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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rav Kook’

Rav Kook’s Secret Writings: A Drama In Several Parts

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Clandestine photocopying of tucked-away documents in Israel’s National Library, hurried text messages of selected passages verifying their pristine, unpublished condition, and question marks surrounding the editing and possible censorship practices of trusted editors from eighty years ago.

These are some of the fascinating aspects of what many assume to be a straightforward phenomenon but that in fact has turned out to be a mysterious, complex and ongoing enterprise – the publication of the writings of the ultimate inspiration of the religious-Zionist camp, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, zt”l.

Up until the mid-1980s, things were simple. One could barely find a self-respecting religious-Zionist home in Israel without at least some volumes of the “White Wave” or the “White Shas” – i.e., the fundamental works of Rav Kook, so named because they all featured a simple white dust jacket with a light-green border.

The books, such as Orot (Lights), Orot HaKodesh (Lights of Holiness), and the Siddur commentary Olat R’iyah became staples not only of philosophical yeshiva study for thousands of students but also the very basis for understanding the rich, profound and novel thought of the saintly and scholarly Rav Kook.

It was common knowledge that these books had been edited by Rav Kook’s two prize students: his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda and the Nazir, Rav David Cohen. The latter had been entrusted with eight of Rav Kook’s notebooks, from which he culled and edited the gems that would later comprise Orot HaKodesh.

Meanwhile, Rav Tzvi Yehuda was doing the same with some twelve other notebooks his father had given him, and produced from them (and partly from the other eight as well) many of his father’s other famous works – Orot, Orot HaTorah, and more.

Rav Kook barely wrote any books as complete, unified entities. Rather, he wrote in an almost stream-of-consciousness format on any and all topics, and he filled many little notebooks with short paragraphs of his deepest and most profound musings.

When Rav Tzvi Yehuda died in 1982, whatever hashkafic material remained in manuscript (not including writings such as commentary on the aggadic passages of Tractates Berachot and Shabbat, which became the four-volume Ein Ayah) appeared to be fated for oblivion. This, because the newly-established Rav Tzvi Yehuda Institute (RTYI) did not go out of its way to convince the Raanan family – direct descendants of Rav Kook and the owners of his papers – to allow them to be published.

Though it was known that Rav Kook had left many manuscripts behind, no publication date appeared on the horizon.

And yet, contrary to expectations, many books of Rav Kook’s hidden writings have been published over the past several years. Just last month, for instance, in honor of Rav Kook’s 77th yahrzeit on Elul 3, a work entitled Yesh Lach Kanfei Ruach – You Have Wings of Spirit – was made available to the public. Named after a line in one of Rav Kook’s poems, it is a compendium of his writings – some of which had not before seen print – on the topic of the confidence a believing Jew must have in himself and his ability to do good.

In short, with the holy writings apparently under permanent wraps, an entire series of Rav Kook’s writings have now seen the light of day. How did this occur?

The answer, it seems, is a man named Boaz Ofan.

Ofaz was learning in Yeshivat Ramat Gan a decade and a half ago when, he said, “we were a bunch of chutzpadik youths who decided the papers should no longer remain concealed.”

Though he is now willing to divulge much of how he came to fulfill this goal, he does not want to say how he actually received his first copies of some of the secret manuscripts. He collected a fair amount but then got stuck: He had too many to ignore, but too few to actually publish.

Knowing RTYI was reticent to publish, he unceremoniously informed the rabbis there, “I have photocopies of all Rav Kook’s writings. Either you publish what you have – or I will.”

They did – and thus was born the first “unedited” volume of Rav Kook’s works, known as Shemoneh Kvatzim, or Eight Collections – the unabridged series of manuscripts from which Rav Kook himself actually commissioned publication. (Another version of the story has it that Rav Yitzchak Shilat, the editor, was actually at work on the project before Ofan appeared on the scene.)

TORAH, TORAH, TORAH

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

As we saw in a previous blog, the t’shuva of the Nation and the Land of Israel go hand in hand. Phase two is the Nation’s return to the Torah.

