Reines, Yitsḥaq Yaʿaqov

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REINES, YITSAQ YAʿAQOV (18391915) was one of the founders and first leaders of Mizrai, a religious Zionist movement established at the beginning of the twentieth century. Reines was born in Belorussia, studied at the leading yeshivot (rabbinic academies), and served as a rabbi in a variety of towns in Lithuania throughout his life. He made a major contribution to rabbinic scholarship, with emphasis on a strictly logical approach to problems in Jewish law. He published a number of important legal works, including otam tokhnit (18801881), and a homiletical work, Nod shel demaʿot (1891). While serving as rabbi of Sventsyany from 1869 to 1885, Reines established a yeshivah that combined traditional studies with secular subjects, but he was forced to close the school after several months as a result of extreme Orthodox opposition. Only in 1905 did he succeed in establishing such a yeshivah, in Lida. This new school became the model for religious Zionist education in the Mizrai movement and, following World War I, was copied throughout eastern Europe.

In addition to his legal and educational contributions, Reines was active politically. He joined the proto-Zionist movement ibbat Tsiyyon at its inception in the 1880s and proposed religious agricultural settlements in the Land of Israel. Following the creation of the World Zionist Organization in 1897, he became one of Theodor Herzl's most fervent rabbinical supporters in the face of rejection by most other Orthodox authorities. In 1902, Reines published a book defending Zionism entitled Or adash ʿal Tsiyyon (A new light on Zion).

Despite his support for Herzl, Reines was concerned that the secular leadership of the World Zionist Organization would ignore or even denigrate Jewish religious values in the struggle for a Jewish state. In 1902, he convened a conference of Orthodox Zionists in Vilna that resulted in the establishment of Mizrai in 1902. Reines also founded the movement's first journal, Ha-Mizrai. The movement sought to defend and inculcate traditional Jewish values while supporting the Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. Mizrai established a network of schools in eastern Europe and, later, in Palestine. It became the foundation for the National Religious Party (Mafdal), which plays a critical role in Israeli politics today.

See Also



In addition to Getzel Kressel's biographical article on Reines in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), appraisals of his life and work can be found in Sefer ha-Mizrai, edited by Y. L. Maimon (Jerusalem, 1946), pp. 83101, and in David Vital's Zionism: The Formative Years (Oxford, 1982), pp. 215224.

New Sources

Holzer, Elie. "The Use of Military Force in the Religious Zionist Ideology of Rabbi Yitzhak Yaʿakov Reines and His Successors." Studies in Contemporary Jewry 18 (2002): 7494.

David Biale (1987)

Revised Bibliography