Photo Credit: Kodesh Press

Title: The Souls of the World of Chaos
Rabbi Betzalel Naor
Kodesh Press



Nestled amongst the essays in Orot there is a short essay entitled The Souls of the World of Chaos A later addition to the work, it was published initially in R Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s short-lived journal, Haatarbut Hayisraelit.

This essay, mere pages long, deals with the young rebellious secularists, who Rav Kook met, spoke with and tried to influence, especially in his years in Yafo, as the Rav of Yafo and the surrounding Moshavot. These Chaotic souls seek to overturn so much of the present order, and seek to replace it with a higher order. Rav Kook examines what the benefit of these rebels, and how it will in the end both strengthening Judaism, Torah and the nation.

This is not Rav Kook’s foray into the world of these chalutzim and thinkers, who were disillusioned with the world and traditions of their fathers. In his essay The Generation he declares that there is no generation such as ours, “Our generation is the most unique, fantastic, you see darkness and light together, totally righteous and totally corrupt”

Good and evil, light and darkness, these turbulent chaotic souls, were part of Rav Kook’s understanding in an unfolding messianic drama, and were a portion of his preoccupation with Teshuva (as is described in his introduction to Orot Hateshuva)

Rabbi Betzalel Naor’s latest offering, The Souls of the World of Chaos directs our deep dive into this essay of few words, but great meaning.

You might think that this is a collection of essays, at first glance. Upon further examination, you realize that R Naor is examining every aspect of the phrase “souls of the world of chaos”. Where does it originate? What is its history? What are usages of it in other contexts? Is this the only time that Rav kook speaks of souls of the world of chaos? All of these questions and more are answered, as R Naor lays out the beginning of the phrase, its usages and history. He clearly explains the notion of souls of the world of chaos as found in the writings of the Ari with such clarity that I want to clamor for an original class by the author on those as well…

Throughout this study, R Naor examines the major issue that cuts to both the heart of the current work and Rav Kook’s methodology as a whole. How are we to understand the concepts taught by the mekubalim. Are these concepts abstract, or do they descend, translate and guide the phenomena which we see in our emotions, feelings and whose principles guide the unfolding destiny that we see before our eyes. We glimpse the world of the previous Rav of Yafo, Rav Naftaly Hertz Halevi, whose Siddur Hagra discussed that selfsame point with Rav Elayshiv’s grandfather, the Leshem.

The volume concludes with several book reviews which initially gave me pause. Why reprint book reviews? However, as I reread them, I understood that they are not merely appended to the end of this work, in fact they shed light on Rav Kook’s methodology unifying streams of thought, understanding the evolution of his thinking, the nation, and its growth over a slave mentality. This also gives us a glimpse into understanding these chaotic souls.

The footnote section as well contains hours of research for a person to enter each rabbit hole of previous unknown works to continue our examination, and understanding for a way to read these turbulent souls and turbulent times.

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Rabbi Reuven Boshnack is the Rav of Pri Eitz Chaim/OAJC and a Rebbe, Mashgiach and Advisor for Undergraduate Torah Studies at Yeshiva University. He is the author of several sefarim on the Maharal, Sefas Emes and Izhbitz.