During the reign of King Solomon, the Nation of Israel was at its prime. We lived in peace in our own homeland. A Jewish government ruled over the country from the majestic city of Jerusalem. All of the people gathered for the Festivals at the Temple three times a year. Jewish law went forth from the Sanhedrin. Prophets communicated the word of the Lord to the Nation and the world. A powerful Jewish army guarded the country’s borders. Torah was studied in great academies of learning. Hebrew was spoken on the street. The leaders of foreign nations flocked to Jerusalem to pay tribute to the Jews.

When Israel was exiled, however, everything was lost. The country was conquered by enemies. Jerusalem was razed, the Temple destroyed. Prophecy ceased. Jews wandered from country to country. They began speaking strange languages. Instead of being honored by the gentiles, the Jews were disgraced. They became an oppressed minority in alien lands. And while Jews continued to learn Torah throughout their exile, its light was considerably waned (Chagiga 4B). In the face of persecution and assimilation, Judaism lost its once great stature.

As we mentioned in our previous blog, with the commencement of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people began to return to what had been lost. Jews began to return to their homeland. They began to return to their very own Hebrew language. A Jewish government returned to Jerusalem. The city was rebuilt. Once again, Jews were sovereign in their homeland. Jewish soldiers once again guarded its borders. Once again, foreign rulers came to pay tribute to the leaders of Israel. Out from the humiliation of exile, the Nation was resurrected to life. The physical, national body of Israel’s statehood was restored with a newfound Jewish valor and strength. But without the Temple, without the Sanhedrin and prophecy, without the pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year, and without a national dedication to Torah, the return is still incomplete. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us, within the yearning to return to the Land is a deeper, hidden yearning to return to the Torah as well.

Within the inner heart, in its pure and holy chambers, the Israeli flame increases, demanding the strong, brave, constant connection of life to all of the mitzvot of God…. And in the hearts of all the empty ones, and in the hearts of all of the sinners of Israel, the fire burns and blazes in the most inward depths, and in the Nation in its entirety, all of the desire for freedom, and all of the yearning for life, for the community and for the individual, all of the hope for Redemption, only from the source of this inner spring of life do they flow in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 8).

Under the secular-looking Zionist State is a flaming, raging, engulfing fireball of t’shuva. The Jewish soul is yearning for religion. Like a man dying of thirst in the desert, the voice of the Nation cries out, “Torah, Torah, Torah.” Ironically, it is precisely the spiritual wilderness which brings the great thirst. Rabbi Kook writes:

T’shuva will come (to the Jewish Nation) in several directions. One of the causes will be the deep sorrow felt over the humiliation inflicted upon the great spiritual treasure which our forefathers bequeathed to us, and which possesses immeasurable power and glory (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:9).

Israel’s great spiritual treasure is the Torah, the commandments, the holidays, Jewish customs, traditions, prayer, and the vast sea of Talmudic learning.

This mighty spirit spans over all generations. Its source is the most exalted Divine Source of life. When one looks to it, one finds everything, all beauty and splendor (Ibid).

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov told a story about a poor man from a poor village who was told in a dream to seek out a treasure buried under a certain bridge in a faraway town. The poor man made the long journey and located the bridge. As he was searching around, a policeman accosted him and demanded to know what he was doing. When the poor man explained, the policeman confided that he too had had a similar foolish dream, in which a treasure was to be found in a certain faraway village under the shack of a poor man. When the policeman cited the poor man’s name and village, the poor man realized that the treasure was buried under his very own house! He had to make the long journey to the bridge to discover the secret. Sure enough, when the poor man hurried back home, he uncovered the treasure under the floor of his storeroom.

Absolute Joy

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

There is a special mitzvah on Sukkot to be ach samaoch.” Only joyous. It is a happiness not dependent on anything external, beyond definition and words. Just to be absolutely joyous in one’s love and worship of G-d. Rabbi Kook describes the sukkah as a whirlpool of joyous energy which is constantly changing each second, reaching ever-higher levels of joy and attachment to G-d.

Chag samaoch!

 

 

 

Zionism is T’shuva Too!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

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).

Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel!

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the true t’shuva of the Jewish People is in our return to Eretz Yisrael. Again and again, in his letters and speeches as Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, he urged the Jewish People to return home to Zion. One public proclamation, sent out all over the Diaspora, years before the Holocaust, was entitled, “The Great Call.”

To the Land of Israel, gentlemen, to the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry. Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire Nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil — from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction….

