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Is merely diminished light.
from Oros Hakodesh II, p. 455
CONNECTED TO THE WHOLE
“Arrogance directly precedes the advent of the messiah.”
This is because the world has progressed to such a degree that it now demands an understanding of how every detail is connected to the whole. If just one detail is not connected to that great whole, the mind will not be satisfied.
If everyone were engaged in the light of Torah to such a degree that the spiritual soul would grow to recognize the correct correlation of details to the levels of spiritual wholeness, then reclamation and universal rectification would emerge into reality.
However, because of carelessness, the light of the inner Torah—which bears a tremendous exaltedness and holiness—has not appeared in the world correctly. As a result, the demand for the arrangement of life in which details are understood as part of the whole has arisen before the time has arrived for the completed revelation of light and clearing of the path to that understanding. And this has caused a terrible destruction.
We must employ the supernal medicine: an increased strength in spiritual ability—until the path toward understanding and evaluating the connection between all viewpoints and actions of the Torah and the most supernal wholeness will be a central, direct understanding within the feelings of the common people.
At that point, the strength of spiritual life will again appear in the world, in action and in thought; and a universal reclamation will begin to bear its fruit.
Arpelei Tohar, pp.1-2
ELEVATING WORTHY THOUGHTS
It is necessary to elevate fallen thoughts and traits, in which evil and ugliness can be recognized, to the source of their root in holiness, where we can see that they are in truth exalted thoughts and good traits.
In the same way, we must lift up thoughts that are worthy, but on the lowest level—where evil and chaos unite with them, even though they turn to holiness—to the uplifted level of the ideal emanation, directed only toward total goodness and absolute straightness; until that uplifting expands to the supernal world where pure holiness rules in its might.
Arpelei Tohar, p. 1
Out of a smallness of faith, it appears that when people strive to strengthen their situation, to war against the problems that occur in the world, to acquire knowledge, might, beauty, organization—that all this is external to the divine content in the world. Thus, a number of people who believe that they represent the divine basis in the world are suspicious regarding all worldly progress: they hate culture, the sciences, political strategies—whether among Jews or non-Jews.
But this is all a great error and a lack of faith.
The pure outlook sees the divine appearance in every improvement of life: individual and general, spiritual and physical. It measures matters only according to the measure of the usefulness they bring or the spoilage that they cause. In this measure, there will never be an entirely negative movement engaged in making something, whether physical or spiritual. It may have imperfections, but everything in its totality is an element of the divine creation that is constantly acting.
“Not chaos did He create it, but that it be inhabited did He make it” (Isaiah 45:18).
Arpelei Tohar, pp. 67-68
We see a world filled with old souls, souls within physicality, souls clenched by the dregs of the physical, lacking that complete uplifting, that supernal flight, which transcends all flesh and physicality, which has complete sovereignty over the body and all that pertains to the body. The great treasure house filled with souls [trapped] within physicality must empty out. All those souls that do not hover above the body, that do not encircle it, that do not camp about it, that do not illuminate it from all sides, that do not use it for actualized goals and the concentration of active life when it is focused must be emptied out. They must be brought to completion in their particular character so that they will bring their physical goal to actuality—and then they must rise beyond it.
Afterwards, a new light will shine, a treasure house of life, new and filled with freshness: new souls filled with the expression of an uplifted life, of a sovereignty over endless worlds that is ever-blossoming, sporting at every moment before the glory of the eternal God, [souls] that are emanated from the radiance of supernal wisdom and might.
“The son of David will only come when souls are emptied from the [storehouse] called ‘Body.’ As the verse states, ‘the spirit before Me will be delayed, and the souls that I made’ (Isaiah 57:16)” (Avodah Zarah 5a). Only then will the role of the sovereignty of the supernal God, Mighty One, God of Israel, arrive and be revealed upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom.
Orot Hakodesh III, p. 368
WRITING A BOOK
One time, Rav Kook went to a circumcision together with his close friend, the gaon, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer. As they walked, they spoke of their rabbi, the Netziv of Volozhin.
At that time, Rav Kook said, “There is no comparison between one who writes a book after years of learning and one who does so before this. And there is no comparison between one who writes a book after many years and one who does so in his youth.”
Shivchei Harayah, p. 202
THE SOUL OF THE TORAH
We can never hide from that general remedy that includes everything— the abandonment of which has caused our downfall. It is this that I, in my poverty and the bitterness of my spirit, am continuously proclaiming, repeating time and again, hundreds and thousands of times: we have abandoned the soul of the Torah. This is the great and mighty outcry that has been heard throughout the many generations: throughout the days of the prophets, the scribes and the sages, the great leaders of all generations, early and late.
Those among us who possess great ability have turned for the most part to the concrete aspect of the Torah—and even there, only particular areas have been developed and are taught. But as for the aspect of feeling and, even more, the aspect of deep insight, which is followed automatically by something yet higher, the phenomenon of holiness in which redemption and salvation are concealed—these have been utterly abandoned. And anyone who comes and decries this great disgrace before the nation’s shepherds is considered to be coarse in spirit and irrational.
The great voice of our divine explorers, of our supernal pious ones, of the pure mystics who have entered the secret of God, whose gaze is holy and whose will is mighty, who yearn for salvation, who gaze towards redemption, has become a voice calling in the wilderness.
Now we have been severely struck, now heresy has burst forth from all directions in the form of filthy clouds of polluted darkness: conversion stalks like a ravaging beast and seizes thousands of souls from us each year. Yet in the midst of the camp whose banner is Torah and faith exist desolation and tempest, the shadow of death and a lack of order, no clear will and no defined, organized ideal. There is still a strong belief that our fracture will be healed with magical solutions, magical solutions that do not satiate our souls, unless they are satiated with what they most urgently need to satisfy their lives. In no way will any counsel that rebels against the voice of God calling forth from the midst of the depths of the souls of supernal, holy people in every era stand and endure.
We are summoned to a great repentance: a repentance out of love and all its implementations, precisely at a time of great calamity and exceptional danger. We must take the most sovereign of remedies. We must be radical. With one-half, one-third, one-quarter compromises, we will rectify nothing.
Faith is lost and grows ever more impoverished because its teaching has been violated—no one seeks it and no one pursues it. In its current war of negativity, Orthodoxy presents itself with vain airs and false illusions. But life and reality destroy these and, correspondingly, those who believe in them. We are not consoled that the heretical aspect of our nation is that part most likely to be destroyed and wiped away. A problem of such proportions is not half a consolation. It is a double sorrow.
And pointing out the deficiencies of gentile thinkers will not give us strength and life either, for such are merely negative words.
Besides, why should we go on such distant paths, while a paved and straight road lies before us? We must value all of the Torah, with all its spiritual commentaries. Whoever has strength in his heart, power in his pen and the spirit of God in his soul is summoned to go forth to the battle lines and cry out, “Bring forth light!” Our generation would appear completely different if a considerable proportion of those with ability, who are filled with Torah and good intelligence, had volunteered to work the inner aspect of the vineyard of God, had engaged in purifying concepts of faith and service, in clarifying ideas regarding divinity, prophecy, the holy spirit, redemption and yearning for salvation—the salvation of the Jewish people and of the world—the rectification of the souls of individuals and of peoples, the setting up (tichun) of the spirits of the passing generations, of the future, and, above all (al gabeihem), the present.
Strength of a different type would flower and rise amidst the scattered flock of God. An awesome and supernal glory would unfold and be revealed to the vast populace of the wise men of the Torah. A supernal illumination would pour forth from them onto the entire nation and onto the entire world. Literature—as newly defined amongst Jews and the world—which now grows progressively impoverished, which grows ever darker, ever more filthy and more impure, would rise and be redeemed by us, by means of our gigantic thoughts, by means of our clear modes of self-expression which would be fit foundations for the lives of many nations, bringing them forth from darkness to light. The evil and foolishness, the absurdity in the false faiths, would be progressively destroyed. We would begin the great heavenly work of removing the spirit of impurity from the land, and of bringing forth the appearance of the rectification of the world under the reign of the eternal God.
