Thursday, March 08, 2007

Introduction to the thought of Rav Kook – Part 1

The Land of Israel

I have decided to give a short online introduction to the thought of Rav Kook. Simultaneously, I will also soon start a short introduction to the thought of Rav Mordechai Elon. This should provide some incredibly interesting material.

We will start the introduction to the thought of Rav Kook by speaking shortly about Erets Israel from his perspective. This must be the thing Rav Kook is known for the most, and therefore, there is a lot to say. Therefore, please bear in mind I am only touching the surface. This is meant as a simple introduction. Also, it is not meant as an academic peice. This is a blog, not a classroom. I think some people will enjoy the less formal style.

The main source for Rav Kook’s thought on Eretz Israel is his book called Orot. In it, there is a section called Erets Israel in which he describes his outlook on the relationship between Am Israel and Eretz Israel.

Rav Kook saw himself arguing with two different types of people when it comes to Erets Israel: On the one hand, he was arguing with secular Zionists who held that Erets Israel was necessary as a means to group the Jews together into a national entity. The same way the French have France, the Jews need Israel. Rav Kook also saw himself arguing with other Orthodox Rabbis who claimed that there was no intrinsic holiness in Erets Israel and that there was no need to try to get back to that land during our times of exile since during our exile, our role is to be ambassadors of God in the world.

To both of these people, Rav Kook answered:
ארץ ישראל איננה דבר חיצוני, קנין חיצוני לאומה, רק בתור אמצעי למטרה של ההתאגדות הכללית והחזקת קיומה החמרי או אפילו הרוחני. ארץ ישראל היא חטיבה עצמותית קשורה בקשר חיים עם האומה, חבוקה בסגולות פנימיות עם מציאותה.
"The Land of Israel is not something peripheral [to Judaism], it is not an external acquisition or national asset, it is not a means to collective solidarity [national unity], nor even to strengthen the nation's physical or spiritual existence. The Land of Israel is an independent unit [with it's own value], bound by the bond-of-life and a living attachment to the Jewish People, connected to them through a deep inner uniqueness, with the nation's existence."

In one of his shiurim, Rav Ouri Cherki tried explaining what the connection between Am Israel and Erets Israel was.
He explained that the connection between am israel and erets israel it much more than just the fact we need a land because a nation needs a land. It is much deeper. The connection between am Israel and erets Israel is a very deep internal link.
In every language, the feminin of man is something wierd. you don't say maness, you say woman. In French, for homme, you say femme. Only in hebrew do you have Ish and Isha. Because in hebrew, we understand that a man and his wife are not two different things but are two parts of the same thing. They complete each other.
How do we call man and woman together? No, not a couple (although in modern hebrew they do) but in tanach, they call it Adam. Its a new complete thing.

Another interesting thing is that Am Israel is called Adam in Yehezkel (34:31).
וְאַתֵּן צֹאנִי צֹאן מַרְעִיתִי, אָדָם אַתֶּם: אֲנִי, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--נְאֻם, אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה
31 And ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are Adam, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.
Adam is a collection of beings which complete each other... So Adam is am israel.

Now think about it, how does a nation call its land in different languages? In english, you say "motherland". In French you say "patrie" from the root of the world paternal. Its always a parental relationship because other nations look at their land as something they need. We need our parents, we don't choose them (although hopefully we end up more than just needing them, in its essence, our relationship with them is one of need).
For am israel, how do we call our land? Adama. Which is the feminine of Adam. Our land is the feminine of how we call our nation. It is more than a parental relationship, it is like a relationship between a man and his wife. We are the same body, with the same property, with the same goal, we are a whole together. Its more than just need, its a common reality together.

Also, we can see that nationalism for other nations is not very healthy (fascism, nazism etc...) Why? Because when a nation that looks at its land in a parental way starts loving its land, it becomes a sort of incest. So the result is unholy, and it creates hatred.
For am israel, when we love our land, its almost like a romantic love between a man and his wife, its something so deep because deep inside we are one. So the result is not hatred but love. And I know that some people's love for israel results in hate but that’s because they have the wrong relationship to the land, they relate to it in a western, european way. The real way to relate to it only creates a lot of love, and no hatred. If you look at it with pure lenses of pure torah, the love for erets israel makes you want to build a beit hamikdash for all the nations to come a serve Gd, so its a universal message of love.

Rav Kook explained that the reason why people do not understand the real value of erets Israel is because they close the door to torat hanistar (hidden torah). In Rav Kook’s time, and in our time to a certain extent, there were people who completely closed the door to the messages of torat hanistar. Rav Sherki, in the same series of shiurim, explained that Torat HaKabbalah, which is torat hanistar, is not a mystical experience like some people think. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai wrote the Zohar, the basis of Kaballah. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a very nationalistic Jew who fought against the romans and was forced to flee in a cave for 40 years. Some people seem to think that he voluntarily went to this cave for 40 years of meditation, but that wasn’t it! He was fleeing! So what does a nationalistic Jew forced to hide in a cave for 40 years think about? He remembers the good times which just ended where we had a National Kingdom on our land. Therefore, all of the Zohar is a nationalistic message written in mystical form. Chassidut did take these concepts and showed how they were applicable to a religious message to the individual, but that was not the original message of Kaballah. Now we understand why Rav Kook said that the people who close the door to Nistar are also the ones who close the door to Eretz Israel.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslev used to come out very strongly against Rationalism. He used to look at it as a big danger since it would interfere with the faith of the person. Rav Kook was not as strongly opposed as Rabbi Nachman, but he did see this danger. In Orot, Rav Kook write:
לא שוללים אנחנו כל מין ציור והבנה המיוסד על ישרות ורגשי דעה ויראת שמים באיזו צורה שהיא, רק את אותו הצד ששיטה כזאת תחפוץ לשלול את הרזים ואת השפעתם הגדולה על רוח האומה, כי זהו אסון שאנו חיבים ללחום אתו, בעצה ובתבונה, בקדושה ובגבורה.
Paraphrase: “We do not negate the importance of any logical rational thinking which holds its basis in the fear of God, we only negate that side which itself negated the importance of the hidden sides of torah because it is a tragedy which we must wage war against, with strength and wisdom, with holiness and pride”
Rav Kook is telling us that if we ONLY use our rational minds, we will never find the light of Eretz Israel. We will start liking Chutz Laaretz as much as Eretz Israel. Aren’t there yeshivot in both places? Our mind, as important as it is, cannot negate our heart. We need to leave this space in our hearts for the hidden secrets of torah to come in. Only then will we be able to really feel the power of Eretz Israel, a power which is so deep and intense, that we cannot reach it through purely rational thinking. more...

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