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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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“Why Should I Live in Israel? America Has Everything I Need”


Rav Kook close up

Zionism, whether religious or secular, isn’t for him. He feels content where he is.

This alienation to the deepest yearnings of the Nation is “testimony to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective,” which emphasizes only the revealed side of Torah. A Judaism which negates the esoteric realms of Torah is a dry, lifeless Judaism, divorced from the Divine Spirit which rests on the Nation. This is the Judaism which leads to the dry bones of Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is a Judaism content with galut, cut off from the Nation’s constant yearning for Redemption.

A great tragedy results when we make Jewish life in the exile the goal of Jewish existence. In the introduction to the Siddur, Beit Yaacov, Rabbi Yaacov Emden writes:

“When it seems to us in our present peaceful existence outside of the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the greatest, deepest, most obvious, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”33

Whether the destruction comes through pogroms, a holocaust, or day-to-day assimilation, the tragedy is the same.

Rabbi Kook writes:

“We are not rejecting any form or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but rejecting only 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 with valor.”

When a Jew does not yearn for Salvation, a basic foundation of Torah is lost. This results from the superficial perspective of Judaism which Rabbi Kook decries. He is careful to add that all other Jewish outlooks based on true Divine service have their rightful place. When they stem from a pure fear of Heaven, all disciplines of Torah contribute positively to the whole. It is only the specific outlook which denies the secrets of Torah and their influence on our lives which he condemns. A simple, faithful service of God is proper, but it is not all that there is. The Torah includes not only the revealed understandings, but the hidden understandings as well.34 If a philosophy negates the esoteric teachings of Torah, and regards those who learn them as if they possess no Torah at all, this is a distortion of Judaism which must be combated. It must be battled with counsel, with wisdom, with Kedusha and valor. Rabbi Kook raises up the banner of Redemption with the call for a deeper, more valiant illumination of Torah which will vanquish the darkness of exile by adding a holier light.

Footnotes

1. Isaiah, 55:8-9.

2. Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 64, Pg. 95, Translated by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe in “Celebration of the Soul,” Genesis Jerusalem Publications, Pg. 208, Orot HaTechiyah, 57,59,67,69. Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 1, Pg. 233. See Tikuney Zohar 30. Even Shlemah 11:3, by the Vilna Gaon, “The Redemption will not come except through the learning of Torah, and the main Redemption depends on the learning of Kabbalah.” See also, Rav Mordechai Atia, Preface to the Pardes of Rav Moshe Kordevero.

Tzvi Fishman

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. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

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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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