Shabbat Parashat Bo| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “May I Dwell in Your Tent Forever”- Hesped for Rav Kook - Part I - Based on Dabar Le Dor, pp. 60-64
King David prayed: “May I dwell in your tent forever (olamim)” (Tehillim 61:5). He wanted to live in a godly place in the two worlds [based on a Hebrew play on words]. The gemara (Yevamot 96b) asks: “How can one live in both worlds?” It answers that it can be accomplished if, after death, people quote Torah which they heard from him. In that way, he continues to live in this world. Even 54 years after Rav Kook’s death, when we see so many who identify with his approach to Torah and life, we see fulfillment in him of David’s prayer.
It is interesting that this request, which could be said for many, is found specifically connected to the King of Israel. Possibly, David feared that the nation would see him as one who conquered and expanded the boundaries of the Land of Israel, something which has value, but not a value that lasts generations. Realize that David became king, as if by chance, not out of ambition. He was the great poet/musician of Israel and the head of its Sanhedrin. His great request was: “One thing I ask of Hashem, it is that which I seek: I shall sit in the house of Hashem all the days of my life” (Tehillim 27:4).
David did not want battles but was drawn into them against his will. The prophet describes his first battle, against Goliath, as follows. He saw a man standing up and cursing the army of Hashem, and no one was able to take up the challenge and stand up against him. He was then overtaken by a Divine Spirit and was drawn into action in an uncharacteristic manner. After all, he was a shepherd, a calling which allowed him to be in solitude with Hashem. Like our forefathers, he used the quiet places as a setting for spiritual meditation. He did not want to be king. However, Hashem wanted that the Kingdom of Israel should not be established like other kingdoms. He wanted a poet and scholar, not a professional soldier. It is not that the general becomes the king but that the king, who is specifically a poet, becomes the commander-in-chief.
“May I live in your tent forever.” David did not want to be seen just as one who conquered, expanded the country, fortified the kingdom, saved the nation from its enemies- all of these, in the strongest manner. In fact he was so involved in these successful struggles that when it came time to build the Beit Hamikdash, he was not allowed to do so because “much blood have you spilled” (Divrei Hayamim I, 22:8). This was the power of the blood he was forced to spill. It created a situation in which a man who was seen in the context of bloodshed could not build the Beit Hamikdash. We find this phenomenon even in regard to inanimate objects. A stone that was hewn with metal cannot be placed in the altar. It is not the stone’s doing or its fault. Rather, it is the association to bloodshed, which is the antithesis of the peace associated with the Temple. So David wanted his Torah and psalms to stay with people and be his lasting legacy to the Jewish people.
This phenomenon was true of Rav Kook as well. He was pushed into the rabbinate of Jaffa and the surrounding agricultural settlements. From the beginning of his rabbinic career in Bezimal and Boisk (in Europe), he was a fully spiritual, abstract person, who did not like getting involved in technical, practical matters. He was offered prestigious positions in the Diaspora, in large cities filled with Torah. He gave that up to take up a position in a small, poor, divided community of Jaffa. Those settlements, during the time of the Second Aliyah, were led by those who forgot to call out in the name of Hashem. They (the founders of the Zionist group, Bilu) began the verse, “The house of Jacob, let us go” but did not want to mention its continuation, “in the light of Hashem.” They came to fulfill, not the prophets’ vision but of the gentiles’ who preached equality, freedom, and revolution against the establishment.
We continue next week.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of