From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“When the time comes for the ancient light to appear…spirits will be very low. Life will be stagnant. From the outside will come the sound of a reveling throng, coarse and wild…the suffering from such misfortune constitutes the pain of childbirth looming on the horizon. Vibrant lives are sparkling forth to return to their holy source, to renew the world with their glorious splendor…” (Orot HaKodesh I:153-4)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“Know why you are crossing the Jordan”
Joshua, the Israelites’ leader and commander-in-chief addresses the nation before their entry into the Land, and he says: “Know why you are crossing the Jordan!” It is for you to drive out the inhabitants of the Land, as it says, “Drive out the Land’s inhabitants before you” (Numbers 33:52). If you do so, well and good. Otherwise, the waters of the Jordan will come and wash you away [“you” represented by the word “otichem”]. What is meant by the rare form “otichem”? Both Me [oti] and you [et’chem]. (Sotah 34)
Indeed, the people undertook to conquer the entire land, and a miracle was performed for them at the Jordan. As Rashi comments regarding the words, “You are crossing the Jordan to come and conquer the land which the L-rd your G-d is giving you. Occupy and settle it” (Deuteronomy 11:31): “Miracles at the Jordan will be your sign that you shall arrive and conquer the Land. Moreover, Joshua commanded them to bequeath to future generations the command to conquer the entire land, by having them erect a monument made from twelve stones of the Jordan, in accordance with the number of tribes of Israel. It was to signify for them that when their children later asked them what these stones were, they were to explain that their ancestors had crossed the Jordan with the goal of conquering the entire land” (see Sotah 35).
Joshua was not privileged to conquer all the Land’s inhabitants. Hundreds of years passed until David conquered the Land, and only his son Solomon was privileged to enjoy peace, with each man sitting under his own grape vine and fig tree. Yet all those years from Joshua until David, we never forgot and never lost our faith that we would conquer the entire land as we were commanded to do by our holy Torah: “Clear out the land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to occupy” (Numbers 33:53). Indeed, during the days of the Judges, the words of verse 33:55 were fulfilled: “If you do not drive out the land's inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle.” Despite everything, we continued to cling to the goal until we were privileged to fulfill it during the days of King David.
In our own times as well, when the State of Israel is fighting a cruel enemy who comes in the name of Islam to annihilate the State of Israel, we must learn from Joshua, who said, “Know why you are crossing the Jordan! You are crossing it in order to conquer the Land, and the purpose of our conquering the Land is to fulfill the vision of all the prophets and sages down through the generations. Israel are a light unto the nations, as G-d promised Abraham: “I will make you a great nation… You shall be for a blessing… All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12).
Our enemies wish to extinguish the light of Israel – it will never be! The light of Israel is the light of G-d, coming to illuminate and benefit the entire world. Our soldiers, wherever they may be, and the residents of the north and south, who are being relentlessly attacked, must be aware that this war is between the sons of light and the sons of darkness.
Let us unite and be strong, and through us will be fulfilled the words, “The L-rd will give strength to His people. The L-rd will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 9:11).
Looking forward to complete salvation.
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner- Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Rav Avraham Yitchak Kook: “I am building a nation”
When our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook arrived in Israel, Rabbi David HaKohen, the Nazir, walked all night from Jerusalem to Hebron to greet him, and there he heard a Torah lecture from him. Following the lecture, he said to Rav Kook, “Based on your lecture, your views resemble those of Chabad.” Rav Kook smiled and responded, “I’m building a nation.”
The Talmud teaches (Sanhedrin 38b), “Each generation and its scholars, each generation and its sages.” G-d’s conduct of each generation is different, and He sends the generation’s spiritual leadership accordingly (Even Shleima 11:9). The Torah encompasses all the generations from start to finish, all the questions and all the situations, and every generation has a unique divine emissary to uncover another part of the Torah hidden away until now, and known only to the most spiritual elite who transcend the generations, who transcend time, subsuming everything with their all-encompassing gaze.
Rabbi Hillel Zeitlin wrote an article entitled, “Rav Kook’s Fundamental Approach to the Kabbalah” [Hebrew], in which he compares the Kabbalah of the Ari, of the Ba’al Shem Tov, of Chabad [Lubavitch] and of Rav Kook. Our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda said that this article was generally accurate and that it hit the mark, but he added that the Kabbalah of the Vilna Gaon has to be included as well.
