Nahum Rabinovitch

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Rabbi Dr.
Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch
Norman Louis Rabinovitch

(1928-04-30)30 April 1928
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died6 May 2020(2020-05-06) (aged 92)
Ruth (Rachel Malka) Shuchatowitz
(m. 1951; died 2012)
Children6, including Dina Rabinovitch
DenominationReligious Zionism
Alma materJohns Hopkins University (B.S.)
University of Toronto (Ph.D.)
Main workMelumdei Milḥamah (1993)
Yad Peshutah [he] (1977–2016)
BuriedHar HaMenuchot

Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch (Hebrew: נַחוּם אֱלִיעֶזֶר רָבִּינוֹבִיץּ׳; 30 April 1928 – 6 May 2020), born Norman Louis Rabinovitch,[1] was a Canadian-Israeli Religious Zionist rabbi and posek. He headed the London School of Jewish Studies from 1971 to 1982, and the hesder yeshiva Birkat Moshe in Ma'ale Adumim from 1982 until his death.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Nahum Rabinovitch was born in Montreal, Quebec to Sarah (née Weiner) and Sam Rabinovitch.[1] After completing an eight-year course of studies under Rabbi Pinchas Hirschsprung, Rabinovitch received semicha from Montreal's Yeshivas Merkaz HaTorah in the city's first rabbinical ordination ceremony.[4][5]

After obtaining an honours degree in commerce from Sir George Williams College, he left for Baltimore to pursue a Master of Science degree in mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. While there, he studied at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, where he received a second ordination from Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman.[3]


Between 1955 and 1963, Rabinovitch served as spiritual leader of the Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation in Charleston, South Carolina. In this role, he helped establish the city's first Jewish day school, of which he served as principal.[6] He also held appointments as lecturer in mathematics at the College of Charleston and chaplain to the Sixth Naval District Headquarters.[7][8]

In 1963, he was called to serve as a community rabbi in Toronto, and assumed the pulpit of the Clanton Park Synagogue in Downsview.[9] He completed a Ph.D. in the philosophy and history of mathematics at the University of Toronto in 1971 under the supervision of Kenneth O. May.[10] His doctoral thesis, Probability and Statistical Inference in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Literature, was published as a monograph in 1973.[11]

Rabinovitch was appointed principal of Jews' College in early 1970,[12] and settled in London that spring.[13] Notable among his students at the college was Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks,[14][15] who has cited Rabinovitch as his primary role model.[16] Ten years later, he accepted an offer to become rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe, a hesder institution in Ma'ale Adumim.

In 2015, together with a group of prominent Israeli rabbis, Rabinovitch established Giyur Kehalacha, an independent beit din offering conversions outside of the Chief Rabbinate.[17][18]

Philosophical and political views[edit]

Rabinovitch published Halakhic rulings on various subjects, including organ donation, surrogacy, birth control, army service, Shabbat, and kashrut.[19] His philosophical approach, influenced by Maimonidean rationalism, emphasized the connection between philosophy and Halakha, between Torah and scientific studies, and between theoretical learning and practical applications.[17]

Rabinovitch was an authority on the writings of Maimonides, about which he published numerous books and essays. He is perhaps best known for his fourteen-volume Yad Peshuta (lit. "Outstretched Hand"), an in-depth commentary on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah.[20] He also authored Melumdei Milḥamah (lit. "Learned in War"), a collection of responsa dealing with Halakhic issues facing religious members of the Israel Defense Forces.[21]

Rabinovitch was a religious Zionist, a supporter of the settlement movement,[20] and a vocal opponent of the Oslo Accords and the Disengagement.[22][3] He was, however, often more liberal in social and religious matters than many in the religious Zionist movement.[19] In an interview, Rabinovitch said that he backed religious studies for women, and did not see a problem in Halakhic decisions taken by women.[23] Nonetheless, he signed a letter in 2019 agreeing with the Chief Rabbinate's opposition to religious Jewish women serving in the IDF.[24] He also ruled that it is incumbent on Israeli combat medics and doctors to treat and save the lives of Palestinian combatants, even if wounded in the course of attacking Israelis.[17] Rabinovitch characterized Christianity and Islam positively, as movements that spread monotheism, morality, and messianic hope.[17] In addition, Rabinovitch differed from many other religious Zionist leaders in that he did not view the State of Israel as a harbinger of the Messiah and argued for greater separation between religion and state in Israel.[25] Often, his iconoclastic positions were deeply influenced not only by Jewish tradition, but by the core ideas of political liberalism as well.[25]

In 1995, Rabinovitch was among a group of rabbis accused of indirectly influencing Yigal Amir to assassinate Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, having branded Rabin a moser and likened his government to Nazis.[26][27] The previous summer, he had also issued a ruling that Jewish soldiers should disobey any government orders to vacate West Bank army bases.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

Rabinovitch had six children, including British journalist Dina Rabinovitch (born in 1963), who died in 2007 of breast cancer.[30][31]

Selected works[edit]


  • Hadar Itamar [הדר איתמר] (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Daʻat Torah. 1971.
  • Probability and Statistical Inference in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1973.
  • Darkah shel Torah [דרכה של תורה] (in Hebrew). Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 1998.
  • Melumdei Milḥama [מלומדי מלחמה] (in Hebrew). Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 2004.
  • Siach Nachum [שיח נחום] (in Hebrew). Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 2008.
  • Iyunim be-Mishnato shel ha-Rambam [עיונים במשנתו של הרמב״ם] (in Hebrew). Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 2010.
  • Mesilot Bilvavam [מסילות בלבבם] (in Hebrew). Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 2015.
  • Yad Peshuta [יד פשוטה] (in Hebrew). Vol. 1–14. Ma'ale Adumim: Maaliyot Press. 1977–2016.



