RABBI SHLOMO GOREN: Torah Sage and General

RABBI SHLOMO GOREN: Torah Sage and General
    Price: $21.50

    RABBI SHLOMO GOREN: Torah Sage and General

    by Shalom Freedman

    Hardcover, 223 pages, 27 b/w photographs
    Urim Publications, 2006 
    ISBN: 965-7108-81-0
    Series: Modern Jewish Lives - volume 1

    Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Shlomo Goren (1918-1994) made a unique and unforgettable contribution to the Jewish people. More than any other person, he embodied the ancient ideal of being both a great Jewish scholar and a remarkable soldier in the service of God and the Jewish people. He was the first chief rabbi of the Israeli Army (and later of Israel) and the most significant formative force in creating the Jewish nature of the army. His great genius in learning is reflected not only in his pioneering work in Jewish law and his monumental scholarship on Talmud Yerushalmi, but in a wide variety of books touching upon almost all areas of modern Jewish life and thought.

    His service as a soldier for Israel involved him in every possible kind of duty: from childhood smuggling of arms for the Haganah to serving as a sniper in the War of Independence, from the holy and dangerous task of retrieving bodies from the field of battle behind enemy lines to the moments of glory when he served as an inspirational presence in notable battles, and most memorably in the 1967 war, where he is wellremembered for his part in the recapture of the Old City, the Kotel, and the Temple Mount.

    About the Author:
    Shalom Freedman Ph.D. is the author of seven previous books on Jewish subjects, the most recent of which is Small Acts of Kindness (Urim).

    About the series Modern Jewish Lives:
    Many in our generation are unfamiliar with some of the great Jewish personalities of recent history. The intention of the Modern Jewish Lives series is to tell their stories. These works - penetrating biographies with a religious heart - provide readers with an understanding of and appreciation for the lives of real people whom we can admire and from whom we can draw inspiration.

    Vol. 1: Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General
    Vol. 2: Rabbi Haim David Halevy: Gentle Scholar and Courageous Thinker
    Vol. 3: Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar

    Praise for Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General:
    "On more than one occasion I have used this forum to recommend the use of reading biographies as a means to inspire our students. The Urim people have recently launched a series called "Modern Jewish Lives" that aims to present biographical material on leadership figures in the contemporary era that are not hagiographies. It is not an easy task to introduce readers to inspirational figures - warts and all - and strike an appropriate balance between the sense of awe that these biographies are meant to inspire and the human reality - and occasional frailty - that even awe-inspiring leaders posess.

    The first two volumes of this series have appeared, and both can be useful tools in educational settings....

    Rav Goren is probably a much better known personality for his front-and-center role as Chief Rabbi of Tzahal from its inception through the Six-Day War and subsequently as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. While I grew up aware of controversial positions that he took on many occasions, I still remember when a friend of mine had a particularly difficult issue that he had to deal with as a Rav Tzeva'i - a chaplain in the Israeli army. After turning to a number of distinguished heads of Yeshivot Hesder, and still without a satisfactory solution to his problem, someone directed him to Rav Goren. Rav Goren listened to the question, gave his ruling and offered sources for research. My friend came away with the sense that when dealing with army related issues, no one else had the first-hand knowledge and experience that allowed him to answer that question.

    Rabbi Freedman's presentation is made mainly of short anecdotes that come together to draw a broad picture of the man, his ideas and his works. He was, certainly, at the heart of controversy throughout his career, and the author does not shy away from that aspect of Rav Goren's life, including one chapter entitled "A Man of Controversy" and a second one called "Shortcomings." At the same time, much of the criticism is blunted by the argument that he was a man of principles - principles involving his belief in Israel and its people - that did not allow him to consider compromise or even graciousness in discussions.

    While the book does give a sense of his values and ideals, and succeeds in painting a picture of a person who devoted his life energies to building a modern state in Israel with religious convictions, I would have liked to have found a bit more detail in the descriptions of some of the events central to his reputation. There are references to "the Langer case" that turned much of the ultra-Orthodox community against him, but those readers who are not familiar with the story are left to research [more of] it on their own.