Thus, Rav Zeitlin said that the Ari spoke about the divine light in the spiritual worlds, the Ba’al Shem Tov, and in his wake, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe in his book the Tanya, brought that light down into man. Rav Tzvi Yehuda added that the Vilna Gaon uncovered the divine light within the Torah. Finally, Rav Kook uncovered the divine light within the nation (Sifran Shel Yechidim, page 235).
Obviously, these divine lights are all connected. Certainly, all of these elite figures gazed at the whole picture, but the perspective changes. Imagine several people watching the stars from a tall tower, but with each gazing at them from a different spot in the tower, seeing them from a different perspective (ibid., page 236). Or, if you like, each of them is seeing them at a different point in time.
Thus, during the past hundred years, an amazing thing has happened: the gathering of the exiles has begun. In the Shemoneh Esreh we pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom. Lift up the banner to bring our exiles together,” and it is happening. Someone told me, “When my great great grandfather was born, there were 12,000 Jews in Israel. When my great grandfather was born, there were 30,000. When my grandfather was born there were 80,000, when my father was born there were 200,000, and when I was born there were 600,000. When my son was born there were two million, and when my grandson was born there were five million!”
Yet the ingathering of the exiles does not just mean a population transfer from one geographic place to another. We are gathering together and becoming a single nation once more. From scattered individuals, from a scattered, divided people, we are once more becoming the people described in I Chronicles 17:21 as: “Who is like Your People Israel, a cohesive nation in the Land.”
Maharal at the start of his work Netzach Yisrael explains that there are three characteristics to a healthy, normal people: their unity, their possessing a common land, and their being independent. In practical terms this translates as their possessing a sovereign state, an army and a government with all its institutions. Slowly, our recognition, understanding and faith that we are a people and that we need to lead the lives of a people is returning to us. For already a hundred years we have been awakening. Yet there are many more Jews who are still sunken in a deep sleep, in the exile as well as in Israel. There are also many religious Jews who have not yet understood what a nation is, but we are progressing. We are being carried along on the wings of an enormous movement, the Zionist movement. Rav Kook said (Orot 38): “In the end of days, a clandestine organization full of potential and yearning, fraught with internal contradictions, replete with light and darkness is calculating how to penetrate the coast for the salvation of Israel.”
Therefore, many religious Jews see the darkness and reject Zionism. By contrast, many secular Jews see the light and identify with it. Rav Kook emerged, saw the light and the darkness together, and he said, “I am building a nation,” by which he meant that he was magnifying the light in order to banish the darkness. Rav Kook wrote about himself, “I know that G-d sent me to the holy land to revitalize it” (Igarot I, page 189) – to invest spirit in the national rebirth, or, more precisely, to uncover the soul of the national rebirth. Rav Kook further writes about himself: “I am slave who has been sold to the masses, to toil and bear burdens. I have been sold to G-d’s people, who are starting to strike roots in the land of their inheritance, hoping for redemption.” (ibid., pages 239, 240).
This is an enormous project, a Torah project, what our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda called “the redemptive Torah” (Ohr LiNetivati, 280), the Torah that teaches us how to construct the redemption of our people based on the word of G-d.
Also to build a single person is an enormous project, but to build a nation is infinitely harder and more complex. Towards that end Rav Kook was sent: “I am building a nation.” Let us not think that he was not also building the individual Jew. He was involved in that even more. In order for all the individual Jews to be part of the national edifice and not just a collection of isolated individuals, each Jew has to be much more full of Torah and Mishnah, gemara and Shulchan Aruch, the fear of G-d ad good character, holiness and purity, Mesilat Yesharim and Chovot HaLevavot.
No less than this, the nation’s rebirth has to be also a rebirth of individuals, such that all should be on a high level. As Rav Kook wrote: “Unless the national rebirth sheds new light on prayer, Torah, Mussar and faith, it will not yet constitute a true rebirth” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 414).
This is the divine mission of Rav Kook – to transform our national rebirth into a true rebirth, and thank G-d, for the past hundred years, it has been growing more and more genuine thanks to the all the light and insight contained in Rav Kook’s writings. Yet we still have a long way ahead of us. We have much more to learn of his writings, and much more to teach, in order to uncover the light stored away in our rebirth, until we will see the complete fulfillment of Rav Kook’s vision [written before there was a State of Israel]: “The [future] Jewish state is the foundation of G-d’s throne in the world, and its entire purpose is to render G-d one and His name one” (Orot, page 160).
