Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5766
(from the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l)
Words of Memorial for Harav A. Y. Kook- 5720 (’60)- part I (from Dabar Lador, pp. 40-43)
The gemara (Avoda Zara 19a) learns an important concept from the pasuk, “But rather in the Torah of Hashem is his desire and in his Torah he meditates day and night” (Tehillim 1:2). The gemara understands the second part of the pasuk as referring to man’s Torah, not Hashem’s. That is because that which started as Hashem’s Torah becomes man’s Torah after he studies it.
We can answer these questions based on Rav Kook’s words in Orot Hatorah (1:1) regarding Torah Sheb’al Peh (the Oral Law): “We sense that the nation’s spirit, which is connected to the light of the Torah of truth like a flame to its coals, is that which caused through its character that Torah Sheb’al Peh was created in its special form. Certainly, the Torah of the person is included in the Torah of Hashem… ‘even the innovation that an experienced student is destined to arrive at… was said to Moshe at Sinai.’”
These words mean the following. Torah Sheb’al Peh is the Torah as it is seen by means of the unique soul, manner of thinking, and manner of feeling of he who learns it. Torah personalities who clarified the halacha poured their personalities into the Torah Sheb’al Peh and took part in bringing it to its present form and thus “signed it with their seal.” It is not by chance that Torah Sheb’al Peh was designed to be oral (see Gittin 60b). This is an expression of its connection to Bnei Yisrael and to the individual, with all of his facets and his way of thinking, which help shape the halacha.
On one hand, we have an innovation of an experienced student. On the other hand, Moshe foresaw it, as “it is impossible that this flow of life (the Torah idea) escaped [him].” In its hidden form, everything is in the Torah. The characteristics of the human soul constitute a sort of potential Torah. As Rav Kook wrote, “Torah Sheb’al Peh rests in the essential character of the nation.” This is not the crossbreeding of unconnected factors but the internal germination of complementary factors that actualize the hidden potential of each (the Torah and the soul). However, this can only happen if one gives his soul to Torah study. If he is willing to give everything to understand the Torah and follow it without limit, then the light of Torah can be captured by the light of the soul and vice versa. That is what Chazal meant that the Torah can relate to the person as being his. When he is of the Torah, the Torah is of him. That which for us is Torah Sheb’al Peh, was part of the Torah that Moshe received.
When memorializing Rav Kook, we should speak about his Torah, not about episodes he was involved in. Individual, personal episodes are linked to the circumstances of the times and may no longer have the same meaning. That which was like a prophecy that was needed only at its time does not add as much as something which impacts on life. We will memorialize through his Torah thoughts, which reflect his special essence, as one with a unique approach and Torah. From one perspective, they were given at Sinai; from another perspective, they appear to be totally new.
Next week we will take a glimpse at some of Rav Kook’s philosophical ideas.The midrash (Mechilta 15:1) learns a similar way regarding Moshe Rabbeinu. The pasuk (Malachi 3:22) says: “Remember the Torah of My servant, Moshe.” The midrash asks that it is Hashem’s Torah, as the pasuk says: “Hashem’s Torah is perfect” (Tehillim 19:8). It explains that since Moshe gave his soul for the Torah, it is called after him. The midrash is difficult. Why does it need a pasuk in Tehillim to prove the obvious, that the Torah is Hashem’s? Why does the fact that one gave his soul for Torah make it appropriate to say that it is his, if it really isn’t?
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