Judaism: Shoftim: HaRav Kook and the Jerusalem Police Officer
Rabbi Chanan MorrisonRabbi Chanan Morrison, of Mitzpeh Yericho, runs ravkooktorah.org, a website dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, to the English-speaking community. He is also the author of "Gold from the Land of Israel".
"Appoint judges and police in all of your cities..." (Deut. 16:18)
Rav Kook was overjoyed with the news. David Tidhar, a Jewish officer serving in the British Mandatory police force, had come to announce that he was engaged to be married.
The rabbi insisted that the wedding be held in his own residence, and that he would provide the wedding meal. Rav Kook even invited students from the yeshivah to join in the festivities.
Many people were surprised. Why was Rav Kook so fond of this particular policeman?
Rav Kook explained that David Tidhar had zechut avot - ancestral merits. His father, R. Moshe Betzalel Todrosovich, was a wealthy Jaffa philanthropist who had been instrumental in bringing Rav Kook to serve as rabbi of Jaffa. R. Moshe Betzalel supported numerous religious projects in Jaffa, especially anything related to educationand helping out those in need. This fine man, Rav Kook declared, is certainly deserving of our thanks and gratitude
The Run-Away Husband
Rav Kook's appreciation of David Tidhar was also based on his appreciation forthe young man's own qualities and deeds. These close ties took on greater importance when Tidhar was appointed to serve as an officer in the Jerusalem police force.
The Chief Rabbi would often turn to him for assistance inreleasing a prisoner, or to ameliorate a prisoner's conditions in jail.
On one unusual occasion, however, Rav Kook requested Tidhar's help inplacing a man under arrest.
Rav Kook was informed that a certain man had decided to abandon his family,with full intention of leaving his wife an agunah without a proper divorce. The husband intended to flee Jerusalem on the early morningtrain. Legally, there was no way to stop him. The request to detain him had been submitted to the regional court; but the order could only be approved after the judge arrived at ten o'clock.
Rav Kook turned to Tidhar, explaining the urgency of the situation. The resourceful police officer came up with an unconventional solution to deal with the case. He dispatched an undercover detective to the train station. There the detective pretended to pick a fight with the man. The altercationbegan with harsh words and quickly progressed to fisticuffs.
Policemen immediately arrived and arrested the two brawlers, bringing them in to the police station in Me'ah She'arim. At that point Tidhar arrived. He detained the man at the stationuntil Rav Kook sent word that the court order had been obtained. He was then able to officially place the man under arrest.
Rav Kook would say that two men assisted him in maintaining order in religious affairs in Jerusalem. The first was the British high commissioner Herbert Samuel. The second was the police officer David Tidhar. But, Rav Kook noted, there is adifference between the two. The commissioner always conferred first with his legal adviser, so his assistance was often delayed.
Officer Tidhar, on the other hand, was diligent and energetic. He did whatever he promised to do, quickly overcoming all obstacles.
The Would-Be Expulsion
In another incident, Tidhar needed to prevent the deportation of Jewish immigrants - a deportation that he himself was detailed to carry out.
The British passport office sent Tidhar a long list of illegal immigrants. The list included many details: names, addresses, ages, and so on. The policeman was astounded. How had the British obtained so much information about the immigrants?
The answer was not long in coming. British immigration officials had posed as Jewish aid workers, going house to house in Jerusalem neighborhoods.Using this ploy, they convinced the immigrants to divulge their identifying details.
As police commander, Tidhar was given the order to expel forty hapless families on the day before Yom Kippur. It would have been a heart-breaking sight.
Tidhar met with the leaders of the Jewish city council. He requested that the refugees be provided with food and clothing; and hegave them a twelve hour reprieve before executing the deportation.
The council's Aliyah department agreed. They providedfor the immigrants' needs, and secretly transferred them to distant neighborhoods.
In order to assist the refugees, it was necessary for Tidhar to work on Yom Kippur. Following Rav Kook's advice, he dressed as an Arab. This way the Jewish immigrants would not be disturbed by the sight of a Jew desecrating the holiest day of the year - even if his labors were for their own benefit.
David Tidhar commented about that period: the British officers thought that they were my commanding officers. But my true commanding officer was Rav Kook. For me, any request of the rabbi was an order, which I tried to discharge to the best of my ability. I considered it a great privilege to fulfill the Rav's wishes.
(Adapted from Chayei HaRe'iyah, pp. 303-304; Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 151; Rav Kook on the Net: RavKookTorah.org; This week's Dvar Torah:RavKook.co.nr
;This Dvar Torah: SHOFTIM-72.htm