Rabbi Ya’akov HaLevi Filber-
“Provide Yourself with a Rav”: The Relationship between Student and Rav in Rav Kook’s Writings
In Avot 1:6, Yehoshua ben Perachia taught, “Provide yourself with a rav [Hebrew for master, teacher, rabbi].” Many interpret this as relating to Torah learning. As Rashi commented, “Don’t learn Gemara by yourself. Provide yourself with a teacher. Learn from oral explanations.” Some associate this saying with halachah, such that a person should provide himself with a rabbi who can instruct him in the path he should follow.
According to either explanation, one shouldn’t dictate to a person who his rav should be. Rather, the person himself should be the one who chooses. Yet there is still another interpretation. Ri AlShaker commented, “Make YOURSELF into a rav,” i.e., that a person should train himself until he reaches a level on which he, himself, is capable of understanding and rendering halachic rulings.
Still another aspect of the teacher-student relationship is noted by Maharal (in his Derech HaChaim on Avot). There he wonders who Avot did not say, “Provide yourself with a student,” and based on this omission he deduces, “It is inappropriate for a person to make himself into a rabbi and to claim the mantle of importance, announcing, ‘Study from me,’ as is done in these countries.”
Maharal is criticizing a phenomenon rampant already in his day of rabbis taking advantage of their power to take control of their disciples and to dictate to them their worldview and their approach to life. According to Maharal, this is inappropriate.
Also Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook relates in numerous places (especially his work “Ein Aya”) to the limits of freedom that the disciple should be allowed in relation to his rav, and here I shall point out one example. The gemara (Shabbat 41a) recounts that “Rabbi Zeira wanted to move to Eretz Yisrael, and he was avoiding his rav, Rabbi Yehuda, because Rav Yehuda used to say, ‘Whoever moves from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael violates a Torah precept.’”
Seemingly, Rav Zeira’s behavior was puzzling. If a disciple is not required to obey his rav, why was he avoiding him, and if a disciple is required to obey his rav, why was he trying not to obey? Rav Kook explains Rav Zeira’s behavior in Ein Aya (ibid.): “The truth in a man’s soul stems from two sources, one external and the other internal. The external source is what a person acquires through study and analysis. The internal source is the inner truth lodged deep within his soul. The latter truth is much superior to the former truth that a person derives from study and instruction. “The relationship formed between rav and disciple derives from external study. As for the internal truth deriving from the divine soul, that is different. An example of that second truth was found with Abraham. Abraham had no rav, yet G-d tranformed Abraham’s two kidneys, making them like two rabbis, and they would teach him Torah (Bereshit Rabbah 61). That truth plays no part in a rabbi’s teaching his students. Therefore, when an individual Jew achieves Abraham’s level and he utilizes the spiritual greatness within him to make a personal decision, he then stands higher than any influence he received from his rav. His own soul illuminates him with divine light which provides wisdom to the wise.”
Even then, however, we must distinguish between the behavior of the individual whose private truth is superior to any influence he could derive from external study. That person has to be related to as unique. We cannot learn from him regarding what the community at large should do. The general public has to conduct itself in accordance with the influence deriving from teaching and study, associated with the lofty relationship between teacher and student, in the context of which the student must subject himself to his rav.
This is what happened with Rabbi Zeira. Personally, he was so exalted spiritually as to feel a supreme desire to go to Eretz Yisrael, a longing that stemmed from deep within him, from the voice of G-d calling to him from the divine spirit resting upon him. This feeling, which stemmed from his internal truth, was loftier than any bond stemming from the teaching and instruction he had received from his rav.
Based on this inner truth, he decided to go to Israel even though his rav took the opposite view. He therefore decided not to obey his rav. At the same time, however, he did not for a moment forget his obligation to show his rav respect and honor. Such respect is at all times the foundation of the universe, and relates to all people.
Therefore, together with his decision to move to Eretz Yisrael against his rav’s view, he tried to stress how much he honored his rav’s view and how much he strove to avoid violating it. He therefore showed one and all that he was avoiding his rav so as not to appear to be brazenly violating his rav’s view. By way of this conduct, he showed that Rav Zeira’s instruction regarding moving to Eretz Yisrael was a general instruction not addressed personally to him, and that due to his high level he could permit himself to exclude himself from the group.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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