Hagana vet, former IDF Chief Rabbi Mordechai Piron dies

May 29, 2014 01:39

Piron was widely known as having helped the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in freeing from their marriages the wives of soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur War.

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Haganah volunteers evacuate the wounded, 1948.

Haganah volunteers evacuate wounded 370. (photo credit: State of Israel National Photo Collection)

Former IDF chief rabbi Maj.-Gen. Mordechai Piron died Wednesday morning, aged 92. Piron was widely known as having helped former Shas spiritual leader, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in freeing from their marriages the wives of soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur War but whose bodies were not found.

Piron was born in 1921 in Vienna and escaped Nazi-controlled Austria in 1938, arriving in Mandate Palestine. He studied in the Merkaz Harav national-religious yeshiva for 10 years, where he gained his rabbinic ordination, joined the Hagana and fought during the War of Independence, during which he was wounded.

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On the establishment of the IDF, he enlisted to its ranks and joined the IDF Rabbinate. He was made IDF chief rabbi in 1971. Soon afterwards, the Yom Kippur War, in which close to 3,000 Israeli soldiers were killed, broke out.

Jewish law stipulates that a husband must give his wife a bill of divorce before she can remarry, but nearly 1,000 IDF soldiers killed in the war were never found, creating serious problems in Jewish law for their widows if they wished to remarry.

Piron established a special rabbinical court to deal with the problem and appointed Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to head it. Yosef was able to find leniencies within Jewish law to definitively declare the missing soldiers dead, thereby releasing their widows from the marriage.

After his army service, Piron served as an adviser on Diaspora affairs to then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, and also served as chief rabbi of Zurich for 12 years.

He authored six books on Jewish law, philosophy, and Jewish history.

Rabbi Mordechai Piron was buried at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon.

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