Photo Credit: Maggid Modern Classics Bilingual Edition

Title: Orot
By: Rav Avrahan Yitzchak Kook
Maggid Modern Classics Bilingual Edition



The name Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook conjures up many different responses. To some he was a significant leader in the religious Zionist movement, while others view him as a controversial figure in an inherently secular movement. However, Rav Kook’s actual ideas contained in his writings appear to be a closed book to many. Growing up in a modern orthodox synagogue, I do not remember Rav Kook being quoted once. Part of the challenge of accessing Rav Kook’s work is the style in which he wrote. On the few occasions I have heard Rav Kook quoted, it is often with the caveat that his Hebrew is complex or that his language is poetic. Maggid’s bilingual edition of Rav Kook’s Orot helps shed much light on these difficulties.

Maggid first published an English translation of Orot in 2014 by Bezalel Naor. Aside from the English text, this version contains a lengthy introduction explaining the history of Orot and the responses to its publication from the various corners of the orthodox world. Following the text, the reader can find an additional 100 plus pages of notes including sources. All of this is included in the new bilingual edition with the addition of three different indices. Unfortunately, these additional indices appear to be the only new English material included in this volume.

Of course, the major addition to this edition of Orot is the Hebrew text side-by-side with its English translation. While the English side of the text contains small summaries for each section and the endnotes, the Hebrew side is just the text of Orot. The Hebrew font is definitely clear and readable, but I do wish the endnotes would have been included on the Hebrew side as well. It seems like those trying to read Orot in its original, such as myself, would appreciate seeing where the notes are without having to look at the English side.

These minor quibbles aside, Maggid’s new edition of Orot could be a watershed for the thought of Rav Kook. I spent seven or eight years in yeshiva and attended a grade school that taught Hebrew language every year before that. Despite this background, I cannot imagine I would have ever tried to tackle the lofty ideas of Rav Kook without having the Hebrew and English texts side-by-side. Rav Kook’s thought remains daunting and I would not dare to say I fully comprehend what I have read in Orot. Nevertheless, Maggid’s bilingual edition has allowed me the chance to glimpse into the spiritual optimism and light that radiate from almost every page of Orot. I am certain that I will not be the only one to attempt this discovery.

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Rabbi Adam Shulman learned and received semicha from Ner Yisrael. During the school year he teaches English and history classes in Ner Yisrael's high school. During the summer he helps run a frum summer camp in Baltimore's JCC.