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Yehiel Michael Pines

(1843 – 1913)

Yehiel Michael Pines was a writer, early exponent of religious Zionism, and yishuv leader. Born in Ruzhany, Belorussia, into a family of prosperous merchants and Torah scholars, Pines was influenced in his youth by Mordecai Gimpel *Jaffe, an early leader of *Ḥovevei Zion, who headed a yeshivah maintained by Pines' family. He studied both traditional subjects and foreign languages and science, and the fusion of the two spheres of knowledge led to a romantic-religious outlook. Pines believed that Jewish life should be reformed, but he was opposed to deliberate, religious reforms that would undermine the foundations of tradition and increase assimilation. He thought that a reformed way of life would inevitably bring about certain changes of halakhah without affecting the sanctity of the Jewish religion. During the 1860s Pines developed these ideas in his controversy with M.L. *Lilienblum, *J.L. Gordon, and others, mainly through his articles in *Ha-Karmel, *Ha-Meliẓ, and *Ha-Levanon. The articles were collected in his book, Yaldei Ruḥi ("Children of My Spirit," 2 vols., 1872), and his ideas were later expanded by *Aḥad Ha-Am, who restyled them in his own clear, polished language.

In 1877, while he was living at his father-in-law's home in Mogilev, Pines was asked by the Moses Montefiore Testimonial Fund in London to serve as its representative in Ereẓ Israel. He accepted eagerly, reached Jaffa a year later, and settled in Jerusalem (1878) at the home of his relative, Yosef *Rivlin, the secretary of the Va'ad Kelali (General Committee of the *ḥalukkah), thus arousing the enmity of Rivlin's many opponents in Jerusalem (Ḥasidim and maskilim, Sephardim, and religious extremists; the latter, supporters of Rabbi Y.L. *Diskin persecuted Pines and proclaimed him "excommunicated").

On behalf of his London sponsors, Pines conducted investigations into the spiritual, cultural, and particularly the economic problems of the yishuv, proposing the founding of an agricultural settlement, the building of houses and new quarters, and the establishment of artisan and industrial projects. The Montefiore Fund concentrated on granting aid for the construction of houses and Jerusalem was thus expanded through the building of several new quarters. Pines' letters to the Fund trustees appear in volumes 2 and 3 of Mivḥar Kitvei Y.M. Pines ("Selected Writings of Y.M. Pines") and in his Binyan ha-Areẓ ("Building of the Land"), volumes 1 and 2 (1934).

Pines tried to set up artisan and industrial projects with the help of Montefiore Fund loans, and with his own money as well, but they proved a failure and brought about his dismissal in 1885. (His son-in-law, David Yellin, was appointed to the same post in 1901.) In 1882 Pines became friendly with Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda who had just arrived in Ereẓ Israel, and together they established the Teḥiyyat Israel ("Israel Renaissance") Society, whose aim was, inter alia, to introduce Hebrew as a spoken language. When the first members of *Bilu arrived at the end of the same year, Pines became their patron and established the Shivat he-Ḥarash ve-ha-Masger ("Return of the Craftsmen and the Smiths") Society for them in Jerusalem. With Ḥovevei Zion funds he bought for them the lands for the settlement of *Gederah in 1884 and was the settlement's patron for several years. In 1885 K.Z. *Wissotzky appointed him a member of the executive committee of Ḥovevei Zion in Palestine. For several months in 1886 he edited Ha-Zevi, Ben-Yehuda's newspaper, while the latter was abroad, but the friendship between the two was affected by the outbreak of the violent controversy regarding the Sabbatical Year (shemittah), which fell in 1888/89. Although Pines' conservative attitude to this question aroused opposition in Hovevei Zion circles, he was elected in 1890 to the organization's executive committee in Jaffa, headed by Vladimir *Tiomkin. At about the same time Pines joined the *Benei Moshe Society, but its leader Aḥad Ha-Am, who wanted to prevent discussions of religious problems in the Society, advocated his departure from that group. In 1892, after a crisis in the activities of the executive committee of Ḥovevei Zion, Pines was dismissed and thereafter affiliated himself with the old yishuv, even becoming one of its main spokesmen. His views on nation and religion, which he then developed in his articles in *Ha-Ḥavaẓẓelet and in special pamphlets, were shortly afterward adopted by the *Mizrachi Party. In 1893 he became a trustee of the Ashkenazi community's charitable institutions in Jerusalem, and the librarian and a teacher of Talmud in the Hebrew Teachers' college.

Pines was foremost a thinker, writer, and craftsman of Hebrew language and style. He displayed outstanding knowledge of biblical style and language (into which he translated various scientific books) and greatly influenced his brother-in-law and pupil, Ze'ev *Jawitz, who in turn influenced Ḥ.N. *Bialik. Pines was conversant with mishnaic style (see his Mishnat Ereẓ Yisrael), the medieval style rhyming prose, and the conglomerate style that he employed in his articles and his many letters to employers and to people who approached him with queries regarding settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Yaldei Ruhi and some of his letters and articles appeared in the three volumes of Kitvei Y.M. Pines ("Writings of Y.M. Pines," 1934–39), edited by his sons-in-law, David Yellin and Yosef *Meyuhas. His selected writings, Mivhar Kitvei Pines, appeared in 1946, edited and with a preface by G. Kressel. Kefar Pines, a moshav in the Sharon Plain, is named for him.


N. Sokolow, Ḥibbath Zion (Eng., 1935), index; A. Boehm, Die zionistische Bewegung (1935), index; G. Raphael, Rabbi Yeḥi'el Mikha'el Pines (1954); M. Michaeli, Rabbi Yeḥi'el Mikhal Pines (1928); A. Druyanow (ed.), Ketavim le-Toledot Ḥibbat Ẓiyyon ve-Yishuv Ereẓ Yisrael, 1 (1919), index; 3 (1932), index; Ḥ.N. Bialik, in: Ha-Olam, 7 no. 13/14 (1913), 23–25; I. Yellin, Le-Ẓe'eẓa'ai, 2, vols. (1938–41), passim; Y. Nissenbaum, Ha-Dat ve-ha-Teḥiyyah ha-Le'ummit (1920), 145–51.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.