While the world is striving toward this cosmic oneness, the Torah, to the uninitiated, seems to be preoccupied with unimportant details, with keeping kosher and not letting women wear pants. This viewpoint occurs when the Torah is looked at in a myopic fashion, precept by precept, law after law, with the focus on an individual’s behavior. However, to an experienced “surfer” in the great sea of Torah, what great expanses of unity and wholeness lie under each individual command! What endless horizons and waves! What mind-expanding revelations of oneness, not only of this world, but of all the spiritual worlds which constitute and surround all of existence! When a person learns how a simple action on his part, like the waving of the lulav on sukkot, sets off a chain reaction in all six directions of the world to the farthest reaches of the universe, drawing down wellsprings of blessing and healing to mankind, he will no longer view the Four Species as some private religious ritual, but as a global and cosmological tikun.
If people studied the Torah in this light, to broaden their spiritual ken, in order to understand the connection between the details of life and the universal, spiritual realms of existence, then t’shuva would come, and the perfection of the world would follow in its wake…. We must employ a higher healing, to add strength to our spiritual talents, to understand in a clear, straightforward, down-to-earth manner, the connection between the teachings and commandments of the Torah, and the highest, most universal ideas. Then the power of the spiritual life will be renewed in the world, in practice and theory, and a movement of general t’shuva will begin to blossom and bloom (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:10).
We have mentioned that t’shuva and Redemption run along two parallel, overlapping paths. Since Torah is so integral to t’shuva, it is not surprising to discover that it is precisely the secrets of Torah which pave the way for the Redemption of Israel (“Even Shlema,” by the gaon of Vilna, 11:3). The opposite is also true. Rabbi Kook writes that it is precisely the dry, superficial learning of Torah which causes the Nation to become habituated, and even comfortable, with life in foreign lands. He writes:
“By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a confused, unfocused fashion. By alienating oneself from the secrets of God, the highest treasures of the deep Divine life become extraneous, secondary matters which do not enter the depths of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual’s and the Nation’s soul will be missing, and the exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord. For to someone who only comprehends the superficial level, nothing basic will seem to be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, the Jewish Kingdom, and all of the facets of the Nation in its built form.
“For him, the foundation of yearning for salvation is like a side branch that cannot be united with the deep understanding of Judaism, and this itself testifies to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective.”
Rabbi Kook continues:
We are not rejecting any form of study or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but only rejecting the specific aspect of this perspective which seeks to negate the secrets of Torah and their great influence on the spirit of the Nation – for this is a tragedy which we are obligated to fight against with counsel and wisdom, with holiness and valor (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 2).
Basically, Rabbi Kook is saying that it is not enough for a Jew to study only about the commandments which effect his personal everyday life. He must also learn about the more encompassing concepts of Judaism like the role of the Nation of Israel in perfecting the world; the meaning of Eretz Yisrael to the Nation; the centrality of Jerusalem to Judaism; the importance of prophecy; the Temple; and the deeper understandings of the ingathering of the exiles. If he does not immerse himself in these studies, then he will not miss their absence, and he will be content with his life of exile in foreign lands (For a detailed discussion of this theme, see the book, “Eretz Yisrael – The Teachings of Rabbi Kook” by Rabbi David Samson and yours truly).