakah R. Hozin, an 18th-century Baghdad scholar, together with an introduction and notes from a manuscript in Iris large library. R. Nissim wrote responsa on a variety of halakhic topics, some of them being published in his Yein ha-Tov (1947). In 1955 he was elected to the office of rishon le-Zion and chief rabbi of Israel. He displayed his independence in various fields of activity and strove for understanding and the creation of amicable relations between all sectors of the population, visiting for example, left-wing kibbutzim, which were regarded as closed to rabbis. He took a strong stand in the halakhic recognition of the Bene Israel of India and refused to meet Pope Paul VI when the latter visited Israel in January 1964. After the 1967 Six-Day War he transferred the supreme bet din to a building opposite the southern Wall of the Temple near the site of the Chamber of Hewn Stone, which was the ancient seat of the Sanhedrin.

R. Samuel Aaron Shezuri (1885-1980), chief secretary to the Chief Rabbinate.

   Ha-Zofeh, (March 27, 1964), 3; D. Lazar, Rashim be-Yisrael, 2 (1955), 114–8; EJ
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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Israel:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Letters:    Checked
Kind of Judaica