Shabbat Parashat Matot-Massei| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Notes for a Eulogy for Rav Kook on his 10th Yahrtzeit - From Dabar L’Dor pp. 30-32
“They will go from strength to strength” (Tehillim 84:8). This is the description of tzaddikim, who do not have rest in this world or the next (Berachot 64a). Although self-elevation stops with death, the action one did during life lives on through its impact even after death. Indeed tzaddikim are greater in death than in life (Chulin 7b), for often a tzaddik’s greatness or his Torah is grasped and benefited from by others only posthumously.
Ten very harsh years have passed since Rav Kook’s death, starting with terrible attacks on the community in Israel and finishing with unspeakable atrocities that sapped the nation of its blood (the Holocaust). Having to bear these events without that great man’s presence demonstrated the loss of him from out midst. We have complaints about the world’s accepting our tragedy in silence. Yet, we feel guilt in our hearts that we too were not sufficiently shaken to the depths of our souls. How else could we go about our daily life after learning of the devastation? Part of the reason is that our leaders were unable to turn information into something that shakes us to our foundation. Who is there like Rav Kook, who was so connected to every single Jew, who was willing to give of his life to save a Jewish life, and who did not rest until he was able to open the deaf ears and hearts.
“When something will be beyond you … and you shall come to the kohanim” (Devarim 17:8-9) [Note- Rav Kook was a kohen]. Although regarding Torah, intellect determine matters, the soul should prepare the intellect. The urim v’tumim are connected to the choshen mishpat. So too Heavenly assistance is required to learn a sugya and arrive at a correct halachic decision. Rav Kook’s greatness was that the realms of emotion and intellect were intertwined within him, and truth was the essence of his life. This synthesis is especially critical in times like ours when we must solve issues at the heart of the life of the nation which lack explicit sources or guidelines to follow. We need Torah greats like Rav Kook, who knew to “combine the letters” and turn them into instructions for the individual and community to follow.
It was wonderful to see him, a man so full of contrasts: a man of the book and of action; a man of halacha and of homiletics; a man of stringencies and of leniencies; a man who was exacting and one who was full of mercy; a man of peace and of truth. These dichotomies existed because everything stemmed from one source, belief in a G-d who is both great and close. Hashem is so great that He includes everything lofty in the world; we are just tiny sparks from the “breath of his nostrils.” Yet, we believe in a G-d who is close to us and we to Him despite the gulf in level between us that cannot be spanned. This closeness cannot be erased, even if we are unaware of it or try to deny it.
“It (Torah) makes one greater and above all that exists” (Avot 6:2). It was Rav Kook’s unique talent to see events from above, from an eternal historical perspective. He also trained us to believe in ourselves, not out of haughtiness that negates others, but out a belief in the good and the Divine in each of us, which needs only to be uncovered. A song needs a certain consistency in order to be melodious. Rav Kook searched for that consistency in his interaction with people and in the Torah, the song of man to his Father in Heaven.
Rav Kook had a special affection for the youth, who were developing. He believed in the spiritual progression of the Jewish nation, even if the progress is inconsistent and a step forward entails twists and turns on the path. He therefore saw the next generation as something better. He saw the reawakening of the latter generations toward Eretz Yisrael, despite the manner in which it manifested itself, as a step forward with twists. It was the step of the spirit of Israel breaking off the chains of exile and striving for full restitution… [the rest of the eulogy is missing].
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z"l.
May their memory be a blessing!