Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, of blessed memory
Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, of blessed memory Israel news photo: file

It has been one year since the death of Israel's former Chief Sephardic Rabbi HaRishon LeTzion, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu.

Rabbi Eliyahu was the revered spiritual leader of the religious-Zionist world for many years, and was respected by all streams for his brilliance, erudition and kindness. He served as Israel's Chief Rabbi between 1983 and 1993.

The Rav was well-known for his broad knowledge in all areas of Jewish Law. He encouraged settlement in all of the land of Israel and was opposed to the 2005 expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. His son is the chief of rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

The first anniversary (yahrzeit) of Rabbi Eliyahu’s death was marked on Monday in a Memorial Service in Jerusalem. During the service, distinguished speakers spoke of the Rav, his deeds, and of his leadership.

The Rabbinical Congress for Peace Pikuach Nefesh, in which Rabbi Eliyahu was a member, issued a special statement on Monday on the first anniversary of his death.

“Rabbi Eliyahu of blessed memory saw any negotiations with Israel’s enemies as a real and immediate danger to the millions of Israel's residents,” read the statement. “For this reason, he personally encouraged and participated in the activities of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace Pikuach Nefesh, came to every meeting and delivered fiery speeches in which he called for the continued security of residents of Israel.”

The organization also requested rabbis throughout Israel and the world to dedicate their Shavuot sermons to Rabbi Eliyahu’s memory, by explaining to congregants about the Jewish laws regarding Pikuach Nefesh.

Pikuach Nefesh (“saving of human life”) is the principle in Jewish law which states that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious consideration. The principle has been connected to the political situation in Israel, with many rabbis, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu included, having affirmed that adherence to the laws of Pikuach Nefesh far outweighs the falsely perceived political benefits to be gained by allowing the Arab mortal enemy to get closer to Israel’s borders.

The rabbis argue that abandoning parts of Israel’s territory as part of a peace agreement would endanger the lives of many of its citizens and would thus be prohibited according to Jewish law.

The Rabbinical Congress for Peace Pikuach Nefesh is calling on rabbis to “protest what was said in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, who made it appear as if there is a consensus in Israel to make painful concessions (if our enemies agree to sit down for negotiations. G-d forbid! There is not and will not be a consensus among the people of Israel to give up the land of Israel and anything that is written in Israel’s Torah! Any concession like this would hurt the people in the form of terrible bloodshed for all residents of the Holy Land.”