Harav Kook

Profiles in Leadership: One Jew in search of the10 Lost Tribes of Israel

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, z"l 
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, was laid to rest on September 16, 2015. Since 1961, when he served as a rabbi/teacher at YBA Nechalim, he had dedicated his life to research and activity on behalf of the dispersed of Israel, in particular, research regarding the fate of the Ten Lost Tribes.

In 1975, at the urging of his mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, of blessed memory, he founded the non-profit organization, Amishav – for the Dispersed of Israel.

Rabbi Avichail has lectured widely in Israel and abroad, published numerous articles and the Hebrew books HaOvdim B’Eretz Ashur and Shitei Yisrael, the latter of which has been translated into English and French.

In order to assist in aliya and conversion, he wrote and published the booklet Judaism (Hebrew) which has been translated into numerous languages.

Rabbi Avichail was a member of the Rabbinical Court which converted the Belmonte community in Portugal. He facilitated aliya of the BaDerej L’Yerushalayim group from Mexico and the Bnei Menashe group from Peru. He continues to assist the aliya of Bnei Menashe from northeast India (some 1,000 souls to date). Rabbi Avichail has travelled the world, from India, Burma, China, Thailand and Japan to Europe and South America, in order to research, encourage and guide the dispersed of Israel.

Rabbi Avichail was born in Jerusalem in 1932. His parents came from Lithuania and Ukraine. At 16 he was drafted by the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence; he completed his service with the rank of sergeant in the Nahal brigade at Kibbutz Yavne. Afterwards he joined Kibbutz Saad, where he lived and worked for five years, and then studied at Yeshivat Kerem BeYavneh and Merkaz HaRav Kook. He received his rabbinical ordination and completed a teaching certificate for Bible studies and Mishna. He has held the positions of community rabbi, students’ rabbi at the Hebrew University, and teacher of Bible and Judaism for all ages. He received the equivalent of a Doctorate in Jewish Professions for his rabbinical studies and publications.

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and his wife Rivka were jointly awarded the Yakir Yerushalayim prize [annual citizenship prize in Jerusalem] in 2012. They have six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their home was open at all times to the Bnei Menashe, new converts and all those who wish to study Judaism.

Thousands of citizens of Israel from the Bnei Menashe community will mourn  this  modest and saintly man, who paved the way for them to begin new lives as Jews in the state of Israel.

Yom Ha'atzmaut Dvar Torah by Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook

Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes teaches Talmud and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook in Jerusalem. He and his wife founded the Ulpanit Bnei Aviva high school for girls in Tel Aviv in 1978 and headed the school until their retirement in 2014. To invite Rabbi Magnes to your congregation as a Scholar in Residence, contact Menachem Bar-Shalom or the AFYBA office.

In Israel’s army, more officers now religious. What that means.

The percentage of officer cadets who are religious has grown 10-fold since the early 1990s. Among secular Israelis, that’s being met with a mix of respect, and concern.

By Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor, April 17, 2015

In the early 1990s, ... Orthodox men accounted for 2.5 percent of graduates of infantry officer training courses; since then, it’s grown to more than 25 percent... In some combat units, they make up as much as 50 percent of new officers – roughly quadruple their share of Israel’s population. The upward trend, coupled with a parallel decline in the number of combat soldiers and officers coming from secular families, is dramatically changing the face of the IDF. Read entire article

Passover Interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 2 of 3: Rabbis and Politics

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)

When Rabbi Drukman cried

YBA Chairman, Rabbi Haim Druckman
Rabbi Drukman sees his main occupation as an educator and teacher of Torah. His natural environment is the house of study, lecturing his students. Nevertheless, much of his public activity was in the Knesset. Rabbi Drukman was a member of Knesset for the National Religious Party, and for a certain period he resigned and founded the ‘Moreshet’ faction. "Serving in the Knesset was for me like doing reserve duty [in the army]," he says, "Every Jew is expected to do reserve duty. I didn’t want to be in the Knesset; I wasn’t looking for a public position, but I was called, so I went."

