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All Israel Mourns Death of Chief Rabbi Herzog; Buried in Sanhedria

July 27, 1959
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Chief Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog, who died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, was buried today in the cemetery as all Israel mourned his passing in one of the most solemn rites ever held in the Holy City.

The regular Sunday meeting of the Cabinet was recessed and all members of the Government joined with yeshiva students, kibbutz members and men and women from all the fighting services among the thousands who lined the route of the funeral procession for Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Herzog, who was 71, died after a remarkable recovery from sclerosis attack last Passover. He had served Israel and world Jewry as a spiritual leader for nearly a quarter of a century. He had assumed the post of Chief Rabbi after the death of Chief Rabbi Abraham Kook.

Also attending the funeral were judges of the Supreme Court, labor leaders, workers and professionals who paid homage to the beloved spiritual leader. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who was absent from Jerusalem, sent a message of condolence to the family in which he said their mourning and sorrow was the mourning and sorrow “of all Israel. “

Addressing the widow, the Prime Minister declared: “May you be consoled by the great and faithful service being performed by your two most capable and talented sons who I hope will continue to serve the State of Israel for many years. ” He was referring to Brig. Haim Herzog, commander of the Negev defenses and former military attache in Washington, who recited the Kaddish, and Yaacov Herzog, Israel Minister to Washington, who was unable to attend the funeral because it would have required his traveling on the Sabbath. He will sit shivah in Washington.

The funeral services began at the home of the Chief Rabbinate where leading personalities mingled with the thousands who wept openly. A deputation of the diplomatic corps also was present. Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Jacob M. Toledano, Minister of Religions, Chief Rabbi Isar Yehuda Unterman of Tel Aviv, and Rabbi Shlomo Zevvin, editor of the Talmudic Encyclopedia were among the espiritual leaders who delivered eulogies. Rabbi Herzog was praised as a spiritual leader, learned in the sciences and philosophy, and termed a great scholar and humanitarian.


All Government buildings and institutions, and offices of foreign missions, the United Nations and embassies and consulates placed their flags at half-mast for a week of mourning. Tributes to the late Chief Rabbi poured in from all parts of the world. President Ben Zvi said in an official statement for the Israel Government that the loss was that of the entire Israel Jewry.

News of the Chief Rabbi’s passing yesterday was withheld by the Israel Radio at the request of the family, partly not to violate the Sabbath and partly not to impair the joy of the day of rest for Israel’s Jewry. However, the news reached Jerusalem synagogues before the Mussaf prayers. Soon Jerusalem leaders from all walks of life–secular, religious and ultra-orthodox–began the trek to the Chief Rabbi’s home to file past the tallis clad body while rabbis and seminary students maintained the death vigil.

Born in Lomza, Poland, Rabbi Herzog demonstrated his intellectual gifts when at the age of nine he began mastering entire tractates of the Talmud. His father, Rabbi Joel Herzog, brought his son to Leeds when the father accepted a rabbinical post there.

The young scholar entered London University and earned one degree after another, including a doctorate of philosophy and degrees in law, classics, the humanities, sociology, literature and Oriental languages. Later, in Paris, where his father served as a rabbi, the youth decided to become an archaeologist and studied at the Sorbonne, with post-graduate studies in France.

However, when he was 22, he was given ordination by the Rabbi of Safad, thus beginning his rabbinical career. As a rabbi in Belfast in 1915, he soon earned recognition and became Chief Rabbi of Ireland. He assumed the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem in 1936.

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