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Halachic Rulings of Ha-Rav Avi Ronski ztz"l: Holy & Heroic


It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Ha-Rav Avichai Brigadier General Ronski ztz"l: graduate of our Yeshiva, Ra"m in our Yeshiva, Rosh Yeshiva in Itamar, Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, and served in many elite units in Tzahal including as a high-ranking officer. 
Rav Ronski's view of a military Rabbi was not to simply provide religious services and then return to an air-conditioned office, but to serve as a spiritual guide for the soldiers during training and battle.  Rav Ronski - based on the vision of Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren - said that a military Rabbi must also have been a combat soldier. 
Rav Ronski also authored 4 volumes of Teshuvot, "Ke-Chitzim Be-Yad Gibor", on military Halachot.
Here are a few Teshuvot of Rav Aviner which mention Rav Ronski's book:
Ambush on Shabbat
Q: If a soldier goes out of an ambush on Shabbat or returns from an ambush on Shabbat, is it permissible for him to take personal items with him?
A: It is permissible to take food which will contribute to his alertness.  There is a dispute regarding non-essential items.  The Chafetz Chaim is lenient in his book "Machane Yisrael" (see Ke-Chitzin Be-Yad of Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Volume 2 pp. 36-37, who permits it.  And Kishrei Milchama of Ha-Rav Colonel Ayal Krim, head of the Halachah Department of Tzahal, Volume 4 pp. 86-90).

Cohain in Maarat Ha-Machpelah
Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah?
A: There is a halachic dispute about whether or not the graves of the righteous are impure. If the graves of the righteous are not impure, then it would be permissible for Cohanim to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, Kever Rachel, the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, et al. While some do permit this, most authorities rule that the graves of the righteous are impure and it is therefore forbidden for Cohanim to enter. It is not permissible however, to give lashes to someone who does enter, since there are those who permit it. Some authorities also explain that Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah is built so that the lower structure, where the graves are located, is covered and detached from the building. Much has been written about this issue. I do not know much about this, though, since I am a Cohain and have never been inside Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not visit the graves of the righteous in general since he was a Cohain (Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 1, p. 76) and accordingly did not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. I am not more righteous than Maran Ha-Rav Kook, so I also do not enter.
The same question applies to Kever Rachel. Even according to the opinion that the graves of the righteous are impure, some say that the building was made in a way to make it permissible for Cohanim to enter. Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu relates that he once told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, that it is written in the book "Kuntres Yechi’eli" that it is permissible for Cohanim to enter Kever Rachel. Our Rabbi asked him: what do people say there? He answered: they read the verses about our mother Rachel. Our Rabbi travelled there, but only went as far as the door. When he returned, Ha-Rav Eliyahu asked him: why didn’t you enter? He answered: My father did not enter, therefore I did not enter" (Parashah Sheet "Kol Tzofa’ich #279. See also Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah - Eretz Yisrael p. 142 note 1 that after the Six-Day War, the students of our Rabbi organized a trip to the liberated areas in the Shomron. One of the places they visited was Kever Yosef. The students entered, but our Rabbi remained outside, because he was a Cohain). Again, Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, so I do not.
In the book "Ke-Chitzim Be-Yad Giborim" (vol. 3, p. 108), Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, the former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, was asked: is it permissible for a soldier who is a Cohain to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah for a tour, in order to learn about the place in the event that there is a terrorist attack there and his unit needs to take action? Ha-Rav Ronski answers that it is permissible for three reasons: 1. It is obvious and clear that the security apparatus which would be sent on such a mission must train for it properly. 2. In general, it is not clear that the graves of our forefathers are directly located under the floor of the prayer halls, and even if they are located there, it is possible that the impurity does not break out and spread upward since it there may be hollow spaces larger than a "tefach" (handbreath – 7.6 cm-9.6 cm) which separate the floor from the graves. 3. There are Rishonim (Rabbis of the Middle Ages) who ruled that the graves of the righteous do not cause impurity, and Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu permits Cohanim to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah and Kever Rachel. Even though the majority of authorities prohibit entering, it is possible to add this lenient opinion to the other reasons that permit it.
Ha-Rav Aviner writes in his comments to this book that it is important to know that the first reason is the main one, and the second and third reasons are only additional minority positions which can be added to permit it. And we must point this out so that people do not learn that there is an all-encompassing heter to enter.

Shehechiyanu on F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets
Q: With Hashem's kindnesses, the State of Israel received F-35 Stealth Fighter jets.  Should the blessing of Shehechiyanu be recited, or is it not recited because the fighter plane is a weapon of war?  If it should be recited, who recites the blessing?
A: War indeed causes distress, but for now we are obligated to wage war.  The Rambam calls one of the books in the Mishneh Torah Hilchot Melachim U-Milchamot - Laws of Kings and Wars.  The censored edition calls this book "Laws of Kings and Their Wars", as if the Nation of Israel only waged wars in the past but no longer does so.  This is not true.  There is no free nation without war.  To our great distress, we therefore must wage war, but we can take pride in the power of the deterrence of Tzahal.  How fortunate are we to have merited these planes!
Regarding which blessing to recite: the blessing of "Shehechiyanu" is recited over an object acquired by one person, while the blessing of "Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv" is recited over an object acquired for the benefit of more than one person: Hashem is good to me and does good for others )Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 223:2).  In this case, the Stealth Fighter jets are obviously for the benefit of the entire Nation of Israel!
Many years ago, I wrote a long Teshuvah that one should recite such a blessing over the acquisition of a pistol (in this case "Shehechiyanu".  See Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:87).  This is true all the more for the F-35 jets!
There were Gedolei Yisrael who disagreed with my Teshuvah on the pistol for various reasons, including that it is a weapon of destruction.  These included the former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Ha-Rav Brigadier General Avi Ronski, Ha-Rav Dov Lior, Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef and Ha-Rav David Cohen, Ra"m in our Yeshiva (brought in the book "Ke-Chitzim Be-Yad Gibor Vol. 1, pp. 131-133).  Perhaps the four Rabbis who disagreed with me regarding the blessing over a pistol would agree, however, regarding a fighter plane.  In any event, I discussed this issue with the current Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Ha-Rav Brigadier General Ayal Krim, and he agrees that the blessing of "Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv" should be recited over the fighter jets.  And as the Torah says: And come to the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal who will be in your days (play on the verse "Come to the judge who will be in your days" - Devarim 17:9), and the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal is the halachic authority of the army. 
The blessing should be recited by the head of the Israeli Air Force.
And we can add (somewhat in jest) that if the head of the Air Force wants to be strict, and follow all of the opinions, he can buy a new shirt to be worn by a few people and recite the blessing "Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv" over the $25 shirt while also having the 90 Million Dollar F-35 Stealth Fighter jet in mind…  This reminds us of the story that when Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren was Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, he recited Shehechiyanu on the night of Yom Ha-Atzmaut in Shul as was his opinion.  One of the people there questioned it, and Rav Goren waved his tie, as if to say that he was wearing a new tie, and so the blessing was on it.  After the davening, Rav Goren scolded the man: It is obvious to you that one says Shehechiyanu on a new tie, but not on a new State?! 

May the soul of Ha-Rav Avichai Brigadier General Ronski remain bound up with the souls of the all other holy and heroic souls!