Goren, Rabbi Shlomo

14 Jun 2006

One of the most memorable moments of the Six-Day War of June, 1967, was Rabbi Goren blowing the “Shofar” at the “Kotel,” the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Holding the rank of general, he knew that the army’s next mission was Hebron, the site of the “Meorat HaMachpelah,” the Cave of Machpelah, the traditional burial place for Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, and Yaakov and Leah, and the site, as well, of “Kever Rachel,” the roadside burial place of Rachel “Imeinu,” our Mother Rachel, who comforted the Jewish Exiles on their bitter way.

He arranged to be awakened at the beginning of the march, but was left behind. He ordered his driver to proceed into Hebron, believing that the Israel Defense Force had captured it already. But he was greeted by the sight of white sheets hung from roof-tops and windows, throughout the city. Because he had been there at the time, he immediately understood that because in the summer of 1929, the local Arabs had massacred 67 Jews and wounded many others, primarily at the Hebron Yeshiva, the current Arabs were afraid that the Jews would take revenge, and had chosen to surrender. Rabbi Goren, single-handedly, thus “captured” a city of some 80,000 Arabs, while the Army was still planning its attack. Arriving at the “Meorat HaMachpelah,” where Jews had been denied entry for hundreds of years, he blasted open the doors with his Uzi submachine gun, and blew the “Shofar,” as he had done the day before at the Western Wall.

Rav Shlomo was born in Poland, and arrived in Palestine in 1925, at the age of eight. Four years later, he began his studies at the Hebron Yeshiva. His first work was on the “Mishneh Torah” of the “Rambam,” Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, which was published when the author was seventeen. At the age of twenty-one, he published a study of the Laws of the “Mikvah,” called “Sha’rei Taharah.”

During the “Milchemet HaShichrur,” Israel’s War of Independence, he fought in the Jerusalem area. He was appointed chaplain in the army, and rose to the rank of brigadier-general. During fighting in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War, he frequently risked his life to retrieve the bodies of fallen soldiers for proper burial. He made arrangements for provision of Kosher food and festival observances, and wrote many “Responsa,” Responses to questions in Jewish Law, concerning a modern army at war and at peace.

In 1968 he was elected Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv – Jaffa and in 1973, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, serving until 1983. As Chief Rabbi, among his numerous accomplishments, was his declaration that it was not only permitted, but actually a religious commandment, for Jews to go up to the Temple Mount, that had long been occupied by the Arabs.