Escape with your lives and come to Israel. God’s voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us, and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel, do not tarry with arrangements and bureaucratic matters; rescue yourselves, gather, come to the Land of Israel…

From the time we were exiled from our Land, the Torah has accompanied Israel into exile, wandering from Babylon to France, Spain,Germany, Eastern and Central Europe, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere. Now, how happy we would be if we were able to say that the Torah has returned to her first place, to the Land of Israel, together with the People of Israel, who continue to multiply in the Holy Land.

Who is so blind that he does not see the Lord’s hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with God in this endeavor? A Heavenly Voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, ‘Whoever has wrought with God, let him come and receive his reward’ (Vayikra Rabbah, 27:2). Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the Lord’s legacy, that they may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement.

Another public proclamation was addressed to Orthodox communities to urge their aliyah to Israel. In establishing a movement called “The Banner of Jerusalem,” Rabbi Kook called upon all religious Jews to come to Israel to rebuild the Nation’s spiritual life, just as the secular Zionists were rebuilding the physical:

Jews! We call you to the sacred task of building our Jewish nation in our Holy Land, in Eretz Yisrael. Come to us, rally together under the “Banner of Jerusalem” which we now raise aloft before the whole Jewish religious public.

We all know the banner of Zion which unites a certain portion of our brethren on the basis of our Jewish secular interests in the Land of Israel. But there are many who have not joined the ranks of those who bear the Zionist flag, and a great many who feel it impossible to do so. We simply record the plain fact that this is so, without questioning its veracity.

Yet it cannot be that the largest, most natural, and earnest portion of Jewry, the majority of the Jewish religious public, should remain indifferent to the wonderful events of the present, and not lend a hand in the holy task of building our Nation on our sacred soil because of so-called objections….

Jews, all the loyal believers in the Jewish faith, there can be no doubt that the Divine power is now manifesting itself amongst us in the great world events of our time. We are certainly called to return to our ancient home in the Land of Israel, there to renew our ancient holy life….

We religious Jews must all profoundly know and believe that the Divine hand is now leading us openly to our highest, ideal destiny. We must make known to the whole world, the true meaning of the present wondrous happenings, whose purpose is so clearly the hastening of our Redemption and salvation, from which will also spring forth the Redemption and salvation of all mankind.

With the flaming, illuminating, Divine faith, with all the luster of our holy Torah, with the vitality of all of the most refined and devout Jews, we shall carry our flag, the ‘Banner of Jerusalem’ by which alone the banner of Zion will also be properly hoisted. For the value of Jewish secular power will be revealed to the world only in the light of our holy Jewish spiritual power, emphasized by the uplifted voices of the whole religious Jewish world community, who set out with holy enthusiasm to the task of our national construction, of our return to the Land of Israel, by the grace of the Divine and illuminating light, ‘O House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.’

Homeward Bound

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Before continuing with Rabbi Kook’s writings on T’shuva, I want to share an email which I received before Yom Kippur. It’s always nice to receive a kind word, even for an old alligator-skinned blogger like me:

Shalom, Reb Tzvi,

I am a semicha student at Yeshiva University, and I just read your sefer on teshuvah in Rav Kook’s thought and I wanted to thank you for it.  I was very much inspired by your book.  I do not study that much of Rav Kook’s writings (unfortunately), but I was preparing to give a shiur on Orot Hateshuvah when I came across your commentary, ‘The Art of T’shuva.’

What began as an intellectual exercise in preparing a shiur soon changed into a deeply spiritual experience as I began to understand some of what Rav Kook is trying to teach us.  I really feel that your book has made a big difference in my emotional experience of the yamim noraim and aseret yemei teshuvah this year.  Thanks again for the wonderful sefer.

And now, leading up to the holiday of Sukkot, we’ll wrap up our condensed look at Rabbi Kook’s teachings on t’shuva with a few blogs on two of the holidays most important themes – Eretz Yisrael and Torah.

We have learned that t’shuva encompasses far more than personal repentance. Its ever-streaming waves affect the world in its entirety, lifting it toward perfection. Furthermore, we have learned that it is the Nation of Israel who will lead the world to Redemption, marching in front of the parade of nations with its shofars blaring away.