For this were we conscripted. For this were we created.
As long as we wander, slaughtered and massacred like sheep and like rams, because we do not recognize our goal, men will come who are small and narrow to heal us with frigid remedies of all sorts, while they secrete in a corner the basic remedy of life. Some do so out of a closed heart and smallness of faith, others out of pride and lack of knowledge.
And again, they think that the growth and glory of the Torah comes when it remains in that narrow, dry sense that did not have the power to hold us firm when cultural winds began to blow furiously, bringing a multitude of spiritual demands upon us—they think that even now this will be the general remedy for all our many ills.
My honored friend, do not suspect me—and I hope that no one will suspect me—of having, heaven forbid, a meager love for the concrete Torah, for its constant study and for the expansion of its sharp debate and logic, acuity and expertise. However, at this time, the matter has reached the point of violating the “Torah of truth”—the supernal Torah. It has reached the point of suppressing the soul of the soul, of weakening the power of thought, of bringing the stance of our spiritual life and of the entire world (which depends upon us) to a state of terrible trembling and faintness. “The nation did not return to He who struck it, and did not seek the Lord of Hosts” (Is. 9:12).
If someone comes and says that our salvation rests in the soul of Torah, in its supernal and true growth and glory, opponents come from all sides and rain down a flood of criticisms: “What do you want from Kabbalah, ethics, [intellectual] explorations, philosophy, homiletics, literature, poetry? Have these all not been exhausted? They did not give us what they had promised when their ferment began.” Such arguments have succeeded in choking the voice of God that calls out within us from the depths of our souls, filling all the worlds: “Seek me and live!”
At such a time, we must publicize the greatest of the deficiencies. I do not speak at the moment in terms of specific programs, how to organize learning and thought, books, and organized yeshivas, whose concern in essence is the spreading of Torah in its simple meaning. These should serve us as towers of strength and citadels for the spirit of God, from which will come forth warriors of God, as in the days of old. All these particular ideas will be created after the essence is recognized, only after the entire consideration will be in regard to the means and the organization.
...May it be the will of our Father in heaven that He strengthen the hands of those who toil with the people for the sake of heaven. May He strengthen the spirit of all in whose heart a spark of the light of God burns, so that they will stand together in one bond to shine the light of God upon His nation. Then the role of the land of Israel as a “valley of vision” will only in this form emerge from the many species of darkness that surround it.
Igrot Harayah II, 483
A DEGENERATE UNDERSTANDING
There is a type of spiritual venom whose nature weakens the unique essence of Israel.
The essence of Israel is the deepest light of holiness in the world. It is a holy life that pours into the innermost being. It is an illumination of the light of the true God. It is a life that encompasses the entirety of Israel and gilds its soul [?], a life profoundly connected to the living core of the holiness of Israel’s supernally pure faith. Only the future world, a new re-creation in the heights of holy purity, will integrate [that fullness] and illuminate the activity of life.
[This unique essence of Israel] is a supernal spirit that determines, in its strength—regarding both the active life of Israel and its counterbalance, the life of faith, the outpouring of the heart, the branching forth of the spirit—the inner call of the nation, the power of its stance, its yearning for victory, the strength of its faith and hopes, and the light of its future.
Opposing this, that venom reaches with its blemish to the essence of the life-blood of the purity of faith. It removes the inner radiance of divinely pure life from the world, replacing it with a superficial glow that has nothing of that beauty, precision, eternity, faith and light of truth that overwhelms all, forever and ever.
This venom draws sustenance from the weary outpouring of the spirit of faith and ethics. It spreads through the masses of many nations—indeed, it is suited for the nations of the world upon the broad globe. It is based on a degenerate understanding of the nature of ethics and the impetus for faith and clinging to God that are expressed in the life of the Jewish nation in all its wealth and purity. It licks “as the ox licks” (Bamidbar 22:4), and “the gates of the desolate city are destroyed” (Isaiah 24:12). It desires to swallow up the living countenance. It yearns to wipe the name of Israel from the face of the earth, to destroy the inner light of the world, and to establish instead a superficial and corporeal content. It encompasses weakness and is lined within with the foolish hopes of idolatry.
This venom will rule until the word of God will be revealed and the salvation of Israel will appear from the depths of the soul of the Eternally Living One. Then the shadows will flee, and a new light shall shine upon Zion.
Sectarianism [i.e., Christianity] disengages the concept of the fear of heaven and the essence of closeness to God from the light of Torah and its general this-worldly manifestation. This separation, directed purposely against the innermost aspect of Israel, against the innermost being of the community of Israel, pollutes the world. This idolatrous impurity has found a place upon which to rest, where it draws down sustenance for existence until the end of days, “when its dried branch shall be shattered” (Isaiah 27:11).
The separation of the idea of divine awe from the eternal world of the Torah has grown so strong that it has gone beyond separation, beyond abnegating the need for the maintenance of Torah based on awe. This poison has developed into a contradictory position, so much so that the evil handmaid has dared to decide that her counterfeit foundation of awe is the true foundation, one that demands the nullification and destruction of keeping and learning Torah, and “the gates of the desolate city are destroyed.”
This sectarian darkness would not have found a place upon which to rest if a thickness, a darkness of falsity, had not initially passed over the content of divine understanding. The flaw of thought in an inner, hidden part brought about the establishment of that empty vision, one that has set the outer world of the nations adrift from the internal influence of the community of Israel. Now the derided community of Israel, oppressed in exile, does not actively influence the outer world. More than that, it is influenced, and it forgets its great heights, due to the pressure of evil and woe. “Hashem, see my oppression, for the enemy has arisen” (Eichah 1:9).
All this derives from the superficial success of the nations, a gilding of clay over silver dross: “burning lips and an evil heart” (Mishlei 26:23). But they will not benefit: “the plan of the evil is distant” (Iyov 22:18). The evil will necessarily be found out by the waters of the ordeal of the faithless woman, which she will find so bitter that “her belly will swell and her thigh will fall away.” But the woman of valor, the crown of her husband, will be proven innocent. May it be quickly, in our days, amen.
Orot Ha’Emunah, pp. 8-9
A GREAT STREAM
There are various causes of depression. They must all be overcome by the joy of performing a mitzvah. This is a constant joy that suits Israel, because of the spiritual light that always rests upon the Jews.
One cause of depression is the surrender to a desire for coarse pleasure. When one does so, one’s soul is drawn to a place of darkness, where it grieves over its descent. It is only right that this great woe be turned to joy, for when the soul rises from the yoke of exile that had burdened it, a great stream of joy rises up from below, and the refined, pure content grows ever richer in its spirituality.
Arpelei Tohar, p. 2
THIS LAND WILL NEVER BE SOLD
How elevated is the point of view of one of the early great rabbis, Rabbi Nachshon Gaon, regarding our eternal connection to the land of Israel (published in Teshuvot Maharam MeRotenberg).
He states that no conquest can ever remove the land of Israel from Jewish ownership—even if we assume that conquest does, in general, constitute acquisition. Only a land whose owners have the ability to transfer it to others willingly, if they wish, can perhaps be transferred by conquest.
But there is a supernal and divine connection between the people of Israel and the land of Israel, one that can never be broken--even if those living on the land are willing to give it up. “This land will never be sold forever, for the land is Mine” (Vayikra 25:23). And certainly no act of violence can remove our eternal ownership.
introduction to Our Historical and Legal Right to the Land of Israel, by Dr. Reuven Gafni, quoted in Moadei Harayah, pp. 415-16
GREAT IS OUR OBLIGATION
Great is our obligation to awaken the ancient love for Zion, the love that is eternal and burns with a holy flame in the hearts of our people, wherever they may be.
