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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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TORAH, TORAH, TORAH

Rav Kook teaches that within the yearning to return to the Land is a deeper, there is a hidden yearning to return to the Torah as well.
Torah scroll. (illustrative only)

Torah scroll. (illustrative only)
Photo Credit: Flash 90

In much the same manner, the Jewish people have lost sight of the treasure of their ancestral past. Seduced by the gentile cultures around us, we have very often ignored our own pure, holy spring, for pools of polluted water.

This cultural assimilation has occurred throughout our dispersion. Even in the Holy Land, the symbols, influences, and values of Western society abound. The immigrants returning to Israel brought back, not only their pure Jewish souls, but also a lot of foreign baggage. Socialism, communism, atheism, capitalism, bohemianism, materialism, and secularism are only some of the travel stickers we have collected along our journey. One day, Rabbi Kook assures us, a feeling of shame will cause us to return to our original love, the Torah.

The darkness of heresy caused our people to detach themselves from this rich meadow and to stumble in foreign pastures which have absolutely no life nor vitalizing substance for us. The pain of this great anguish will burst awesomely forth, clearing the way for sensibility and reason to know what positive elements might be retrieved from all the false paths which led us astray. The soul’s inner longing for holiness will be freed. It will break out of its prison, and with a powerful thirst, every awakened spirit will begin to drink deeply from the original, exalted life source (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:9).

With a return to the Torah, the Jewish people erase all of the foreign concepts and values which have tainted Jewish identity and culture during our long exile in gentile lands, and replace them with a library of holy Torah tapes and texts. Rather than being divided between two separate worlds, a Jew at home and a German or Frenchman on the street, we return to our unique Jewish wholeness. We come to hear clearly the voice of our souls calling us back to our God. Embracing our holiness, we long for a life of Torah, a life of moral purity, a life cleansed from sin. With each Torah verse that we learn, with each Mishna, with each page of Gemara, we give revitalizing Jewish nourishment to our long-neglected souls.

To accomplish such a vast, national t’shuva, Rabbi Kook writes that a broad system of popular Torah education is needed. After having abandoned our unique Jewish treasure for so many years, we have a lot of relearning to do. In fact, many Jews returning to Judaism have to start at the very beginning by learning the alef bet.

From a moral point-of-view, the innate fear of transgression is the healthiest human disposition. This quality stands out in the Jewish people, in its natural aversion to any sin or wrongdoing in opposition to the Torah and the commandments, which are the inheritance of the community of Jacob. This disposition will only return to the Jewish people through national program of Torah learning, both in producing outstanding Torah scholars, and in establishing fixed times of daily learning for the masses. It is impossible for the Jewish people to return to their natural life, in all of its breadth and stature, if it will not also return to its spiritual nature, in all of its fullness, including the all-important fear of sin which, when healthy, brings remorse and t’shuva in its wake. With the strengthening of the Nation’s vitality in all of its facets, its restless confusion will cease, and its national institutions will all return to their natural moral focus, so unique and deep-seated in Israel, to differentiate with a hair-splitting exactness between the forbidden and the permitted. Then all the detailed laws of the Torah and the Sages will be recognized as the necessary foundation for an independent Jewish life, without which a vital national existence is impossible (Orot HaT’shuva, 6:3).

The holiness of the Jewish Nation is expressed in our yearning for absolute morality, goodness, and universal justice. To accomplish this on a national level, in day-to-day life, high-sounding platitudes are not enough. To be a holy Nation, holiness must be grounded in every aspect of life. Morality must shine in all spheres of endeavor. Only in this manner can all of life be sanctified and uplifted. How can this be achieved? Only by Israel’s commitment to all of the Divine laws of Sinai. It is the detailed commandments, in all of their exact measure and precision, which embody God’s will for the world. Only the Divine Law of the Torah can provide the foundation for a pure Jewish life, by establishing guidelines for every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the type of clothes we wear, to our dealings in business, our personal behavior, and our national priorities and goals.

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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