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The Greatness Of Rav Kook

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Shamefully, this chief rabbi of Israel, respected by laymen, rabbis, secular leaders and the wealthy who constantly visited him; this master of tzedakah who raised and donated huge sums of money for Torah institutions in Israel and Eastern Europe, for the poor and the needy and for settlement in Eretz Yisrael – this giant among men lived in shameful poverty.

An older Jew who immigrated to Israel from the United States took notice of his state and made a practice of giving the rav’s wife a lira coin that would sustain the family for the week. Only in his final days of illness was a benefactor found who took it upon himself to put Rav Kook in a kosher nursing home. It was from that home that Rav Kook’s soul departed in sanctity and purity.

Rav Kook expressed regret that he could not dedicate all of his time to recording his ideas. He had hoped to bring the Hebrew writers of his age back to Torah, and was even somewhat successful with a number of them: Azar, Bialik, and Agnon. Yet even they, much less their contemporaries, were unable to fully understand the depth of Rav Kook’s ideas.

There were very few Torah scholars who actually grasped the profundity of Rav Kook’s philosophy. They were the ones destined to carry on his teachings in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. They understood that his insights contain the solution to the difficulties of our times, and that by learning them the Jewish people will be redeemed.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a leader of Israel’s religious-Zionist community, is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law. His books “The Laws of Prayer,” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are being translated into English. He can be contacted at yonaton@yhb.org.il.

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