We must battle with all our strength against the hatred of our holy land, which has begun to enter some quarters among us. With spiritual might and the eternal holiness of the beloved land, we must destroy the pollution of the Biblical spies who surveyed the Holy Land, a pollution that was aroused precisely at the “time to have mercy on it” (Tehillim 102:14).
“The word of our God will stand forever.” The holiness of the land and its loveliness has not changed, nor will it ever change. All the bitter circumstances that have come upon the holy land, spiritual and physical, cannot overcome it.
Just as no physical destruction can diminish the love for the beloved land, so can no spiritual desolation diminish the holy and profound love for the land of life.
The faithful bond between the soul of the nation with “Zion and its gathering places” (Isaiah 4:5) stands and exists forever. The light of their love will yet shine seven times more brightly, will enflame every heart and lift every spirit, will sanctify them and encourage them.
Chazon Hageulah, pp. 161-62, quoted in Moadei Harayah, p. 419
IN THE WORST DAYS OF DARKNESS
Even in the worst days of darkness, the nation does not lose its faithful trust in its connection to the land of Israel. A permanent indication of this is how, by the word of God, Jeremiah bought land in Anatot from Chanamel ben Shalum, at the most terrible moment, when Jerusalem was delivered into the hands of the Kasdim.
Chazon Hageulah, p. 12, quoted in Moadei Harayah, p. 410
THE OBLIGATION OF SELF-DEFENSE
by Simcha Raz
Once, when the British Lord Commissioner returned to the land of Israel after an absence, Rav Kook requested that he take steps to disarm the Arabs. When the Commissioner replied that the Jews must also disarm, Rav Kook told him, “The two are not alike. A Jew uses weapons to defend himself and his brothers. The Arabs, on the other hand, use weapons to murder and destroy.”
The Commissioner responded, “The honored rabbi is only familiar with the religious youth who, I have heard, are training in the Haganah. I too believe that they will limit themselves to self-defense. But one cannot make this assumption about other Jewish youth.”
To this, Rav Kook replied, “That is not the case. The commandment, ‘You shall not murder,’ which the Jews heard on Mt. Sinai, affects every Jewish soul. It obligates every person who is attacked to defend himself, in order to drive away the attacker and minimize bloodshed.”
Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 147
ISRAEL, THE NATION CLOSE TO HIM
The inner demand that actions match the highest and finest awareness and feeling is unique to Israel, whose character is the character of “children of Hashem, their God” (cf. Devorim 14:1). They consider within themselves the possibility of bringing the life of action into line with the image of the ideal, exalted life.
This is unlike the portion of the nations of the world and the families upon the earth. They consider the superficial tones of the ideals of life—but only the glamour in [those tones], which at times enchant them. But this enchantment bears no fruits. It remains instead a feeble thought, in which they take pride and about which they boast. This is because the husk of idolatry, which envelops all the nations, prevents God’s light of supernal righteousness from entering the essence of the life of action.
Thus the Torah, the Godly Torah which limits the life of action in accordance with the divine, supernal demand, cannot exist among the nations. “He has not so treated any nation besides Yaacov” (Tehillim 147:20), “Israel, the nation close to Him” (Tehillim 148:14).
Arpelei Tohar, pp. 105-06
NATURE WILL BE LIKE A MIRACLE
When the world will rise, nature will be like a miracle. It will be filled with the revelation of the ideal desire and a living, all-inclusive purpose. This purpose will be precise and beautiful, with all the beauty that is found in the most exalted fineness.
At that time, a hidden light will come forth, appearing as an exalted miracle. The revelation of this light will illumine and enliven the light of the common miracle, which will be then as nature is today.
“The sun will shine like the light of morning” (Shmuel II 23:4), “and Hashem will be my God” (Breishit 28:21).
Arpelei Tohar, p. 5
THE GIFT OF THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE
by Simcha Raz
In order to obtain the consent of the Jews to the compromise proposal that was offered by the British government, the signatures of the chief rabbis and the signature of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (the rabbinical leader of Agudath Israel, which was not represented by the Chief rabbinate) were requested
Three messages were sent simultaneously to Rav Kook, Rav Yaakov Meir and Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.
Rabbi Shmuel Hacohen Weingarten witnessed the reaction of Rav Kook when the delegation of the national committee requested his signature to the agreement.
“I received a delegation from the national committee, which asked me to sign an agreement in which the Jews recognizes to the right of the Arabs to the Western Wall. I said to them: You ask me to authorize with my signature the abandonment of our ownership of the Western Wall. But how can I relinquish the gift of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the Jewish people?”
Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 178
WORDS LIKE SPURS
by Simcha Raz
In his testimony before the Wall Committee, in which he took a strong and proud stance regarding the right of the Jewish people to its Wall, Rav Kook protested, among other things, the desecration of books of Psalms by the British soldiers at the Wall.
He said, “When your forefathers were climbing trees in the forests, we already had Dovid ben Yishai, who composed the exalted book of Psalms—it is this that you desecrated.”
Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 180
A DEW OF LIGHTS
It is from the dew of the resurrection of the dead that the ministering angels maintain life: a firm life, a life unaccompanied by death.
The flow of that life continuously carries out its activity. It engages in an ongoing labor to raise the world to its own state of being.
There is no improvement or illumination in the world—from the smallest to the greatest, from the most superficial to the most profound—that does not become a rung on the ladder leading to the happy state of the supernal seal: the revival of the dead and the victory of complete goodness. [This is a victory] not merely in its restricted social sense, but which refers in general to all worlds, and in particular to every creature, from the smallest to the greatest.
The dross and the excess of that eternal dew give strength to the entire energy of life.
The essence and inner being of that dew is hidden in the Torah.
And when the Torah condenses into form—even when its expression branches out in the most shallow and fragmented manner regarding all levels of life, [and even] with imagined illusions—that is an essential condensation of the supernal dew that gives life to the dead.
Whoever makes use of this dew of the Torah is given life by the dew of the Torah. “Your dew is a dew of lights.”
Orot Hatorah I, p. 378
THE LIGHTNING OF GOD
I am certain that when the revival of the Jewish nation begins to awaken, there will be a spiritual rebellion in the land of Israel and amongst the people of Israel. Material tranquility will come to a segment of the people, who will imagine that they have reached their entire purpose. This tranquility will diminish the soul. Days will come of which it is said, “there is nothing desirable in them.”
The yearning for elevated and holy ideas will cease, and so the spirit will descend and sink. But then a tempest will come and overturn everything. We will know clearly that the treasure of Israel rests within eternal holiness, in the light of God and His Torah, in the desire for spiritual light....
The rebellion takes the form of a materialistic tendency. And it is necessary that this tendency manifest with vigor amidst the entirety of the [Jewish] people, after so many years have passed in which the need and ability to engage in physical pursuits were completely removed from the entire nation.
When this materiality will be born, it will rage furiously like hurricane winds. And these winds are what are referred to in the phrase, “the birth pangs of the messiah.”
Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 484
THE HOLY LAND
by Simcha Raz
One time, Rav Kook was called to Rishon Letzion to adjudicate a case. On the way, Rav Kook said to his companion, “I am ready to kiss every stone of this land and even the donkey that we passed.”
The Talmud states that “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco.” My cousin, Rabbi Simcha Kook (rabbi of Rechovot), told me that Rav Kook explained this to him:
What was so special about those stones, and why did Rabbi Abba kiss them?
If Rabbi Abba had kissed the earth, we might have thought that he is doing so because the earth brings forth fruits, and that the land of Israel is important and holy only because of the commandments pertaining to it (such as tithing). But Rabbi Abba’s love for the land of Israel was a pure love, and the holiness of the land is intrinsic. Therefore he kissed even the stones.
Rabbi Shmuel Hacohen Weingarten (past chairman of the Religious Committee in Jerusalem) tells:
On time, Rav Kook was traveling with a few other people to Tel Aviv. On the way, the car broke down, and they had to wait for a short while. The passengers, including Rav Kook, wandered off.