This is all well and good. But what will bring the Jewish People to t’shuva? What will awaken the Divine voice in its soul? What causes the scattered, exiled Jewish Nation to return, as we beseech God in our prayers, to the glorious days of our past?

Rabbi Kook writes that the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for the ultimate t’shuva, both for the nation of Israel, and for the whole world.

To understand this concept fully, one must understand the incomparable holiness of Eretz Yisrael and its importance to the Nation of Israel. While it is beyond the scope of this blog to explore this subject in depth, we will mention a few of the things which point to the unique connection between the Jewish People and their Land.

The Jewish People possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; there can be great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in a national format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION. The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a Nation only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are compared to dry and scattered bones21-22). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israeland the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish People’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in theLandofIsrael. The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Yisheyahu, 2:3).

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness, which continues to darken the world, stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of theLandofIsrael. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to the world (Letters, Vol.1, pgs 112-113).

While Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the t’shuva of the Jewish People and a return to the Torah go hand-in-hand, he indicates that a preliminary stage of national revival will bring this spiritual awakening to pass. First, the Jewish people must return toZionto rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the Nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well, and our people will flock back to the Torah. This may take several generations, but this national t’shuva is destined to come to pass.

The World’s Leader: Israel

Monday, September 24th, 2012

We have learned that the force of t’shuva is perpetually at work, propelling all of life toward perfection. While the enlightenment of mankind is a gradually developing process, the day is soon coming when the wonder of t’shuva will capture all imaginations and hearts.

In this saga of universal redemption, where do the Jewish People fit in? What role do they play? Just as one might expect, Am Yisrael is to be the leader, blazing the trail for all other peoples to follow. Rabbi Kook writes:

The Jewish People, because of their enhanced spiritual nature, will be the first nation in the world to do t’shuva. The special spirit of t’shuva will initially be revealed in this portion of humanity.Israelis propelled from within to be united with God’s light in the world, which is free of transgression and wrongdoing. Every falling away (from its connection to God) blemishes the wholeness of its inner perfection, yet in the end, its powerful life-force will triumph over the deviation, and it will return to complete health. This complete health will start to invigorate (the nation) with great strength and the light of t’shuva will shine within her first. Afterward, Israel will be the special channel to spread life’s inner yearning for t’shuva to all of the world, to lighten the world’s darkness and elevate its stature (Orot HaT’shuva, 5:8.  See also The Art of T’shuva, Ch. 16).

As we mentioned in a previous blog, Israel’s enhanced spiritual nature lies in its unique holiness and connection to God. “For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God has chosen thee to be a special people to Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Devarim, 7:6).

The Nation of Israel has an exalted inner content which radiates God’s blessing to the world. This segula, or unique Divine connection, encompasses all of the Jewish People. It is our national soul. Blemishes caused by sin are always external to the soul of the nation, leaving no permanent scar.

Israel’s deep, inner yearning to be connected to God, triumphs in the end, banishing all darkness. We are not speaking about a spiritual awakening of scattered individuals. THE WHOLE NATION RETURNS TO GOD. True to the prophecy of Moses, the whole nation will return to live by the Torah. Politicians and soldiers, artists and farmers, teachers and judges will have one common purpose — to sanctify life’s every endeavor. Israel will return to being itself — “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot, 19:6).

The revelation of Israel’s holiness will bring more light to the world than the sun. Mankind will be blinded and stunned. All people will proclaim:

Surely this great Nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is so great that has God so near to them… and what Nation is so great that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all of this Torah? (Devarim, 4:6-8).

This awakened, Holy Nation will demand a new life order, the correction of all wrong, the uprooting of all evil, rescue for the downtrodden, equality for all people, food for all children, salvation from a life of paganism and sin.

Inspired by the Holy Nation of Israel, mankind will abandon its vain and misguided paths, and a mighty spirit of t’shuva will be ignited throughout the world. Nations will flock to Israel to learn the ways of the Jews, as it is written:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Yaacov; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Yisheyahu, 2:2-4).

An example of Israel’s future influence on the nations will help make this utopian scenario more clear. Rabbi Kook writes that t’shuva is ever-present in the inner fabric of existence because it was brought into being before the creation of the world. Before sin had occurred, a remedy for it had already been prepared.

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