Rabbi Kook teaches that even in the return of the non- religious Zionists to Israel there is a profound holy core. The inner source of their desire to return is the Divine Ideal itself – the return to the Jews to the Land of Israel, as the Torah and the Prophets of Israel both promise. With time, the holy spark in the Zionist movement will surely be ignited into a towering flame. This great transformation may take one hundred years or more. We need to remember that after nearly two-thousand years in exile, a few generations is like the blink of an eye.
The important thing to know is that the t’shuva of the entire Nation is destined to come. Rabbi Kook writes:
The awakened yearning of the Jewish people as a whole to return to their Land, to their roots, to their spirit and way of life — truthfully, there is the light of t’shuva in this (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:2).
The Book of Ezekiel includes an overview of Jewish history which traces Israel’s exile among the gentile nations, and her ultimate return to the Land of Israel and Torah. Only after the nation’s physical revival in Israel do the Jewish people undergo the period of spiritual cleansing which leads them back to Torah, as it says:
For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own Land. Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all of your uncleanlinesses, and from all of your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart will I also give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit in you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. And you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I shall be your God (Ezekiel, 36:24-28).
The return to our true national identity, and the spiritual revolution which follows, encompasses all aspects of Jewish life. This great return, while still in its nascent stages, is something we have witnessed in our century. First, out of the graveyards of exile, came a new hope and zest for life, as if our scattered, dry bones were rising to rebirth. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish Nation was reborn in Israel. The Hebrew language was restored. After two-thousand years of wandering, the Jews returned to being an independent Nation in their own Land. An incredible, new awakening of Jewish valor and physical prowess, epitomized by the Israel Defense Forces, startled the world. The ingathering of exiles from the four corners of the earth led to the building of a dynamic, progressive society. Yeshivas were opened all over the country. Today, Israel is unquestionably the Torah center of the world. All of these things are aspects of t’shuva, of a Nation returning to its roots.
As Rabbi Kook writes:
Without question, the light of Mashiach and the salvation of Israel, the rebirth of the Nation and the Land, the revival of its language and literature — all stem from the source of t’shuva, and out of the depths to the heights of the highest t’shuva, everything will be brought (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:11).
The return of a scattered people to its Land is no simple matter. Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, there are numerous problems. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us that our inner longing for God will overcome all of the barriers. Even the brazen secularism, which seems so contrary to the Nation’s holiest goals, will become a powerful vessel bursting with Torah. He writes:
Out of the profane, holiness will also come forth, and out of wanton freedom, the beloved yoke (of Torah) will blossom. Golden chains will be woven and arise out of secular poetry, and a brilliant light of t’shuva will shine from secular literature. This will be the supreme wonder of the vision of Redemption. Let the bud sprout, let the flower blossom, let the fruit ripen, and the whole world will know that the Spirit of God is speaking within the Nation of Israel in its every expression. All of this will climax in a t’shuva which will bring healing and Redemption to the world (Ibid, 17:3).