When people searched for him, they found him stretched out on the ground and whispering, “My land, my land! The holy land of Israel!”
When he stood up, he said, “When else do I have the chance to speak to the motherland, who waits for her children to return to her?”
THE CORE NATURE OF OUR SOUL
We must carry out all the commandments with joy, because they open up the sense of sweetness and divine love that is hidden in the core nature of our soul.
Another good way to connect ourselves to this holy goal is to separate ourselves from every sin, because sin thickens the light of our soul.
If we act in an ugly manner, spiritual clarity grows confused. Then there is an end to the expansion of the light of divine sweetness.
But our consciousness must expand, in regard to both our actions and our spirituality, until the power of our soul grows so great that it has the strength to give an order to life (to life in general and to each individual life) in a fitting manner, so that the heavenly blossom of life, the universal sweetness—which embraces all everlasting pleasures and from which all temporal pleasures are fed—the pleasure of the sweetness of God, will blossom forever, flourishing and great.
Orot Hakodesh III, p. 186
A THIRST FOR THE DIVINE
An inner flame from the holy light, a thirst within for the light of God—these constitute the basis for the revelation of holiness within our soul.
A person in whose soul this special, exalted trait is enclosed must understand his character, the framework of his thoughts, his speech, his affairs and his meditations, so that he will know how to conduct the course of his life in accordance with the great plane of the light of life, the fullness of whose holy pleasures constantly fills his soul with the dew of kindness from the light of supernal blessing. “The blessing of Hashem gives one wealth.”
At times, the flow of this divine thirst comes to cause this holy spirit to affect the world and life, the nation and everything entirely (in the entire breadth of this meaning) in order to bring everything close to the holy elevation, to the light of the name of God, Who is the Life of worlds.
Orot Hakodesh III, p. 209
THOSE CONCEPTS THAT ARE POSSIBLE
Those concepts that are possible within the realms of holiness are the most exalted songs. Within them and through them, the most supernal truth is revealed.
The glory of morality, and its eternal being, is drawn down corresponding to the basic revelation of the visions of greatness of all the possibilities of the happy state of holiness within all existence.
THE SOURCE OF LIFE
“The source of life is with You; in Your light, we shall see light.”
Life begins relationship where relationship to death exists; where there is something that can live, so that if the flow of life does not stream there, the negation of life, which is death, appears.
However, there is a source of life that is the essence of life, life independent, an existence that does not depend upon being the negation of death. This source of life rests in the realm of supernal divinity. From this origin, life begins pouring forth to revive all dead bodies, all who lack life, with the dewdrops of its lights.
Fundamental to the being of this source of life (a source prepared to pour forth life) is limitation, which with its constriction establishes forms and worlds marked by boundaries. The limitation found there is a revelation of an exceedingly precious divine goodness.
However, there is a supernal elevation that transcends this source of life. That supernal elevation is the directly-present light of God that differs from all lights of worlds. The entire being of the light within those worlds is intended to make dark bodies visible, bodies that in themselves do not share the nature of light. The light itself, however, is not a visible object, for the ability to see the being of light, corresponding to the measure of light, has not been revealed in the world.
But the light of God, in its high, broad and princely source, is the light in which and by means of which light is seen. This is the foundation of the supernal breadth of the infinite radiance that none of the worlds upon worlds are equal to.
Olat Harayah I, p. 21
WHOEVER MOURNS OVER JERUSALEM
by Rabbi Moshe Neriah
The sages teach that “whoever mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see its joy” (Taanit 30b). Why did they say “will merit to see its joy” and not “will merit to see it rebuilt?” After all, the rebuilding of Jerusalem is the primary goal, and the joy is merely secondary. Rav Kook explained that our sages knew that when Jerusalem will be rebuilt, everyone alive at that time will witness this event, including those who did not mourn over its destruction. But only those who had mourned and grieved over its destruction, who had yearned and hoped for its rebuilding, will attain a feeling of joy.
In the great days following the ratification of the Balfour Declaration in San Remo by the entire League of Nations, Rav Kook added a remark regarding those Jews who did not show sufficient joy at this great event. “There are Jews,” he said, “in whom this proclamation of the nations of the world regarding the full rights of the Jewish nation to its land does not awaken joy, because in essence their mourning centers on the spiritual destruction of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. However, the burning disgrace that the land is in the hands of strangers does not bother them, and so they did not mourn over that.
“But as for those whose hearts have mourned and grieved throughout their lives not only for the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the Land, but also because it is ruled by strangers, because the pride of Israel has been exiled and because the pride of royalty has been exiled from our nation and our land—for these people, the proclamation of the nations of the world that the Land of Israel must return to the People of Israel is a source of joy. And it is these people who will merit to see it in its joy.”
Moadei Harayah, p. 567
The fear [of God] that comes as a result of the physical metaphors in kabbalah is a foolish one.
Do we not clearly know that all these [metaphors] do not in the least affect the shining foundation of the purity of faith in one God, blessed be He?
Indeed, they give us radiance, clarity of understanding, and the ability to be in harmony with the divine light.
Our task is to study, to learn, to prepare [our] physical and spiritual makeup in a manner that is appropriate for the permanent addition of this supernal light, which at every minute and moment pours forth immaculate streams from its very source.
Then, in accordance with our understanding and our depth of self-sacrifice in clinging to the divine, a full love will spill forth from the hidden chambers of the fear [of God], renewing the life of the spirit in the form of a new creation—every day, always.
GREATNESS AND BOOKISHNESS
Those who are truly great find within themselves an opposition to bookishness, for everything lives within them and pours forth from their spirit, and they must always be delving into their inner spirit. For them, the aspect of scholarship is merely an aid and of secondary importance. The essential thing in their approach to perfection is their own Torah (Kiddushin 32b). “In his Torah, he will learn day and night”: [in his own Torah, which comes from within him].
Sometimes, a person does not know his worth. He turns his back on his own Torah and wants to be a scholar—out of convention or out of some scholastic interpretation [of a teaching], such as “Inquire, and receive reward.”
It is then that the oppression of the descent begins to darken the world of such great, but weak, individuals.
Arpelei Tohar, p. 61
CEDING OUR RIGHTS
by Prof. Haim Lipschitz
In the days of the “Western Wall Commission,” members of the National Committee asked Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook to express his opinion regarding whether it is permissible for Jews to cede the right of ownership over the Kotel to the Arabs, in exchange for which the Arabs would allow the Jews free access to the Kotel.
Rav Kook replied that we have no right whatsoever to cede anything of the Kotel. He emerged from his room and immediately sent a messenger to inform Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld [his ideological rival] of his response.
As it happened, in order to prevent any communication between Rav Kook and Rabbi Sonnenfeld, the National Committee had sent simultaneous delegations to them.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld gave the same response as had Rav Kook. And he too sent a messenger to Rav Kook to tell him of his answer.
Shivchei Harayah, p. 238
A SUDDEN SURGE
Adherence to the Torah must result from the fortification of spiritual strength in the profound holiness of the soul. [This is a strength that] pours its stream of life upon the movements of every individual and of the entire community with a sudden surge—not by a slow process or by means of connecting parts “bit by bit and line by line” (Isaiah).
When this takes place, that which is distant gains sustenance from the life-force in accordance with its measure, as does that which is nearby.
Then the principles of the Torah and its details, its safeguards and enactments, its customs and straightforward counsel, its worthy articles of faith and everything that stems from them pulse with the rhythms of their own life-force—all of them as one.
On the other hand, there is smallness of faith. This comes from a constricted and impoverished rationality, the mind toiling until it finds a connection between the principle that the heart accepts (to the extent that it can understand) and the distant bifurcation of individual paths. [The mind] constantly stumbles and fails amidst the paths of life. This limited mind cannot, despite all its calculations, illumine its own way. It is a broken vessel that is unable to draw anything from the streaming, living wellspring of the light of God that manifests in His world and in His Torah.
