This week, Religious Zionism lost one of it’s foremost Rabbinic leaders, Rav Shaar-Yashuv Cohen zt”l, Chief Rabbi of Haifa. Rav Cohen passed away on 3 Ellul, the same day as the yahrzeit for Rav Kook.
Rav Cohen was born in Jerusalem, the son of the famous “Nazir” – Rav David Cohen – one of Rav Kook’s foremost students. He was also brother-in-law to Rav Shlomo Goren. He studied with his father, as well as at the flagship Merkaz HaRav yeshiva in the capital.
But Rav Cohen was not only a scholar. He was active in the military, fighting in the War of Independence in 1948 in both Jerusalem and Gush Etzion, and was injured in the battle for the Old City. He was even taken captive by the Jordanian Legion!
He continued to serve in the IDF after the war, including becoming Chief Rabbi of the Air Force. In 1967 he was serving as the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, and was privileged to be the first civilian allowed to enter the Old City following its liberation in the Six Day War.
Prime Minister Netanyahu eulogized him:
“Rabbi Shaar Yashuv HaCohen was a tremendous scholar who strove for the unity of the Jewish people, just as he worked to bring together the different segments of the population in Haifa, where he served the public as Chief Rabbi for more than 30 years.
He was both a scholar and a warrior, fighting during the War of Independence in the Etsel [Irgun], and was injured in the battle for the Old City of Jerusalem, was captured by the Jordanians, before he enlisted in the IDF.
He leaves behind him many rabbinical judges and scholars, residents and neighbors, who had a spiritual leader, and an address for [their] religious questions – as well as many deep, moving stories that will remind us of him for generations. May his memory be a blessing.”
Rav Yuval Cherlow said that he was “a remarkable figure, a city Chief Rabbi for everyone, integrating public leadership, religious institutions, and a Zionist outlook. Such figures are sorely lacking.”
Arutz Sheva reported further eulogies:
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau eulogized: “Rabbi Shaar Yashuv lived Jerusalem and made its significance manifest. He understood its essence: it’s a city that fosters Torah and peace. That was Rabbi Shaar Yashuv, a man of Torah and peace.”
Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Dean of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva at which Rabbi HaKohen studied under Israel’s first Chief Rabbi: “He was a remnant of the wise generation. He was one of the last who had sat at the feet of Rabbi Kook. He saw the destruction of the Old City of Jerusalem [in 1948], and then lived to see its rebuilding.
“How many are indebted to you for the Torah that was developed and taught to so many because of you? How many are in your debt for the glorious world of Rabbinical judges that you established,” Rabbi Shapira added…
Rabbi Haim Drukman, head of the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva Network, said: “Rabbi Shaar Yashuv was the last one alive who had seen Rabbi Kook himself. He was the last one who not only grew up on Rabbi Kook’s teachings but literally sat at his feet.”
“He was the consummate Religious-Zionist Rabbi. He completely identified with the State of Israel, its army, and with the times in which we live. This is how he lived. In this way he shone forth and was able to bring people closer to Judaism.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett told of his view of the rabbi. “It was through Rabbi Shaar Yashuv that we learned what religious Zionism is. He always received people with warmth. It’s impossible to separate him from his wife Naomi – they both saw every Jew as special. My parents arrived in the neighborhood devoid of a connection to Judaism, and the Rabbi and his wife were the first to make sure there were study and prayer groups in the area that suited them.”
Finally, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg shared this great story about Rav Shaar-Yashuv zt”l which we had to share:
Yehi Zichro Baruch.
(photo from the World Mizrachi Sukkot Luncheon in 5774/2013)