Rabbi Kook’s deep spiritual insight did not blind him to the unholy lifestyles of the secular pioneers. However, he knew that the holy essence of Am Yisrael guaranteed that the Nation would return to its roots. Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Kook described this process in almost prophetic terms:
We recognize that a spiritual revolution will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the course of the Nation’s revival. The material comfort which will be attained by a percentage of the Nation, convincing them that they have already completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem to be devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the Nation will plunge and sink low until a storm of rebellion will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of God and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor, triumphing over all of the worlds and all of their powers (Orot, pg. 84).
In another essay, Rabbi Kook writes:
Our Nation will be built and reestablished; all of its foundations will return to their full might, through the reactivating, strengthening, perfection, and spreading of its faith, its Divine inner holiness, and its reverence of God. All of the Nation’s builders will come to recognize this truth. Then with a mighty, valorous voice, they will call out to themselves and to their brethren, “Let us come and return to the Lord.” And this will be a true return. It will be a t’shuva filled with valor, a t’shuva which will give strength and vigor to all of the Nation’s spiritual and physical aspects, to all of the endeavors needed for the building and perfection of the people, inspiring it to rebirth and to stability. The Nation’s eyes will be opened, its soul will be cleansed, its light will shine, its wings will spread, a reborn Nation will arise, a great, awesome, and numerous people, filled with the light of God and the majesty of nationhood. “Behold, the people shall rise up like a great lion, and like a young lion, it shall lift itself up” (BaMidbar, 23:24. Orot HaT’shuva, 15:11).
Thus, it can clearly be seen that the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is a necessary stage in the t’shuva of the Nation. It follows that a Jew who becomes a baal t’shuva in California, Chicago, or Brooklyn, has only returned a part of the way home. While his personal character and behavior have been purified by the light of the Torah, he has traveled only half of the journey. As the classic treatise of Jewish faith, “The Kuzari,” makes clear:
The Land of Israel is especially distinguished by the Lord of Israel and deeds can only be perfect there. Many of the commandments given to the Jewish People do not apply to someone who does not live in the Land of Israel, and the heart will not be pure, and one’s intention will not be utterly devoted to God, outside of the place which is known to be especially favored and chose by God (Kuzari, 5:23).
The “t’shuva train” is continuing on to Israel. The final stop is Jerusalem. Every Jew needs to bring his little light home to the Holy Land where it can join the great flame. He has to raise up his private, individual life, to the higher life of the Clal, to become a part of the Nation in its Land, to merge his personal goals with the national goals of the Torah. As Rabbi Kook writes, “The first fundamental step of t’shuva is to attach oneself with the soul of the Nation” (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:7).
To rectify the blemish caused by galut, the Diaspora Jew has to stop being in exile and join the ingathered. He has to actualize the words of his daily prayers, “And gather us together from the four corners of the earth” by getting on a plane.