  1. ^ a b "Birth: Norman Louis Rabinovitch" (30 April 1928) [Microfilm]. Drouin Collection, Series: Ahavath Sholom (1928), p. 7. Montreal: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
  2. ^ Kalili, Ran (2020). "HaRav Nahum Rabinovitch, ZT"L". Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics & Community Development. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Greenwood, Hanan (7 May 2020). "Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch dies at 92". Israel Hayom. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Toronto Meetings". The Canadian Jewish Review. 25 November 1949. p. 4.
  5. ^ "Montreal Meetings". The Canadian Jewish Review. 31 March 1950. p. 4.
  6. ^ Rockoff, Stuart; Rosengarten, Dale; Neely, Alyssa (October 2009). "Charleston Jewry: 320 Years and Counting" (PDF). The Jewish Historical Society Society of South Carolina. 14 (2): 6.
  7. ^ "Dr. Rabinovitch Honoured by Central Fund". The Canadian Jewish News. 13 December 1964. p. 10.
  8. ^ "Toronto Meetings". The Canadian Jewish Review. 1 March 1963. p. 9.
  9. ^ "New Rabbi Will Be Installed". The Canadian Jewish News. 28 February 1964. p. 5.
  10. ^ Rabinovitch, Nachum L. (1971). Probability and Statistical Inference in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Literature (PhD Thesis). University of Toronto. OCLC 1007548200.
  11. ^ Probability and Statistical Inference in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1973. ISBN 978-1-4875-7458-1. OCLC 1085567037.
  12. ^ "Rabbi Rabinovitch of Toronto Appointed Principal of Jews College in London". JTA Daily News Bulletin. Vol. 37, no. 24. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 5 February 1970.
  13. ^ "Spiritual Leader Leaves Toronto". The Canadian Jewish News. 25 June 1971. p. 4.
  14. ^ "About the Yeshiva". Yeshivat Birkat Moshe. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  15. ^ Sacks, Jonathan (6 May 2020). "Rabbi Sacks on the passing of Rav Nachum Rabinovitch z"l". The Office of Rabbi Sacks. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  16. ^ Rosenberg, Yair (13 November 2013). "Jonathan Sacks on European Anti-Semitism, Israel's Chief Rabbinate, and More". Tablet. Retrieved 11 August 2020. Baruch Hashem, my rebbe is still alive, Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch, rosh yeshiva at Ma'alei Adumim. I was his talmid for 12 years. We learned together every day except Shabbos. He's my role model.
  17. ^ a b c d Nadler, Allan (Summer 2018). "Maimonides in Ma'ale Adumim". Jewish Review of Books: 38–40.
  18. ^ "In first, Israeli judge recognizes conversion to Judaism by private court". The Times of Israel. 13 September 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  19. ^ a b Weinberg, David M. (5 June 2020). "Celebrating the life and works of Rabbi Dr. Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  20. ^ a b Rosenberg, Yair; Schwartz, Yedidya (6 October 2016). "Israeli Rabbis You Should Know". Tablet. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  21. ^ HaLevi, Ezra (15 May 2006). "Hesder Yeshiva Head: Teach Our Kids to Refuse Immoral Orders". Arutz Sheva.
  22. ^ Sharon, Jeremy (6 May 2020). "Senior religious-Zionist leader Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz dies, aged 92". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  23. ^ Brill, Alan (7 June 2020). "Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch on Philosophy of Halakhah". The Book of Doctrines and Opinions: Notes on Jewish Theology and Spirituality. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  24. ^ Fishman, Tzvi (19 September 2019). "Can Women Serve in the IDF According to Halacha?". The Jewish Press.
  25. ^ a b Schwartz, Rami (2021). "The Political Theology of Rabbi Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch". The Torah U-Madda Journal. 18: 1–32.
  26. ^ Hellinger, Moshe; Hershkowitz, Isaac; Susser, Bernard (2018). Religious Zionism and the Settlement Project: Ideology, Politics, and Civil Disobedience. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-1-4384-6839-6. OCLC 980302566.
  27. ^ Green, David B. (10 January 1999). "A Political Act: Was Yitzhak Rabin's assassin tacitly—or overtly—encouraged to pull the trigger?". The New York Times.
  28. ^ Miller, Marjorie (23 November 1995). "Questions Raised by Rabin Slaying Still Shake Rabbis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  29. ^ Rowley, Storer H. (17 November 1995). "Rabbi May Have Played a Role in Rabin's Slaying". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  30. ^ "Prominent religious Zionist rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch dies at 92". Times of Israel. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  31. ^ "Obituary: Dina Rabinovitch". The Times. 2 November 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2020.