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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

However, a simple learning of Torah is not enough to return us completely to our roots. After a two-thousand year exile, we have to undergo a profound, inner transformation in order to truly become a kingdom of priests and a holy Nation. A change in external behavior is not enough. When we return to our roots, the transformation must affect our personalities, our thought processes, and our innermost aspirations. Rabbi Kook writes:

To strengthen these foundations, we need to endear the hearts of our people to the light of the true, inner Torah, the secrets of Torah, which, because of their influence on students who had not been properly prepared, brought about their rejection and scorn. It is, however, from this life-giving light… that the world’s lasting salvation will sprout. The appearance of this exalted, benevolent light will revitalize both the Nation and the individual, to raise the fallen tabernacle of David, and to remove the shame of the people of God from all of the earth (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:9).

Rabbi Kook is careful to warn that only a Torah student with the proper background of learning can safely delve into the deep waters of Kabbalah. Nonetheless, it is precisely the mystical side of Torah which gives Israel the high-octane fuel it needs to sustain the long and difficult task of national rebuilding. Rabbi Kook himself was a master of Kabbalah. The profound insights found throughout all of his writings, his towering love for all of mankind, and his understanding of the unity of all creation, stem in great measure from this source. His teachings reveal how the inner formulations of Torah are at work in our time, bringing the national t’shuva of Israel ever-and-ever closer. By illuminating the inner blueprint of existence which is secretly active, guiding all things toward completion, Rabbi Kook helps us to set our lives on the ultimate course of perfection and joy.

True complete t’shuva necessitates exalted horizons of meditation, an ascent to the supernal realm which is filled with truth and holiness. One can attain this only through the study of the inner dimensions of Torah and Divine wisdom dealing with the mystical understanding of the world. This demands physical and moral purity, so that the darkness of lusts will not pollute the lucidness of the intellect. But the study of Torah must precede all other disciplines, especially the study of the transcendental Torah, for only it can break down all of the iron-like, material barriers separating the individual and the community from their Father in Heaven (Ibid, 10:1).

Ours is a very material generation. Living in a capitalistic, consumer-oriented society, we are bombarded by material messages. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, we are trained to want more money, nicer clothes, a bigger house, a newer car. This obsession with the material world can block out spiritual light completely. Only an intense inner purification, and a connection to transcendental realms, can free us from the physical lusts which block our connection to God. Thus t’shuva and the secrets of Torah go hand-in-hand, each one lighting the path for the other.

In another essay, Rabbi Kook explains why the mystical understandings of Torah are vital to Israel’s rise toward national rebirth (Ibid, 14:6). The Talmud states that preceding the Mashiach there will be great chutzpah in the world (Sotah 49B). This chutzpah is an insolence directed against Judaism. It is a brazenness which seeks to negate everything holy and Divine. Before the truth of the Torah is finally revealed, there will be a great darkness. Torah scholars will be held in contempt. The teachings of Judaism will be scorned. This comes about because, as the time of Mashiach draws near, the world is ready to embrace a universal vision of unity, where all particulars are recognized as part of the whole. In contrast, the Torah is seen as a code of primitive details, something specifically Jewish, bounded on all sides with restrictions, with no connection to the wide world and its seemingly infinite horizons.

For example, a universal yearning for unity can be seen in the great popularity of Internet. From his home computer, a person can now be connected to all of the world. He is no longer just a name in a phonebook, but an active player in a complex, international game with his own Timeline and webpage. Thanks to advances in communications, he has the knowledge of the world at his fingertips. On his private, home screen, he can see from one end of the globe to the other. And people all over the world can also find out about him.

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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