    Both this book and the volume on Rabbi Haim David Halevy include a number of photographs that add an important element to helping understand the people and their times."
    - Shalom Berger, Lookstein Digest

    "I read over Shabbos the new book published by Urim, Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General. It is excellent! There are a number of idiosyncratic aspects of the book, but that doesn't matter. It was simply a fascinating read. The book is not a thorough biography but a survey of Rabbi Goren's life and thought. Accessible, readable, gripping. And a lot of great pictures (including one of Rav Elyashiv). Plus, no shortage of criticism about R. Goren, albeit written from the perspective of a clear admirer.
    Coming away from the book, you get a picture of a great, learned and pious man who had a huge impact on history but was still a human being.
    This book should be on every Jewish bookshelf. Note that I write that without having any financial stake in the book. Buy it. Read it. Have your children read it."
    - Gil Student, Hirhurim Blog

    "HaRav Shlomo Goren ztz"l...was a fascinating, different, unique individual.... He was an outstanding Gaon beTorah... a tremendous innovator...."
    - Meir Weingarten, JM in the AM radio

    "With the release of this biography, Urim Publications is launching a new series, Modern Jewish Lives. Represented in the United States by Lambda Publishers of Brooklyn, New York, Urim Publications aims to familiarize readers with the lives of important personalities in recent history. If this first entry in the series is a forerunner of what is to come, then we may anticipate balanced biographies that praise their subjects but which simultaneously identify negative traits.

    This characteristic of trying to be fair is well illustrated in the story of Rabbi Shlomo Goren's life from 1918 to 1994. He was an outstanding scholar who was a soldier in the Israeli army during the War of Independence when his name was given to Ben-Gurion by the then-chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Herzog, as someone to lead the religious services division of the Israeli army. Goren accepted Ben-Gurion's invitation to accept this assignment, conditional on the understanding that he would be rabbi for all the soldiers regardless of whether or not they were observant. This meant that the entire army would have kosher meals and that there would be one prayer service for everyone. These conditions were accepted and Goren became the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli army, a position he held with distinction from 1948 to 1972.

    During his tenure as the army's chief rabbi, Goren engaged in the kind of arguments that later stamped him as a controversial figure. Several times, he threatened to resign because religious supplies were not being made available or because his orders about keeping Shabbat were not being followed. Perhaps the high spot of his military career came during the Six-Day War when he was among the first to reach the Western Wall where he blew the shofar. However, his joy about this achievement was diluted by an argument he had with Moshe Dayan. For Goren, the Western Wall was less significant than the Temple Mount where he wanted to pray. Dayan believed that it would be disastrous to change the status quo of the Temple Mount and he decided to leave it in the hands of the Muslims. Goren tried to organize religious services on Temple Mount but was ordered by Chief of Staff Rabin to cease and desist. A vigorous argument ensued in which Dayan's view carried the day. The author of the biography inserts his own opinion that Dayan's position "led nowhere."

    In 1972, Goren left the army and became the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel. He criticized his successor as the army chief rabbi. Once again, Freedman injects his own judgment, calling Goren "egocentric." As for Goren's ten years as chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, Freedman cautiously asserts that "it is difficult to see his tenure as Chief Rabbi as one of great success." In fact, his years in this post were marked by acrimony between Goren and the Sephardic chief rabbi so that the goal of spiritual unity for Israel was never attained. Several of Goren's rulings evoked hostile reactions. A majority of Israelis objected to Goren's view that Judea, Samaria, and Gaza should become part of Israel and that there should be no Palestinian state. Goren also clashed with Jewish leaders in the Diaspora by strongly insisting that it was the religious obligation of every Jew to settle in Israel.

    Goren failed in his effort to win another term as chief rabbi. Just as he had criticized his successor as army chief rabbi so did he cast aspersions at Rabbi Lau who followed him as the Israeli chief Ashkenazi rabbi. Author Freedman balances his recounting of these instances in which Goren was embroiled in controversy by asserting that he was a brilliant scholar who was courageous, energetic, loyal, bold, consistent, and passionate. The ample material provided in the book enables readers to decide for themselves just what kind of man Goren was. It is to Freedman's credit that he has produced a biography that is well rounded and evenhanded. The book auspiciously inaugurates this new series on "Modern Jewish Lives."
    -Morton I. Teicher, The National Jewish Post & Opinion and the Jewish Journal of South Florida

    "Recognized as a genius in Talmud, Rabbi Shlomo Goren was a strong-minded and brilliant individual with ongoing contact, and controversies, with the greatest rabbinic and political leaders of his time. This courageous and informative biography is a fascinating and inspiring story." 
    - Jewish Book World

    "This vivid biography of the former Ashkenazic chief rabbi - best remembered for blowing the shofar at the newly liberated Western Wall in June 1967... embraces his controversial, many-faceted public career and illuminates the range and depth of the significant rabbi's scholarship." 
    - Haim Chertok, Hadassah Magazine

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