DOCTORAL RESEARCH can often be monotonous, demanding constant self-discipline and good study habits. But occasionally, it leads to the discovery of a real historical gem. A few weeks ago, I was studying a rare collection of halachic letters and rulings by Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, a 20th-century American rabbi, when I came across one of those gems.
Rabbi Henkin passed away in 1973, and his writings are far less well-known today than those of other contemporary rabbinic figures from the period, such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. But, in the first few decades following the Second World War, he was widely recognised as the, “Mara D’athra D’America”, the leading halachic authority of the American Orthodox Jewish community.
One particular letter, written in 1962, has the striking title, On the Diminution in Value of the State of Israel in the Heart of the Nation. In the letter, Rabbi Henkin bemoaned the fact that, despite the extremely precarious position the state of Israel found itself in, surrounded by enemies hell-bent on its destruction, there were still some Jewish people in the diaspora who felt the