And so the light of repentance goes forth and clears a path for the nation. It vigorously calls out for a return to God: that we heed His voice, go in His ways, and cling to Him.
Only with this stalwart might will the nation live and rise.
Then the every-day mind, with all its ability, will be an appropriate servant to help (to some degree, at least) the spirit of life that pulses within the fullness of the soul, by dealing with the expression and appearance of a few particular details.
But the foundation of everything, the wellspring of life, is the spirit of God in the heart, living in the inner being of the soul and filled with might and power. “Do not remain silent before Him until He will establish Jerusalem and make her the praise of the earth” (Isaiah 62:7).
Orot Hatorah 11:3
DO NOT FEAR
Exaggerated fear removes the radiance of life from people and from any creature that can experience feelings. There is nothing in the world, no matter how evil and cruel, that is quite like it. It magnifies all evils beyond comparison to what they really are, and it darkens the brightness of all good things, for it burrows beneath their foundations and excessively claims that evil is hidden beneath the obvious good. The source of all weakness and all feebleness, whether physical, ethical, or intellectual, solely a fear that crosses beyond its proper boundary. Such a fear terrifies a person so much that he will do nothing to save himself. He will not even lift a finger to help himself, because he is afraid that he might be hurt, he is afraid that action may bring an evil that he cannot escape. And finally, this fear weakens and enfeebles him so much that out of his inertia and inaction, he falls prey to every evil.
The most damaging fear is mental fear. This falsity casts a delusion upon the most sensitive and beautiful members of the human race, people who stand as a banner, who serve as luminaries that will brighten the paths of life for everyone. Shadow always follows light, and so the more a person is able to understand and grow wise, the more does his delusional fear, resulting from his thoughts, increase.
[Various] nations have the ability to grow wise, to gather together and connect everything of an elevated and holy nature that was scattered and separated into one inclusive bloc, with counsel and knowledge in matters that stand at the apex of the world. But superior to all of them is the people of Israel. They are the one nation that carries the flag of the most raised thought in the world, the thought that contains all that wisdom stores within itself: the thought of oneness. “God is in the heavens above and upon the earth below; there is no other.”
Indeed, [we] must always broaden the boundary of consciousness to an infinite degree—with a brave heart, without fright, without any recoil and fear at all. Fear “due to the oppressor who prepares to destroy” (cf. Is. 51:13) has lowered the universal spirit of our nation, which is girded in might, until it recoils from and fears every thought and idea—and thus [it recoils from and fears] every action and any great and inclusive act. And since the essence of the foundation of [our nation’s] might is the strength of God, when it is spiritually weak, it grows very weak and feeble. At such a time, the most honorable help for our nation is removing from its heart this fear that comes from spiritual delusion, and demonstrating, as clear as the sun, that it has nothing whatsoever to fear.
Let the nations that boast of their idols fear that the general power of delusion that affects their communal society will shatter. Let every evil government fear that the light of truth and honesty will show that the goal of all their longings is a wilful criminal fist and perverted justice. Let it fear that when the light of pure thought gains strength, it will show how disgusting that government is. And thus the universal chains will snap, and their national strength will fall totter.
But why should Israel fear? We are the nation whose strength and refuge is the most elevated light of the purest and most uplifted thought, whose glory and beauty, hope and desire, is the purest and most unalloyed justice. We need only to rise, only to grow wiser and wiser, with that which is already planted in us and gathered in our innermost essence. Only then will we be filled with salvation and light. Then we will see our great worthiness, and how degraded are those who trample upon us with the foot of pride. And the more our nation’s thought grows and is broadened, the more will we recognize our nation’s soul and the beauty of its glory, until it will rise and ascend to show everyone the treasure of life hidden within it, until all the inhabitants of the world will recognize and see that our nation’s spirit is the spirit of God, and the soul of the Almighty is its soul.
Divine inspiration and divine light can come upon Israel only when the evil and wild fear that clings to it like an encompassing wound, that extends days of exile and the persecutions of our degraded, evil enemies, is removed from within its soul.
God’s Presence only rests upon a person who is wise, mighty, and wealthy (Shabbat 82a), and only in a place of joy (ibid 30b). Since this is true of an individual, how much does it apply to the entire nation. “Wealth” can be read in its simple meaning: a present from God given from the heights, usually only this-worldly effort. “May Hashem your God bless you in all that you do” (Devorim 15:18). But there is [also] a wealth of consciousness, when a person knows how to rejoice in his portion. This too can be experienced by an individual or by the entire nation. But as for might—and joy, which is its consequence—that can come only by means of a rectification of the spirit, a rectification of consciousness and thought. And in regard to that, we have been assured that “If a person says, ‘I toiled and I did not find’ or ‘I did not toil and I found,’ do not believe him” (Megillah 6b).
In the end of days, in the [age of the] “heels of the Messiah,” when the divine light stands behind our walls, the first of all preparations is the removal of fear, the excrescence of thought, from the general spirit—in particular from the spirits of outstanding individuals, those people who are graced with a good mind, with a talent for holiness and justice, for it is they who are most affected by fear and weakness.
The impetus to accomplish this is provided by its opposite force: the force of arrogance, which must grow stronger at such a time—for where there is arrogance there is no fear. [It is true that arrogance] comes from a degraded place, from a place of intoxication and confusion. As great as the distance from the heavens to the earth, so is the distance between arrogance and the might that results from the heavenly blessing of the wealth of the soul and the strength of its righteousness. Nevertheless, we act utilizing the strong power of arrogance in order to take the good from it, the sparks of holiness, the innermost core: the cease of mental fear. And that is due to the strength that is promised, that is hidden, in the treasury of our lives.
Then, might will become a part of the weave of holiness, and thought will blossom.
“Do not fear, for you shall not be shamed. And do not be abashed, for you will not be shamed, for you shall forget the shame of your youth, and the shame of your widowhood you will no longer recall” (Is. 54:4).
Hador, pp. 119-121
UNIVERSALISM AND NATIONALISM
According to the content of the approach of the school of Shammai [in regard to lighting Hanukkah candles], even a person who is unable to rise to the heights of the ultimate goal should be taught that the goal of Torah does not rest upon a foundation of national love. The foundation [of the Torah] should rather be transmitted with profound truth. The only message to be transmitted to the entire nation of God as the ultimate foundation is the purpose of the Torah and the awe that flows from pure faith.
On the other hand, the school of Hillel [argues that] there is a way to explain in a few words even to those who do not understand the depth of truth that there is a Torah basis to the goal of nationalism.
Time is divided into past and future.
The Torah approach that flows solely from the aspect of the tendency toward faith, without any admixture of what can be humanly felt, flows in its essence from the foundation of the future. “How great is Your goodness that You have hidden [in the future] for those who fear You” (Psalms 321:20). [In this view,] the past is no more than an indication of what will be. This is the content of faith regarding the future.
[But there is another approach:] there can be an admixture of a nationalist tendency felt in the heart—just as the heart has a tendency toward love of family and love of parents. [Such a feeling] is built upon the past. What has caused this feeling to be established in the heart until it may be fit to support those many actions that improve and unite well the national foundation? It is the great past that accomplishes this.
“One rabbi said: the reason of the school of Shammai [that we reduce the number of Hanukkah candles daily is that the candles] correspond to the coming days.” The school of Shammai bears in mind the more supernal aspect, [the aspect] that goes beyond a national foundation, for which only the foundation of faith and Torah, without any aid of feeling, remains. “The coming days” indicates the [historic] future, which bears the seal of faith: that we have faith in His name, that He is faithful to His covenant and keeps His word. “Faith corresponds to the Mishnaic Order called Seeds.” We believe in God, the Life of worlds: that His seed will sprout in the future and sprouts (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim, Hint 674; cf. Shabbat 31a in Tosafot). [The Jews are] “a righteous nation, keeping faith” (Isaiah 16:2)—[meaning that] “although the dead have yet to come back to life, [the Jews] already recite the blessing, ‘Blessed is He Who revives the dead’” (Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, Hint 617).
