How can one summarize a life of Torah? With decades filled with work? With one’s influence on the entire nation? With the decisions made at the country’s most significant points in time? These questions arise when we are about to do what we hoped we would never have to—summarize the life and work of our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Haim Drukman.
It is nearly impossible to describe the rabbi’s tremendous contribution to the nation of Israel, to the education of its generations, to kindness and to our world. There is virtually no place, there is almost no act in which Rabbi Drukman’s fingerprint is not noticeable. It is difficult to imagine the nation of Israel, especially religious Zionism, without his mark on tens or even hundreds of thousands of men and women from all stripes in the State of Israel.
Rabbi Drukman, a winner of the Israel Prize, was considered the “elder of the rabbis” in religious Zionism. As an educator, he stood at the head of the center of Bnei Akiva yeshivot and religious high schools for girls, the Bnei Akiva youth movement and the hesder yeshiva union. As a public figure, he was one of the leaders of the Gush Emunim movement, the head of the Conversion Authority and a Knesset member and deputy minister.
He held a list of titles and positions left empty by his passing and will require many people to refill. This shows his abilities and the broadness of the shoulders upon which he bore his many responsibilities and duties. Over the course of three decades, I was privileged to work under and receive guidance from the rabbi as a member of the Bnei Akiva movement and while in the center of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot and religious high schools for girls. I witnessed the power of his mission firsthand. I felt the greatness of the leader and educator in the man before me.
“Meir” was the rabbi’s middle name, which means “to illuminate” in Hebrew. Alongside his life of Torah, the rabbi was a source of illumination for humanity. He was an educator down to his very bones and assisted in guiding and giving advice to everyone, no matter where they might be.
One of Rabbi Drukman’s greatest virtues was his connection to the nation of Israel, whether in the Torah classes he gave in his home or when meeting them all over Israel. People, both young and old, religious and secular. He traveled to Shlomi and Arad, Tel Aviv and Hebron, and he loved everyone. Rabbi Drukman taught us that his door was open to everyone. He was attentive and did his best to give advice and to act in the name of the good of all the parts of Israel.
Even those who might not have met him personally basked in his Torah and the light that shone from his face. In his countless books, articles, classes and teachings, he taught us how life is life only when it is one of Torah, one that revolves around the Torah values that encompass all fields of life.
The rabbi recently celebrated his 90th birthday, and we held a big event in the International Convention Center that provided everyone with an inkling of his tremendous love for all parts of the nation of Israel. This harmony between life and the Torah, this combination between the love of the nation of Israel, the State of Israel and the land of Israel, is what made him so loved and impactful on religious Zionism and Israeli society as a whole.
For years, the rabbi illuminated in us the traits of our souls that need to be realized. He illuminated the future, even when the present was occasionally in crisis. He illuminated by example how one should act on a never-ending mission and how to look at reality positively.
I can say with certainty that there has never been a man filled with more love, who had faith so complete, innocent and true, than our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Haim Drukman. We have already begun to miss him sorely. Saying goodbye is unbearable. May his memory be a blessing. I am sure it will be so.
Ariel Kahana is Israel Hayom’s senior diplomatic commentator.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.