This public service was indeed forced upon Rabbi Drukman. One day, near Passover, Rabbi Drukman traveled to Jerusalem to bake matzot. He was already aware that some activists wanted him to run for the Knesset, and the natural address to make that happen was Rabbi Kook. He rushed to the home of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda to tell him that his mission is to educate, and that he has no desire to go to the Knesset. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda listen to his words, but a few hours later he was called again to the rabbi’s home in the Geula neighborhood. "I went in and found those who wanted me to run for the Knesset were there. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda had listened to them, and told me I should go for it. When he said that, I burst into tears, but I accepted his ruling." The Rosh Yeshiva traded the Beit Midrash for the Knesset, but managed to continue at the same time to teach Torah.

Do you think that rabbis should intervene in politics? Is the role of the rabbis limited to the Beit Midrash, or in all walks of life?

"The bottom line is that it depends on who it is," says Rabbi Drukman. "Ideally, Torah personalities should be found everywhere, but it’s not always appropriate. I don’t think that just because someone has been ordained as a rabbi it makes him qualified to deal with every subject. But if there are Torah personalities who could lead the public not only in the synagogue but also in the Knesset, the fact that he is also a rabbi is not a detriment. In fact, it is even a bonus."

Rabbi Drukman doesn’t only expect Torah personalities to serve in the Knesset, he also also expects a political united front for religious Zionism. The current split, he says, does not add much respect for the Torah of Israel. "Religious Zionism should be cohesive, and [if so,] its political representation will be in proportion with its real power," he says. "There are religious people integrated into the larger parties, and one reason for this is our success in education. Some people who grew up in the religious Zionist camp think there is no longer any need for a sectorial political party; that it is possible to exert influence in every party. I think they are wrong. Experience shows that a religious person in another party can influence society only an individual, but not collectively. The State of Israel needs a large religious Zionist party, where everything is rooted in the value of a Torah that is connected to the People, the Land and the State of Israel. This is the image of a true Torat Eretz Yisrael. This [unified political camp] will bring great blessings for the Torah and for the country as a whole. The present situation, where there is no unified religious Zionist party, is felt in many ways."

You can’t be counted a minyan (quorum)

One area where Rabbi Drukman has a lot to say is conversion. In 2003, with his leaving the Knesset, Rabbi Drukman began a new role as head of the state’s conversion authority in the Prime Minister’s Office. His [relatively liberal] attitude toward conversion upset the Haredi public officials, which came to a head when Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a judge on the Rabbinical Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the conversions of Rabbi Drukman should be revoked immediately. He soon became a persona non-grata among the ultra-Orthodox community, which was clearly demonstrated when he visited one day the well-known Itzkowitz Shteibel (synagogue) in the heart of Bnei Brak. "I entered one of the rooms of the shteibel and besides me there were eight Jews. When the tenth man showed up, I said, 'We have a minyan (quorum), you can start [the prayer service].' But then someone said, 'You cannot be counted in a minyan; we have to wait for one more.' I remember I was so shocked, that I couldn’t manage to pull myself together until another Jew came in and we began to pray. If it wasn’t so painful and distressing, it would have been funny. I can’t be counted in a minyan?!"

But the ultra-Orthodox community, in their eyes at least, is motivated by fear of Heaven. They object to your method of conversion.

"Even if someone thinks otherwise, those who practice a second method have a basis in Halacha (religious law). How can you cancel out-of-hand all these conversions if they were made in accordance legitimate halachic opinion you can trust? Moreover, the judge who rejected my conversions announced his decision in public, at a convention of rabbinical judges, clearly mentioning my name, without having talked to me even one word beforehand. How can a judge rule without hearing all sides? How can he offhandedly mention my name, in a forum of hundreds of rabbinical judges, without first having consulted with me? How is it possible to speak about me in such harsh and sharp language? Is this proper? Is this the way of the Torah?! "

What does this story show us regarding our relations with the Haredim?

"Our relationship should be like a family. We are all one big family, which has a difference of opinion, but with love. What unites the people of Israel is far greater than what separates us. We say in the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they try to destroy us." For those who are trying to destroy us, there is no difference between religious and secular, between leftists and rightists. We need to learn from our enemies that we need to be united. Certainly we have a [religious] lifestyle in common with the ultra-Orthodox, although I am sorry to say that I am not sure they think so. You can see this in their newspaper: any Haredi politician, no matter how small, who is elected to the Knesset, is referred to as a great ‘Rabbi’, even if he has no rabbinic qualifications, whereas when writing about our [religious Zionist] rabbis, they omit the title altogether. 