[On the other hand,] “the reason of the school of Hillel [that we increase the number of Hanukkah candles daily is that the candles] correspond to the days that have passed.” [This refers to] the [historic] past, which sets its seal upon the nation, placing its natural feeling upon us, so that we may use it as a help to set up a testimony in Israel, since its depth is built upon the purest truth.
[In regard to the reasoning of the school of Shammai, the Talmud proffers another reason.] And this is the most truthful and deepest insight regarding “the reason of the school of Shammai: [decreasing the candles] corresponds to the cattle [sacrifices] of the festival [of Succot—which decreased in number daily].” [These cattle, which symbolize the nations of the world,] indicate the influence of Israel upon all the nations. [The nations] are constantly decreasing. This indicates that the more the light of Israel appears in the world, the more the power of national separation diminishes, until the only differences [that will remain] are those that are most natural and which bring goodness to the world due to [the nations’] remaining separate. But the profusion of differences whose source is the urge of the heart of man toward wilfulness, evil and excessive love of self will pass and be nullified.
It is the connection to the ultimate vision that is the activity that comes forth from Israel for the sake of the all. The rule of national love will pass this by, for [national love] is inferior to the value [of universalism].
[On the other hand, the Talmud proffers a second rationale for the teaching of the school of Hillel:] “the reason of the school of Hillel is that we rise in holiness and do not descend.” There is a need and truth in loving the [Jewish] nation, until [that love] is fit it be placed as a holy tool for the sake of the Torah in Israel. The reason for this is that the unique quality of the Jews is central. Its existence is the highest goal, even more than the exaltedness of the general goal of illuminating the entire human species. It rises and is magnified in the treasury of the all—constantly, in every generation. It is this [love] that is fit to be placed as the ultimate goal of the will of God in His world: “Israel, in whom I will glory” (Isaiah 49:3). Therefore, the nationalistic purpose, which is a branch [of that unique quality], is fit to be connected to matters of holiness when [that purpose] guards its role and the ways in which it is acquired: which are Torah, mitzvot and pure faith sealed in the seal of [that national purpose].
[It must] be made known that the question of whether or not Israel is a “nation” is a result merely of the aspect of a superficial understanding of the root of [these] matters. Not many will gain the wisdom to arrive at the foundation of that which necessitates the approaches [of the schools of Shammai and Hillel]. But those who are wise of heart will gaze at the essential things.
Therefore, [the Talmud continues by teaching about “the elders,”] who are the wise men. “The elders who were in Zidon: one acted in accordance with the school of Shammai, and another acted in accordance with the school of Hillel.
“One explained his deeds [in lighting the Hanukkah candles by saying that they] correspond to the cattle of the festival [of Succot].” That is to say, the ultimate tendency of the desire of God comes from the quantitative measure, which comes by means of Israel and its Torah.
“And one explained that we rise in holiness and do not descend.” That is to say, the most elevated desire is the qualitative unique [Jewish] quality.
Regarding this [disagreement,] it is said that “both opinions are the words of the living God” (Eiruvin 13b).
And it is fitting to know that the foundation of “he continues to increase” is well in line with the knowledge point of view that the thought of Israel precedes everything and is the essence, from the aspect of the importance of the existence of this holy nation. And even though there are aspects in “increases” to point out in it the value of the influence that Israel influences the world entirely, that entirely form the aspect themselves of the nations the light decreases continuously, and their nationalism that is not established for an exalted and eternal purpose, continuously melts away until the divisions of lights will be eliminated, in this measure itself they grow especially close and liable to receive the light of Israel. It is [thus] found that in regard to Israel, it “increases,” for those who receive their influence increase. And when we distinguish the precious worth of this nation, all of whose destiny and purpose, desire and desire is to benefit the entire totality as is the desire of God, we are astonished at the glorious worth of this precious unique quality. Therefore, the highest essence, does not remain by the purpose of a multitude of receivers of the light, even from this aspect of the destiny of its influence, but by the influencer itself, by the aspect of its unique quality to be a light to the world eternal light. Therefore, it should be pointed out in this mitzvah, the worth impressed within Israel that “increases,” and automatically the mater is parallel to the second image in “increases” from the aspect of the essential unique quality, even without the essence of the foundation of the influence. And these things are twin fitting to be a national foundation in Israel built upon the depth of the truth, even though that its paths have transcended a great deal over the thought of simple nationalism that enters the heart according to the accustomed word from a great multitude, and which is taken with the accompaniment of images accustomed from foreign nations, nevertheless, since the inner foundation intends to the purpose that the impression remains in the might of its height only in Israel, behold, nationalism in its form it intends to the foundation of that level, like the matter of the Temple below which is in line with the upper Temple. “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Bereishit 28:17).
TO BE PREPARED FOR SUCH A LIFE
[The realm of] good and evil is, at its source, much higher than what is visible in human life—whether individual or societal. Indeed, the content that reveals itself in life branches from the essence of good and evil. But its higher foundation—defilement and purity—may [only] be seen in a holy vision, informed by divine directives.
At times, this-worldly evil is merely external evil, saturated with an essential goodness. And contrarily, this-worldly good may merely be a superficial and external good, saturated with an essential, inner evil from a higher sphere.
And in regard to this, we find that [the realm of] faith and holiness is the foundation and root of everything, and it is filled with essence, it gives life and hope, construction and existence—much more than any cultural, ethical content that humanity can point to.
But to be prepared for such a life, [a life] established on the supernal foundation, the mined treasure of a unique nation is needed. That is the supernal mystery within the nation of Israel.
Orot Hakodesh II, p. 477
THROUGH A LENS OF BRIGHT HOLINESS
The science of mysteries clarifies the actuality of the spiritual in all its patterns. It describes existence in all its aspects, good and evil in all their fullness.
Through a lens of shining holiness we see that the depth of goodness brings about the depth of evil, so that by means of that evil, goodness itself will grow deeper and exist in all its most perfect fullness and goodness. And this is why there exists in all being a reality of the desire for evil: evil in ethical [thought] and evil in action.
The desire for the ruination of the world exists in all the patterns of reality, just as there exists a desire for its building, elevation and perfection.
God’s supernal plan is to turn aside from the stumbling-blocks of evil and to lift humanity and the world from the depths of evil to the heights of good.
The world and humanity are destined for this. And this is the destiny of evil itself—which, in the role of the character of independent being, will in its inner nature also rise and be transformed to good when it recognizes the desire for evil within it as being directed towards to the universal perfection of the good.
The branches of evil, which have turned aside fundamentally from the desire for perfection of goodness, are in truth only an illusory existence—whose appearance, even to themselves, shines only as long as the light of goodness has not been revealed. [And that light] is revealed in all its glory even from the depths of evil.
After that revelation, wickedness, which had turned aside in the essence of the depth of its character from the perfection of goodness, is revealed not to be an existing character at all. [Then] the spirit of defilement will pass from the land and the idols will be entirely wiped away, and on that day, Hashem alone will be exalted.
The spirit of man, his will, his intellect, and all his manifestations are saturated with the distillate of universal good and evil, [a distillate that] is revealed in all existence. It is impossible to describe how great is the accomplishment of man in burnishing and perfecting being.
Certainly no limited intellect can imagine the depths of this vision even in general and certainly cannot describe its details and, even more, cannot organize a orderliness of life that penetrates all the patterns of good and evil, [an orderliness] that is prepared and directed to destroy the entire structure of evil and perfect the structure of good in the soul of humanity, in its will, in its inner nature, in its specific and general yearning—and not only that, but to pour from its spirit onto the spirit of the world, onto realistic yearning and its abilities, to the point that the inner tendency in the depths of evil is transformed to the heights of good—[so that] the desire for destruction, ruination, darkness and degeneration [is transformed] into the desire for building, establishment, illumination and elevation.
