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Second Chief Rabbi in IDF History Passes Away

Rabbi Mordechai Piron z''l passes at age 93, active shaping religious identity of Israel, called Jerusalem the 'place of my dreams.'
By Ido Ben-Porat, Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 5/28/2014, 11:48 AM

Rabbi Mordechai Piron
Rabbi Mordechai Piron
Hezki Ezra

The second chief rabbi in the history of the IDF, Maj. Gen. (res.) Rabbi Mordechai Piron z''l, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 93.

The rabbi will be buried in a military funeral on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Jerusalem's Har Hamenuchot cemetery.

Rabbi Piron was born in 1921 in Vienna, Austria. In 1938 he immigrated to Israel, and studied at various prestigious yeshivas, including roughly a decade at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which was founded by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, considered the father of religious Zionism.

The rabbi was ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Harlap, head of the yeshiva at the time, and Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, then Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Not content with study alone, Rabbi Piron fought in the ranks of the Haganah, the forerunner of the IDF. He was wounded in the 1948 War of Independence, and then put in charge of the branch overseeing the religious lifestyle in the IDF rabbinate.

In 1971 he was given the rank of colonel, and named the deputy of the first IDF Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Goren. It was the first time in the history of the modern state of Israel that a captain in the IDF rabbinate held the rank of colonel other than the IDF chief rabbi.

When Rabbi Goren retired from the IDF later in 1971, Rabbi Piron took his role and received the rank of major general.

Rabbi Piron was the IDF chief rabbi during the disastrous 1973 Yom Kippur, and oversaw the treatment of the dead according to Jewish law. He established a religious court to free "agunot" (literally "chained women") from the awkward legal situation caused by their husband's disappearance in war. The court was chaired by the Sepharadic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

After serving as IDF chief rabbi for six years, Rabbi Piron became one of the founders of the National Security College in 1978, and also served as an adviser on the Diaspora along with then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Afterwards, he was the Chief Rabbi of Zurich, Switzerland, for 13 years.

"Jerusalem is a divine miracle"

Last year, Rabbi Piron received the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Piron said "Jerusalem is the place of my dreams through all the years. When I was growing up in Vienna as a child, they told me about Jerusalem the Holy City, Jerusalem as the center of the spiritual and religious entity of the nation of Israel."

"In that context Jerusalem represents our connection with the existence of the Jewish nation and divine providence," added the rabbi.

Rabbi Piron said he first arrived to Jerusalem in 1938, when it was a "small very neglected city" under the rule of the British mandate. 

"It's a true divine miracle what's happened to the city of Jerusalem, which turned into a beautiful and varied city, giving honor to the nation of Israel and the Torah of Israel, as well as to the entire world," Rabbi Piron commented.