Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Words of Memorial for Harav A. Y. Kook- 5720 (’60) - Part II - From Dabar Lador, pp. 40-43
[We saw last time that a Torah scholar’s unique personality makes him a partner in the form that the Oral Law takes. This week we will take a look at how Rav Yisraeli viewed Rav Kook’s teachings as an extension of his personality.]
What makes Rav Kook’s teachings both novel and classic? The answer is hinted in the names of his philosophical works, which all contain the word orot (the lights of). What is the nature of light? Light, [in its major function in our lives] does nothing new but allows us to view that which exists but would have gone unnoticed. This is in line with Rav Kook’s explanation of the apparent contradiction between two statements of Chazal regarding R. Eliezer. R. Eliezer said that he never said anything that he did not hear from his teachers. Yet, he was described as saying things that ears never heard. The solution is that he said things that had been spoken but not previously received fully.
From where did Rav Kook get the power to reveal things that otherwise would have gone undiscovered? The answer is found in Tehillim: “Light is planted for the righteous” (97:11). If one views a field that was recently sown he will see only the ground. When the untrained eye sees personalities and events, it sees only the surface. A rigtheous person sees the “seeds of light” that are planted but have not grown enough to be noticed by others. Bilam described Hashem as “He did not look at iniquity in Yaakov” (Bamidbar 23:21). What is the wisdom in ignoring things? The Jewish soul’s root always exists, as mankind was created in “Hashem’s form” and was breathed into by “His breath.” Even if the spark is covered, it still channels and influences matters. It is like the seed that appears to have rotted and become incorporated in the ground, but in truth has burrowed itself into the ground for a purpose. It takes nourishment from the ground, which it needs in order to grow much larger and more complex than it began.
Rav Kook’s activities can be described as uncovering the sown light for the individual and the entire nation. He was able to identify the nation’s holy steps even though others did not portray them as such. He demanded that the steps be reappraised, as the fact that they were improperly identified started them off the wrong way. He taught us to return to ourselves, to know ourselves, to know what we really want, and to know what we need to do to live complete lives.
Two fundamental ideas, nationalism and the improvement of the social structure, lead the last generation, and both apparently emerged from a source foreign to Judaism. It is no surprise that many of the faithful to Judaism rejected them. Rav Kook taught us to look beyond these ideas’ external source. We must remember that events that affect the world are, as a rule, connected in the Divine Plan to the Jewish people. The global wave of nationalism kindled the light of Jewish nationalism specifically because it was not openly related to Judaism. It was thus able to draw in people who would otherwise have been disinterested in our nation. Only after returning to Jewish awareness will those people recognize that the House of Israel is not just another ethnic group. Finally, they will be able to find the Torah’s inner beauty. The same can be said about social reforms. It is true that, externally, Israeli interest in socialism stemmed from Marxist teachings. Yet, there is value in rejecting the uncontrolled acceptance of a life centered on materialism, which is against the Prophets’ teachings.
The goal is to focus on what needs to be done after bringing members of the nation home to the Land and the Nation of Israel, with the help of external ideals. Torah scholars and classical Judaism must inculcate the nation with authentic Jewish values. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the road ahead on that front is long and hard.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated
to the memory of R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shrugs 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!