Orot Hakodesh II, pp. 475-76
The holiness of certain times discloses supernal goodness.
Everything is drawn from the source of Sabbath-thanksgiving, from “it is good to give thanks to Hashem.”
Because [these times] are unveiled on every festival and holiday as components of that supernal good, joy finds its place amongst them. That which is more encompassing contains more pleasure.
Israel knows that God is good, [Israel] knows of the hidden beloved [goodness] in the supernal treasury, in the house of treasures of the Holy One, blessed be He. The festivals reveal this knowledge, they elevate a person’s ability to act, they make him equal to his Maker in beautifying being. “All your men shall be seen” [at the Temple on the holidays]. “Just as a person comes to be seen [by God], so does he come to see [Godliness].”
And these are two states of knowledge. One is absolute good, from which joy and pleasure flow. The other is doing good, continuously improving everything in one’s connection to all being, elevating it, beautifying it—with the commandments of God, with keeping the word of God and connecting one’s consciousness and desire to the desire of God, supernal God, Maker of heaven and earth.
Great is the light of kindness in the world. Great is the joy in its dwelling place. Great is the light and the sweetness where it camps.
But opposing this, great is the depth of the darkness and the depression and groaning.
A person takes lights of joy and greatness and scatters them in the depths and darkness, and there they shine and give joy to an infinite multitude of creatures. Then they immediately rise together with their lights, with a joyous flight and soaring, with singing, song and gladness, to the place of light and sweetness. There, joy is added to joy. And in the chambers of the heart, in the sensibility that sings within oneself, rivers of sweetness and holy joys are revealed, and the breadth of the spirit constantly rises, and the might of the soul grows glorious, and everything is glorified, and everything is embraced in love. Birds sing and children are filled with joy, those dismal in spirit awake from their drunkenness, the depressions of the broken-hearted are healed, and the foundation of life continuously pulses in the world.
The richness of the refined existence within everything depends upon how great is the refinement of a person’s inner desire in regard to goodness, in his permanently establishing the seal of goodness upon his spirit and the quality of his life. The details of the good become many, the hues increase, their totality and details are ever more prominent—in [the performance of] God’s commandments, in Torah [learning], in the expression of prayer and thanks, in the unifications of thought and the unification of [Divine] Names [engaged in] by those who are holy and supernal, those who rise beyond everything and raise everything.
“Happy is the nation that is thus, happy is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
Orot Hakodesh II
A WORLD THAT IS CLEARLY SEEN
The following teaching of Rav Kook is difficult both in its language and in its ideas. Accuracy in translation cannot be guaranteed.
It seems to me to be saying the following.
There is a view of the world that sees existence as something from which to flee. But when we see the world clearly, there is no reason to complain about evil. Even those who seek nothingness—and thus complain about this world’s somethingness— are complaining that the world is deficient. And since deficiency is a species of nothingness, then they would have to agree that this world is in fact good.
In other words, the deficiency of this world is not in opposition to a transcendent “nothingness.” To the contrary, it is an expression of that “nothingness.” Within this physical world rest the most transcendent states.
The problem with the world is not that it has too much existence. To the contrary, the problem with it is that it does not have enough existence. Suffering in the world is not caused by our being led astray by things of this world but by the fact that we are yearning for that ultimate true being. But if a person is yearning for “nothingness,” he is yearning for that which appears evil, but which is in essence good. Even that person cannot reject this world as unredeemably evil, for good is hidden within it and within everything.
A person who totally rejects this world as he seeks “nothingness” can transcend feelings of pain and even find them pleasurable. Nevertheless, this must come to an end. One must realize that existence is good—and we continue to be aware of that, even as we return to a normal perception of pain.
The more we look the more goodness do we see. Then we see good even in moral evil, for everything is in essence good. If we were satisfied with the state of affairs as it is, we would be content to have a raised state of consciousness in which we see the good even in evil. But because we yearn for an ultimate good, our perception of this world in a sense diminishes, and we cease to see the good hidden in evil.
But finally, we will come to that ultimate goodness—and then, looking at the expanse of all reality, we will see that goodness was hidden within the evil at all times.
The knowledge that goodness is hidden within evil is the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But if we eat of that tree’s fruit prematurely, we grow content with things as they are, and no longer yearn for an ultimate goodness. But once we do reach the ultimate good, the tree of knowledge of good and evil is transformed into a tree of life. We see that every part of the universe and of history was in the service of goodness.
This awareness comes from the essential soul of the Torah, and is revealed to those who yearn for God to be revealed—beyond labels and conceptions. Then we reach a level of silence, a world-transcending awareness of the goodness that pervaded the world throughout the era of human history. That silence is our connection to God, our praise.]
In taking an account of a world that is [seen] clearly, there is no place to complain about the existence of evil.
There are those who are repulsed by being, who say that their ultimate goal is nothingness. According to their conception, therefore, deficiency and emptiness comprise goodness. If that is the case, then [even according to them] there is nothing that is not good.
Any inadequacy in the world is nothing else than either (a) a diminution of existence; (b) a diminution of the existence of the diffusion of the essence of being (which desires existence and its perfection); or 8 anything that has any sort of relationship to [diminution]: a diminution of [this world] acquiring [reality], a diminution of consciousness, a diminution of glory.
All of these lead to suffering, solely because of one’s yearning for what [truly] is and one’s yearning for the perfection of being.
[So even] if one’s total yearning for happiness is an outcry for nothingness, then everything evil is good, for [evil] is closer to nothingness.
These matters grow ever more profound. At last, even sensations of physical pain grow still and their sharpness is removed. And when [this] concept grows [yet] stronger, they even become pleasurable.
However, this line cannot proceed to its end. [This] account must squeeze [dry] its measure, and realize that being is happiness and existence is good. As a result of this awareness, every suffering and pain is [again] viewed in accordance with its usual place and consensus meaning. But we still actually see that all evil in the world is nothing less a diminished good in relation to the outcry for the abundant good.
An insightful gaze into every exceedingly refined part of goodness—which is even found in evil—reveals the light of truth in existence. And we see that all God did is good, very good.
And [we can say the following in regard to] the moral evil in the world. If not for the longed-for goodness that will raise everything to full goodness (and this is the goodness that is coming into being, the goodness that is rising, that is blossoming, goodness in itself, original, goodness whose foundation and whose goodness are contained within it and gush from it in its original source)—if not for this hidden happiness, our eye would see that even moral evil is none other than reduced goodness, and that all evil is none other than diminished charity.
However, if this were to be seen, the desire to ascend would cease to exist. And then the world would be desolate of its happiness and elevation. Therefore, we do see the evil of moral evil. This [more limited viewpoint], when [we see] goodness reduced, is also a refining of the structures of truth. And it is accompanied by a limitation of all structures of evil, all sufferings and pain, all disgrace and all diminution, which have come in consequence of sin.
[Ultimately,] with the improvement of the spirit, with the permanence of the desire for an elevation that does not cease from its very essence, there is no fear of any evil. Automatically, the world and all its fullness are seen with their full goodness in the foundation of their broad and full existence. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is completely transformed into the tree of life—from the depths of its roots when it absorbs its nutrition to the height of its crown, its buds, leaves and blossoms. “Its fruit will be for food and its leaf for healing.”
This supernal view of goodness is viewed by the soul of the soul of the Torah, which sends its sparks in a hidden manner to all who cling to the lights of God, who desire the glory of God, who say, “May the name of God be magnified beyond every label and word, beyond every speech, expression and utterance, beyond every thought and conception.”
“To You, silence is praise.” “Give thanks to God, for He is good, for His kindness endures forever.”
