“Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace” edited by Yechiel Frish and Yedidya Hacohen— An Intriguing Life

Frish, Yechiel and Hacohen, Yedidya (editors). “Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace”, (Modern Jewish Lives), translated by Irene Lancaster, Urim Publications, 2017.

An Intriguing Life

Amos Lassen

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen is primarily known as the man who was the chief rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen. He was born in the year 1927 and his life is what epic movies are made of. He was an influential voice in the creation of the State of Israel. His father was Rabbi David Cohen, a famous Nazirite (religiously speaking a Nazirite is a man who is consecrated or separate and who has special responsibilities) and the younger Rabbi Cohen of Jerusalem grew up in the company of great Rabbis knowing that he, like his father, was destined to become a Nazirite. He studied under the influence of Rav Kook. During the 1948 War of Independence, Rabbi Cohen fought to defend the Old City of Jerusalem, until he was severely wounded and taken to Jordan as a prisoner of war.

He later became the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Air Force, and then governed as the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem with Teddy Kollek. Rabbi Cohen served as the Chief Rabbi of Haifa and President of their rabbinical courts for 36 years. He was important in many aspects of Judaism and the State of Israel and I feel sure that even those who knew him well will find many surprises in this wonderful biography that is almost a chronicle of Israel. Yet today, he is still thought of as the principle spiritual leader of Haifa.

The book gives special emphasis to Jerusalem as a spiritual city and to Haifa as a secular city (yet that began moving more toward spiritually when Rabbi Cohen was there).

In Rabbi Cohen’s diary is the record of the first Hallel prayer (song of praise) recited in the city of Jerusalem at the moment that Israel became a nation and for this alone, the book is worth a read… but there is so much more. The information we have here includes interviews with the rabbi himself and with members of his family and friends and excerpts from his diary that include vivid details of the battles he fought in and his imprisonment in Jordan. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Saks tells us that Rabbi Cohen was a man who was open-minded and had a great generosity of spirit. He was one of the guiding influences and founder of the Ariel Institute that came into being as a multi-faced institute of higher learning that trains rabbis and rabbinical barristers.

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