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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel Pekudei 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Need to Be Connected to our Past

Letter #18 part I

Date and Place: Adar 5665 (1905), the holy city of Yafo


Recipient: An open letter


Greeting: In honor of our young brothers who live on the holy ground, Shalom!


Transator’s Introduction: In 1903, the British government made an offer to the Zionist enterprise to establish a homeland for Jews in Africa (the Uganda Plan). The plan was viewed by almost all as less appealing but by many as more practical than the prospect of creating a Jewish national home in Eretz Yisrael (=Ottomon-controlled Palestine). The plan was hotly debated for two years until it was rejected. The factions were known as “Zionists of Zion” and “Ugandists,” respectively.

: I am hereby turning to you, beloved brothers, to present before you a holy moral obligation, to remove from you the great disgrace that was, without proper regard, brought upon you, especially those who live in Eretz Yisrael. This was done by the editor (Eliezer Ben Yehuda) of the periodical Hashkafa (Outlook) in edition 48, ch. 7, in an opinion piece called “The Voice from the Newspapers,” regarding the argument with the “Zionists of Zion.”

The last part of his words reached my heart [in a negative way], and it is my sincere belief that they also reached the heart of everyone whose Hebrew heart has still not totally died. Perhaps it has impacted also those who only have their human (not their Jewish) heart still alive. I presume that all of these who felt the great disgrace will not find respite for their souls until they express openly their sharp protest against such lowly things as were sadly published in a periodical written in Jerusalem of all places.

The following is an exact quote of what they wrote: “There is one more great and fearful claim made by the Zionists of Zion against the Ugandists – that they turn their backs on their whole history. How hypocritical this claim is! People who turn their backs on our past rebuke others with that same claim! Let us not use sleight of hand! It is only the members of the council of “Searching for Sins” (i.e., a zealously religious group) who did not turn their back on our past. The rest of us have turned our backs on our past, and this is our pride and glory.”

I know, like you, that this is not the first time that we see such words of blasphemy, which touch the Israeli spirit, which are published in the new and negative literature. But for one writer to testify in the name of the entire community that everyone turns their backs on our past, and to contrast that with the council of “Searching for Sins” (ed. note - I do not know that such a council existed), which is always brought as the epitome of lack of wisdom and culture, he is in essence saying that every person who has stature and honor, at least among the young who live in Eretz Yisrael, turns his back on our past, and this is the pride and glory of all! [It is unacceptable that] one person should take such a broad opinion and claim it as his own, to speak with such a light head, on the matter of how a whole nation relates to its history! It is not just that he is expressing his opinion but that he claims to speak in the name of the whole nation – this is uncommon chutzpa.

I do not see any way for us to exempt ourselves from open protest, so that our quietness not be taken as admission. We will gain that these foreign ideas will not be seen as a broadly held opinion but as an individual opinion of the editor of “Hashkafa” and those individuals who are dragged along with him. The rest of us are not responsible for these opinions.

We continue next week.

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