In our study halls you can find all the books of Torah erudition, but in the Haredi study halls you won’t find any books written by giants of Torah who were Zionists. Can you name one Haredi yeshiva with the books of Rabbi Kook on the shelf? Not books of Jewish Thought, nor books of Jewish Law. My heart aches, but it does not change the fact that we are a family. I'm not saying it's easy, but you have to overcome the difficulties. I would hope that if ordinary Haredim would recognize us as we are, it would be different. You have to get to know one another. Our Haredi brothers and our secular brothers have to get to know us and we have to get to know them."

Go on to Part 3: Influencing Public Values

Instilling Jewish values at YBA Hadarom

Rabbi Kook addressing YBA Hadarom students
as Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi David Twersky (seated) looks on. 
Last June three boys were kidnapped and killed by Hamas terrorists in Gush Etzion, The vicious murder of Gilad Shear, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrah prompted the PA and IDF to crackdown on Hamas terrorists operating in the Hebron area, Hamas in Gaza responded by firing hundreds of missiles on cities and towns in southern Israel, and the IDF responded by launching Operation Protective Edge, which left 66 IDF soldiers and 5 Israeli civilians killed during 50 days of fighting.

Now, six months later, students of YBA Hadarom in Rehovot have begun a project to honor the memory of the three murdered boys, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, by studying Torah.

“Jewish tradition teaches us that Torah study in memory of a soul elevates that soul in Olam Habah (the World Come)," explained Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi David Twersky at the opening ceremony, "So we are calling the project ‘Mishna l’neshama’ (Mishna for the Soul),The goal is for each student to learn two chapters of Mishna per week.”

The ceremony was attended by the grandparents of Gilad and Naftali, residents of Rehovot, and the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, who praised the boys for taking responsibility for the Nation of Israel through the project.

Yeshivot Bnei Akiva - Training Israel's Future. TM

Harav Kook's yortzeit, 3 Elul, 79 years after his passing

Harav Avraham YItzchak Hacohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, appointed by the Britixh Mandate authorities, did not live to see the birth of the State of Israel.

But he is widely regarded as the father of modern religious Zionism for his embracing of the secular Zionist movement as Hashem's instrument of bringing the Geula - the redemption of the Land and Nation of Israel.

On Harav Kook's yortzeit, 3 Elul, thousands of religious Zionist Jews from Israel and abroad, including the students of YBA Yeshivat Hesder Hakotel, converged at his grave site on Har Hazeitim (the Mount of Olives) to pay tribute to his blessed memory and his prophetic vision.

View the video:

YBA At a Glance

The core mission of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva is to train future leaders for the State of Israel; men and women who are observant Jews devoted to Torah study, dedicated to the Land of Israel and the Jewish People and loyal citizens of the State, particularly regarding army and national service.

  • Since the first Bnei Akiva yeshiva was founded at Kfar Haroeh in 1939 by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria z”l, YBA has grown to become the largest religious Zionist educational network in Israel, with 73 schools and over 24,000 students.
  • More than 79,000 YBA graduates can be found in every industrial, academic and professional sector of Israeli society, including many leading artists, scientists, industrialists, IDF generals, mayors, Supreme Court justices, Members of Knesset and Israel Prize winners.
  • YBA schools were Israel’s pioneers in achieving successful social integration and educational excellence with students from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, including most recently, the absorption of Ethiopian olim.
  • YBA students put into practice the Jewish values of Tikun Olam and Gemilut Chasadim through weekly volunteer community involvement, social action, and chesed activities, affecting the lives of thousands of needy Israelis.
  • While maintaining its traditional base of residential schools, in the past 20 years YBA has established many non-residential schools in development towns to answer the need for quality religious Zionist education in Israel’s peripheral areas.
  • All YBA schools maintain an open enrollment policy – no child is ever turned away due to the parents’ inability to pay tuition; about 50% of YBA students receive full or partial scholarship each year.
  • YBA schools strive to help every student realize his or her maximum potential, academically, socially, ethically and spiritually; over 70% of YBA graduates achieve full matriculation for college entrance – well above the national average.
  • Virtually all YBA high school graduates go on to proudly serve the State in the IDF and in the National Service, with a high proportion joining Hesder Yeshivot or volunteering for elite units and officer training in the IDF.