Religious Zionism's founding father's manuscripts donated to National Library

The unpublished manuscripts of Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines, founding father of Mizrachi movement, were donated and digitized for first time.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rabbi Reines' 'Ohr Hadash al Tzion' manuscript
Rabbi Reines' 'Ohr Hadash al Tzion' manuscript
National Library of Israel

Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines (1839-1915) was one of the first rabbis to give wholehearted support to the Zionist movement. He corresponded regularly with Theodor Herzl and founded the Mizrachi movement, the international Religious Zionist organization that is globally active until today.

Descendants of Rabbi Reines recently learned of the existence of 88 of his manuscripts, purchased them, and donated them to the National Library of Israel (NLI) in memory of Rabbanit Elka Cyperstein. The vast majority of the writings were never published. NLI has now completed digitizing about 25,000 pages from the collection, making them available to scholars and the general public for the first time, more than a century after Reines' death.

Rabbi Reines was a brilliant scholar with wide-ranging interests and impacts. He founded and stood at the head of the Torah Vodaas yeshiva in Lida, Belarus, which radically combined traditional intense Talmud study with secular studies and a broader Jewish studies curriculum including Jewish history and literature. He promoted Zionism and praised the secular Herzl in the yeshiva's study halls, and even supported the controversial Uganda Plan to temporarily set up a Jewish state in Africa.

The eleven books that Rabbi Reines published during his lifetime were only a tiny fraction of his writings. After his passing, Rabbi Reines' son published an additional book from his writings and prepared a large number of his manuscripts for publication. However, the publisher did not print the manuscripts as promised, and they remained hidden from public view and largely forgotten for decades.

The collection spans a wide range of topics, including Talmud and Jewish law, Aggadah, Zionism, and philosophy and Jewish thought.

The digitized manuscripts are available online via "Ktiv: The International Collection of Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts," the groundbreaking initiative to digitally preserve and make accessible all of the world's Hebrew manuscripts. In total, some 78,000 manuscripts (9 million images) from 578 collections around the world are already accessible through Ktiv, a joint venture of the National Library of Israel and the Friedberg Jewish Manuscript Society, with the support of the Israel Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage's Landmarks Project.

According to National Library of Israel Judaica expert Channa Lockshin Bob: "In his approaches to Zionism, to education, and to Jewish scholarship, Rabbi Reines presents an innovative approach that brings together the religious and the secular. His voice of moderation, mutual respect, and unity is just as relevant for Religious Zionism today as it was during his lifetime."

A special event "A New Light: Celebrating the Arrival of the Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines Manuscript Collection at the National Library of Israel" will be held at the National Library in Jerusalem on January 8, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. Family members and scholars, including Naomi (Nechama) Gordon, Prof. Ze'ev Harvey, Rabbi Haim Sabato, and Prof. Yosef Salmon, will discuss the legacy of one of the founding fathers of religious Zionism.