Goren, Shlomo

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GOREN, SHLOMO (1917–1994), Israel rabbi. Born in Zambrow, Poland, he was taken in 1925 to Palestine where his father was one of the founders of Kefar Ḥasidim. At the age of 12, Goren entered the Hebron Yeshivah in Jerusalem where he soon became famous as a prodigy. He published his first work, titled Nezer ha-Kodesh (1935) on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, at the age of 17. In 1939, Goren published Sha'arei Tohorah on the laws of mikveh. He joined the Haganah in 1936, and fought in the Jerusalem area during the War of Independence. During this war, he was appointed by the two chief rabbis, Herzog and Ouziel, as chief chaplain of the newly formed army. He subsequently distinguished himself for his bravery, qualified as a paratrooper, and rose to the rank of brigadier-general. He accompanied the troops during both the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War, and was the first to conduct a prayer service at the liberated Western Wall in 1967. Goren was responsible for the organization of the military chaplaincy and worked out the regulations for total religious observance in the army. Rabbi Goren succeeded in establishing a unified prayer service, combining Ashkenazic and Sephardic ritual, in the idf, which is used to this day. He published a Siddur with the unified service in 1971, followed by a Passover Haggadah in 1974. He was responsible for numerous original responsa concerning specific problems of observance due to conditions of active warfare and technological progress. He also developed the principles for permitting the assumed widows (agunot) of missing soldiers to remarry. Particularly noteworthy were his decisions permitting the remarriage of the widows of those men who perished on the destroyer Eilat and the submarine Dakar in 1967–68.

In 1961 Goren received the Israel Prize for the first volume (on the order Berakhot) of his comprehensive commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud, entitled Yerushalmi ha-Meforash (1961). A collection of his halakhic and philosophical essays, mainly concerning the Festivals and Holy Days, was published in 1964 under the title of Torat ha-Mo'adim. In 1968, he was elected Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, taking up his duties only in 1971, and on October 16, 1972, was elected Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. Shortly after his election he was involved in a violent controversy stemming from the unconventional manner in which he solved the problem of a brother and sister who had been declared mamzerim by the rabbinical courts, including the Bet Din of Appeals. An ad hoc bet din, which Goren had assembled, assented to a responsum he had published (in a limited edition) that they were free from the taint of mamzerut. He subsequently arranged their immediate marriages. The secrecy surrounding the military-like operation and his refusal to reveal the names of the dayyanim aroused violent opposition from the heads of the yeshivot and prominent rabbis, including the Lubavitch Rabbi. He published a detailed volume consisting of 200 pages (Pesak Din B'Inyan ha-Aḥ ve-ha-Aḥot, Jerusalem, 1973), to justify his ruling. In April 1980 a law was passed by the Knesset issuing new regulations with regard to the future of the Chief Rabbinate. It included a provision that the period of service of both incumbents be extended to 1983, after which, however, they would be precluded from offering themselves for reelection.

During the summer of 1981 Rabbi Goren became involved in a public controversy over his ruling that Area G in the archeological excavations in the City of David near the Western Wall had been the site of an ancient Jewish cemetery and that no excavations should be undertaken there. The Israeli academic world rejected that claim and leading scholars stated that no Jewish cemetery had been there in the past. A special session of the Knesset was called during the summer recess, but no action was taken. Work was suspended in the area for a few weeks by order of the Minister of Education and Culture Zevulun Hammer, and the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the situation. On September 15, 1981, the Supreme Court made known its decision that the rabbinate has no legal right to determine state policy. The season's excavation work ended soon thereafter. Excavation of the area continued until 1985 and no actual cemetery was discovered.

Another controversial issue that occupied Rabbi Goren throughout the second half of his life was the question of Jewish access to the Temple Mount. As idf chief rabbi, Goren was one of the first soldiers to reach the Western Wall during the Six-Day War in 1967. At that time, he also ascended the Temple Mount and is reported suggesting to Central Command Head General, Uzi Narkiss, that the idf blow up the Dome of the Rock, thereby establishing Israeli/Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount (Haaretz, December 31, 1997). In the months following the Six-Day War, Goren called for the destruction of the mosques on the Temple Mount and the building of the third Temple. This was in direct opposition to the majority of the rabbis on the Chief Rabbinate Council and the chief rabbis, Unterman and Nissim, themselves, who were of the halakhic opinion that the Temple Mount was to be placed off-limits to Jews. Just after the Six-Day War, Goren held seminars for idf reservists on the Mount, as well as full religious services on Tisha B'Av. Over time, Goren modified his views and privately encouraged scholars and others to ascend to the Temple Mount, but refrained from issuing a public decree permitting Jews to ascend. During his tenure as chief rabbi, he did approach then prime minister, Menaḥem Begin, to ease the government's stance restricting the access of Jews to the Temple Mount. Goren's extensive research into the Temple Mount and the exact placement of the Temple, Har ha-Bayit, was finally published in 1992, almost 20 years after he finished his research because of the controversial nature of the subject and his opinions.

Rabbi Goren published numerous other works during his lifetime: Torat ha-Shabbat ve-ha-Moed (1982); Sefer ha-Yerushalmi ve-ha-Gra (1991) on the relationship between the Gaon of Vilna and the Jerusalem Talmud; Sefer Moadei Yisrael (1993); and posthumously, Meshiv Milḥamah (1996), responsa dealing with war; Torat ha-Mikra (1996), essays on the weekly Torah reading; Torat ha-Philosophia (1998), essays on Jewish philosophy; Mishnat ha-Medinah (1999), the halakhic perspectives on the major political issues facing the State of Israel; and Torat ha-Refuah (2001), on Jewish medical ethics.


Ehrlich, in: Panim el Panim (Oct. 4, 1967); D. Lazar, Rashim be-Yisrael, 2 (1955), 86–91. add. bibliography: Y. Alfasi (ed.), Ha-Maalot Le-Shlomo (1996); Y. Cohen in: Jewish Political Studies Review, 11:1–2 (1999).

[Mordechai Piron]