In Memoriam

1945 – 2020

“He gave his whole life to our shared vision.” 
Rabbanit Chana Henkin

Together Rav and Rabbanit Henkin founded Nishmat in 1990. Rav Yehuda Henkin from the beginning was Nishmat’s posek, bringing honor and respect to the institution. His sterling reputation enabled Nishmat to introduce the new specialty of Yoatzot Halacha (Women Advisors in Jewish Law) twenty years ago, initiating desperately needed halachic wisdom, values and comfort for Jewish women throughout the world.

Rav Yehuda Henkin
Seeker of Truth

A master of Torah who melded fidelity to millennia of tradition with compassion and profound understanding of modern Jewish life, Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin, z”l, was a seeker of truth. Scion of the revered posek Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, ztz”l, Rav Yehuda learned Torah at the side of his grandfather and received semichah from him. Then he completed a Master’s at Columbia University, where he also earned his B.A. He was a talented musician and ardent Zionist. Rav Yehuda and Rabbanit Chana Henkin met in New York’s Zionist movement and were married for just shy of 50 years.

A prolific author and halachic authority, Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin’s legacy includes four volumes of responsa, B’nei Banim, the Torah commentary Chibah Yeteirah, several books in English and more than a hundred articles in periodicals and journals, both scholarly and educational. For many years, he delivered a weekly talk on the weekly Torah portion for IDF radio.

Rav Henkin was a brilliant scholar recognized for his erudition, independence and contemporary positions. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, his piskei halacha (decisions) paved the way for expansion of Torah learning for all Jewish women and they form the foundation of Nishmat, which Rabbanit Henkin established with the support of her husband in 1990.

Following their aliya to Israel in 1972, Rav Henkin served as the Rabbi of the Beit Shean and the Jordan Valley prior to moving to Jerusalem. Under his guidance as Nishmat’s Halachic Authority and to Rav Henkin’s exacting standards, Rabbanit Chana Henkin’s dream of educating women as halachic consultants, Yoatzot Halacha, became reality. 146 Nishmat Yoatzot Halacha now guide Jewish women throughout the world. Until his death, December 24, 2020 (9 Tevet 5781), the Rav tested every Yoetzet Halaccha before her certification and also oversaw, Nishmat’s Health & Halacha website. With Rabbanit Henkin, he was co-editor of the historic first volume of responsa composed by Yoatzot Halacha, Nishmat HaBayit, released in Hebrew in 2018.

Rav Henkin is survived by five of the couple’s children, Bachor, Yagil, Elyashir, Aderet and Taama. Their son, Eitam, hy”d, was murdered by terrorists, along with his wife, Naama, hy”d, in 2015.

When I would sometimes accompany Abba to visit the grave of Saba or Savta, he would weep at their graves. He would bring up memories, and it was possible to see and feel his longing. And I understood that even when a person is a father and a grandfather himself, he always needs a father. Until today, I had a father. Now I’m more alone in the world. The longing is just beginning. May your memory be blessed, Abba. Advocate for us in Gan Eden and arise for your portion at the End of Days.    

Dr. Yagil Henkin, eulogizing his father, Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin, z”l.

More on Rav Henkin

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4 Replies to “Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin”

  1. Dear Rabbanit Henkin,
    I said this at shiva yesterday, but Rav Henkin’s support of your joint vision, and his recognition that women can only build the beauty of torah, has changed Judaism forever. I hope that he serves as a model for generations of rabbis who will stand behind all those who want to draw close to the torah, no matter their background. I have really enjoyed hearing stories about Rav Henkin from the hespedim and shiva. המקום ינחם.

  2. I first heard Rav Yehudah Henkin when he was Maspid his grandfather, the Posek and Gaon Rav Yosef Eliyahu ZTL. The levaya was on tu B’AV. The various Roshei yeshivot had spoken and it was about 3PM and Rav Yehudah said his Yiddish was not that strong and he will speak in Hebrew the language he and his grandfather spoke.
    Growing- up in the Bronx, we had annual Ezrat Torah Shabbat, but when I was growing-up Rav Henkin could not come and other speakers came. But my grandfather zL always told me about Rav Henkin
    From the day of his grandfather’s levayah I followed Rav Yehudah and his writings about his grandfather. AS I continued to learn @ RIETS in shiurim of Rav Dovid Lifshitz ZTL and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik AKA the Rav ZTL and after I received Semicha and became synagogue Rabbi I regularly studied the Piskei Halacha of grandfather and grandson. Rav Yehudah was a good student of his grandfather in understanding piskei Halacha and that I saw as I studied his Teshuvot. His loss is painful and the Rabbanit and family should have nechama in millions of people who study his piskei Halacha. Like his grandfather and Rav Moshe Feinstein he was not afraid to tackle complicated and modern Shealot and give a proper answer.
    Rav Yehudah should have ” lichtiger Gan Eden” Hamakom Yenachem etchem Btoch Avelaei Tzion

    Barry D. Hartman

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