Two Great Sages of the Land of Israel

JerusalemBefore the onslaught of World War II reared its devastatingly ugly head, the Land of Israel, which was governed under the British Mandate and known as Palestine, was a lively, developing place. Without a doubt the center of the development was in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Among the greatest Jewish religious leaders of that exciting time were Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and Rabbi Joseph Chaim Sonnenfeld. Although the two men are often seen as enemies with diametrically opposed views on how the new Jewish settlement should relate to the Chief Rabbinate office of the World Zionist Organization, the real truth is that on the more fundamental and basic issues they saw eye to eye.

For example, in 1914 the two traveled together on a tour of new Jewish settlements all over the Land of Israel. Their common goal was to strengthen the spiritual qualities in the men and women settling the Land. The pair danced and sang with the kibbutz members, rejoicing in the shared belief that Jews could exist, and even thrive in their homeland.

Both men were famous and beloved for their extreme love of their fellow Jews, whether secular or religious. Rabbi Kook became famous as the first Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel; and Rabbi Sonnenfeld was the renowned founder of the Diskin home for orphans.

Rabbi Sonnenfeld died in 1932, leaving a large number of descendants. Rabbi Kook died only three years after Rabbi Sonnenfeld, in 1935. Rabbi Kook had three children from his two wives. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, Rabbi Kook’s only son, served as the head of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, the yeshivah his father had founded, for thirty years, until he died in 1982.

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