Yeḥi’el Mikha’el Pines (seated, second from right) with his family, Palestine, late nineteenth century. (Central Zionist Archives)

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Pines, Yeḥi’el Mikha’el


(1843–1913), Torah scholar and early advocate of religious Zionism. Yeḥi’el Mikha’el Pines was born into a well-to-do family in Ruzhany in the district of Grodno, where he received both a traditional and a general education. From his early years, Pines was a prolific essayist and sharp-witted polemicist; as early as 1867–1869 his articles appeared in the pages of the Hebrew periodicals Ha-Melits, Ha-Magid, and Ha-Levanon.

Pines wrote about what he considered to be necessary reforms in Jewish education and halakhah, belief in the Messiah, and the need for civil integration into Russian society. He was quite original in his ideas, to the point that he was admonished by members of his own circle who thought he was approaching the limits of what would be viewed as acceptable. Pines also participated in the controversy regarding religious reform (1868–1870); his approach was quite conservative in comparison to that of his colleague and adversary, the writer Mosheh Leib Lilienblum.

In the 1870s, Pines’s articles focused on issues connected to the settlement of the Land of Israel. His arguments for increasing the productivity of the Old Yishuv (the existing Jewish population in Palestine) brought him into sharp controversy with a relative of his, Yosef Rivlin, who was secretary of the Va‘ad ha-Kelali (General Committee of the Old Yishuv). It was in this context that Pines placed the issue of growing etrogim (the fruit for the festival of Sukkot) in the Land of Israel on the public agenda, suggesting that this tradition would enhance the economic situation of Jews living there.

Pines’s fluent and modern Hebrew style did not go unnoticed by his contemporaries. He was asked in 1876 to represent the Moses Montefiore Testimonial Fund in Palestine and thereby to advance the interests of the Old Yishuv; he had been recommended for the position by various circles in Russia, including both maskilim and rabbis. When he arrived in Jerusalem in 1878, local Jews were deeply concerned that he intended to establish a new type of modern school in that city. Pines denied the allegations, presenting instead a list of projects that would enhance the productivity of Jerusalem’s Jewish population. His proposals received no support from the Montefiore Fund in London, however. With the money that he did receive, he established new neighborhoods and assisted new immigrants.

In 1881, Pines established the Bet Midrash le-Torah ve-‘Avodah (School for Torah and Vocation), where young men in Jerusalem were to divide their time between Torah studies and vocational training. This initiative led to a ban (ḥerem) on Pines pronounced by a court headed by Rabbi Yehoshu‘a Leib Diskin, which created controversy both in and outside the Land of Israel, until the ban was canceled by rabbis close to Pines.

In Palestine, Pines was an active, prominent, and influential figure, assisting new arrivals and promoting economic independence and the revival of the Hebrew language. In time, though, he clashed with Ahad Ha-Am and the latter’s followers. This situation led to the alienation of many traditional Jews from the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement. Ultimately, Pines devoted less attention to public issues and more to his literary activities; he also wrote numerous articles on Jewish studies. He began an association with the Mizraḥi movement after it was founded in 1902.

Pines’s literary legacy includes his first book, Yalde ruaḥ (1872), which gave expression to his nationalist-religious ideas. His book of essays on matters related to the Land of Israel, Binyan ha-arets (Building of the Land), was published by his sons-in-law in 1938. Pines’s translations contributed in a significant way to the expansion of the vocabulary of modern Hebrew—including Mishnat ‘olam katan (2 vols., 1886; on anatomical and chemical terms), Torat mishpete Tugarma (1887; on the terminology of Ottoman law), Sefer ‘avodat ha-adamah (1894; terms in botany, agriculture, cattle breeding,