Frank, Ẓevi Pesaḥ

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FRANK, ẒEVI PESAḤ (1873–1960), chief rabbi of Jerusalem and halakhic authority. Frank was born in Kovno, Lithuania. His father, Judah Leib, was one of the leaders of the "Ḥaderah" society in Kovno which founded the village of *Ḥaderah in Ereẓ Israel. Frank studied under Eliezer *Gordon at Telz and under Isaac Rabinowitz at Slobodka. He attended the *musar discourses of Israel *Lipkin of Salant. In 1893 he proceeded to Jerusalem where he continued his studies at the yeshivot of Eẓ Ḥayyim and Torat Ḥayyim. He acquired an outstanding reputation, combining a profound knowledge of the Talmud with sound common sense. Despite his youth, he was encouraged by Samuel *Salant, the rabbi of Jerusalem, who consulted with him in his halakhic decisions. In 1895 he married Gitah-Malkah, granddaughter of Ḥayyim Jacob Spira, head of the Jerusalem bet din. Subsequently he taught at a number of Jerusalem yeshivot. In 1902 he moved to Jaffa in order to be able to devote himself entirely to study. Rabbi A.I. *Kook had already taken up his appointment there, and later he and Frank associated in the efforts to establish the rabbinate of Israel.

In 1907 Frank was appointed by Salant and the scholars of Jerusalem as a member of the Bet Din Gadol in the Ḥurvah synagogue. Although he was its youngest member, the burden of the bet din, and the religious affairs of the city fell mainly upon his shoulders. He conducted single-handedly the spiritual administration of the city in the difficult days of World War i. The Turks tried to send him into exile in Egypt, but he hid in an attic from where he directed the rabbinical affairs of the city until the entry of the British (December 1917). The rabbinate was in a perilous state and Frank made strenuous efforts to raise its status, both materially and spiritually. He understood the importance of founding a central rabbinical organization, and immediately after the British occupation, took steps to found "The Council of Rabbis of Jerusalem." This organization, however, was short lived. Later, however, he established the "Rabbinate Office," which became the nucleus of the chief rabbinate of Israel, and on his suggestion A.I. Kook was invited to become chief rabbi of Palestine in 1921. In the violent controversy which resulted, fomented by the extreme religious section which saw no halakhic precedent for such an appointment, Frank brought proof to bear. In 1936 he was elected chief rabbi of Jerusalem. In consequence of his preeminence as a halakhist, the appointment was accepted by all parties, including those who opposed him on political grounds.

Frank was a rare Torah personality. He was approached on all difficult halakhic problems in Israel or in the Jewish world, and unhesitatingly gave his ruling. He was especially concerned about agunot (see *Agunah) and the laws pertaining to the Land of Israel. Immediately after the *Balfour Declaration (1917) he expressed the opinion: "we have been worthy to see approaching signs of the redemption"; he began to clarify the laws of the Temple and sacrifices, and also headed the Midrash Benei Zion, an institute established for the clarification of the laws of the Land of Israel. He devised no novel procedure in halakhic ruling, but followed in the tradition of the renowned *posekimIsaac Elhanan *Spektor and Samuel Salant. He fought against the military conscription of women and yeshivah students, exclusively secular education, and the desecration of the Sabbath. His statements sometimes raised a storm, but they were always received with respect. Together with Rabbi Isaac *Herzog he entered into an agreement with Hadassah Hospital on the circumstances under which autopsies could be performed according to the halakhah. He left many manuscripts, in particular responsa, constituting some 20 large volumes from which Har Ẓevi (1964), on Yoreh De'ah; Mikdash Melekh (1968); and Har Ẓevi (1969) on Oraḥ Ḥayyim were published.

[Shabbetai Devir]

The second part of Rabbi Frank's responsa on Oraḥ Ḥayyim, Har Ẓevi, has now been published, edited by R. Shabbetai Ẓevi Rosenthal under the auspices of the Makhon ha-Rav Frank. The volume consists of 132 responsa. Some of the responsa reflect the author's attitude toward the State of Israel. For instance, he regards those areas acquired in the War of Liberation as Israeli territory in every respect, legally acquired by Israel, with the result that the laws of terumah and ma'aser apply to it and vessels captured from the enemy are liable to tevilah, since they are to be regarded as legally belonging to Jews.


Keter Torah ve-Seder Hakhtarat ha-Rabbanut… Ẓevi Pesaḥ Frank (1936); Ha-Ẓofeh (Dec. 11, 1960).