Orot Hakodesh II, pp. 468-69
WITH ALL YOUR HEART
Rav Kook’s love for the land of Israel and his yearning to make aliyah burned in his heart with a great flame. During his term as rabbi of Boisk, he wrote in his journal:
As long as a person does not clearly understand the worth of the human soul, the worth of the Jewish people, the worth of the Holy Land, the longing that every Jew should have for the rebuilding of the Temple, and the greatness of Israel and their elevation in the world, it is almost impossible for him to have a sense of what it means to serve God.
Our Sages said that the verse, “serve Him with all your heart” refers to “service in the heart, which is prayer.” If so, prayer is service. And service is fitting only when, due to our awe of God, the subject matter of prayer is close to our heart...
If a person does not know the worth of the Jewish people, how will he pray with a complete heart for their redemption? When we say the words, “Blessed are You, God, Who redeems Israel,” we refer not only to our own sufferings regarding the yoke of our exile. The wording of the blessing testifies that it refers to the aspect of the worth of the people of Israel and their sanctity.
And if a person doesn’t realize the worth of the Holy Land, its uniqueness and holiness, how will he pray for the building of Jerusalem?
Prayer is something that comes precisely from the depths of the heart—when we feel that we are lacking something.
Malachim Kivnei Adam (by Simchah Raz), quoting Musar Avichah, pp. 19-20
THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD
My precious brothers who dwell in Jerusalem (our holy and beautiful city, may it soon be rebuilt), those who dwell in Jaffa (the holy city), in the holy settlements and other holy cities, may they be rebuilt:
Elevating feelings of holiness that fill my spirit with strength coming from the glory of our holy land (to which God has allowed me to return after the days of my wandering in exile) together with the love-filled meeting I had with all of you—who represented a variety of circles—now that I have returned to holiness, have broadened my soul. And so I place before you my thanks. And [I extend my] blessing that our hope and the desire of our souls be fulfilled: that we will see the ever-growing success of the work that begins the blossoming of the salvation of our people on this holy soil (with the help of God). [May we see this success come as a consequence] of the blessing of peace that rests upon the community of Israel dwelling in Zion, and as a consequence of the unity of all our various strengths, each with its own character, all directed to that goal elevated in holiness: the complete lifting of the horn of Israel upon its holy soil.
When I truly realize that the richness of the holy glory that permeates our people’s movement for building [the land] and our rebirth upon the Holy Land gives us our strength and beauty—both within and without—then I am filled with hope that all our abilities, in all their various aspects, will unite into one bond so that they will all help make clear and illumine the holy radiance of the soulful life that characterizes the atmosphere of our land, [an atmosphere] that stands ready to be ever more revealed as a result of our united work—spiritual and physical, work of the holy and work of the secular, together.
And I am filled with prayer that the Rock of Israel and our Redeemer will graciously give us power and strength, grace and lovingkindness, so that we may work with all the beloved builders of the nation of God in building up the entire nation upon the holy land, and that He will allow me to serve them all with a true love and a holy leadership until we see, quickly, all of us together, the joy of our nation and the glory of our inheritance with the redemption of the world.
May it be the will of our Father in heaven, Who dwells in Zion and Who chooses Jerusalem, that this year (which is coming upon us and upon all Israel for good) will be a year of recuperation and healing for all our maladies—physical and spiritual, individual and public, private and communal. May it be a year of peace and tranquility, love, honor and grace; a year of fruitful labor that will re-establish the ruins of our holy land and the building of the house of Israel upon its holy soil; a year of unity of all our actions and the directions of our spirit to work with one intent for God and His nation and the building of His beloved land; a year when we will gather at our holy and beautiful Temple; a year of complete redemption and salvation, and the lifting up of the horn of the house of Israel for fame and renown to all the ends of the earth.
Your faithful brother and servant, who signs with the hope for salvation, uplifting and strength and the beauty of Zion and Jerusalem, quickly, in our days, amen.
THE AS-YET-UNKNOWNSTATE OF ISRAEL
A political state does not constitute a person’s supernal satisfaction.
That is true of a normative political state, one which rises to no higher purpose than comprising a large regulating body, above which—and not touching it—hover the many ideals that are the crown of life.
However, this is not the case with a state that is, at its core, idealistic, in whose being is incised the most exalted idealistic content.
Such a state indeed comprises an individual’s greatest happiness. It is indeed the highest rung upon the ladder of happiness.
This will be our state, the state of Israel. It will be the foundation of the throne of God within the world, with its entire desire being that “Hashem will be one and His name will be one.”
selection from Malachim Kivnei Adam
YOU ARE ENTIRELY BEAUTIFUL
The divine spirit flows without cease upon the Community of Israel. It irrigates with its moisture all the souls of all Jews. And even the lowest ranks—of the crass and of Jewish criminals—are included within this.
The great dreams are the foundation of the world.
There are different levels: The prophets dream— “in a dream will I speak to him.”
The poets dream while awake. The great thinkers dream of the rectification of the world. And we dream, all of us, of when “Hashem will restore the return to Zion.”
The great love that I have for my nation does not blind me from seeing all its flaws. But I find its essence—even after the most unrestrained scrutiny—to be clean of any flaw. “You are entirely beautiful, my beloved, you are without blemish” (Shir Hashirim).
The most extreme Jewish heretic is more of a believer than the greatest believer among non-Jews.
selections from Malachim Kivnei Adam
SHOOT THE MURDERERS
by Raabbi Moshe Tzi Neria
During the 1929 Arab pogroms in Hebron and Jerusalem, on Shabbos, the eighteenth of Av, Rav Kook contacted John Lock, the head secretary (who, because the highest British official was outside the country, was in charge) and demanded that he take strong measures against the rioting Arabs. “The Mandate government,” said Rav Kook, “has accepted upon itself the responsibility for order and security of life in the land, and it must fulfill its responsibility.”
The chief secretary excused himself that it wasn’t clear to him what should be done. Rav Kook replied, “You must give orders to shoot the murderers!”
The chief secretary replied, “I don’t have such orders from my superiors.”
“What?” replied Rav Kook sharply. “To save innocent citizens from the attacks of murders you need orders from your superiors? I give you the order. In the name of human conscience, I demand that you fulfill your obligation and defend the lives of the Jewish citizens in our land.”
Sometime later, Rav Kook was invited to a welcoming reception given at which John Lock was shaking the hands of all the guests. When he extended his hand to Rav Kook, Rav Kook didn’t take it but replied in an emotional, forceful voice, “I am not prepared to shake the hand that is responsible for the spilling of blood!”
Likutei Harayah, pp. 256-57
THE GOOD TREASURE
Our temporal existence is one spark of the eternal existence of the beauty of everlasting eternities.
The good treasure that is hidden in the content of temporal life can only be brought into being to the extent that it parallels eternal life.
An inner awareness of this permeates the spirit of all existence.
Not all the spiritual wars will succeed in shifting this [awareness] from its place. Instead, to the very greatest extent, [these wars will] clear the paths before [this awareness].
Even that which opposes [this awareness] also, in the depth of truth, supports it.
“I AM THE SOUL OF REB NACHMAN”
by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah
In regard to the influence of Hasidism on Rav Kook, the author and thinker R. Hillel Zeitlin, writes, “It is clear to me that Rav Kook based himself not only on the works of Chabad but also on the Kedushas Levi, the writings of R. Mordechai Yosef of Izbitz and his son (Mei Hashiloach and Beis Yaacov) and the works of the Cohen of Lublin—but most of all, on Likutei Moharan, and the other works of the great seer of Breslov” (R. Hillel Zeitlin, Hatzofeh, eve of Rosh Hashanah 5699).
And we have added testimony regarding Rav Kook’s connection with Breslov Hasidism from R. Yisrael Porat: “According to what [Rav Kook] told me personally...his heart was drawn to the ways of service of Hasidism, and in particular he was devoted to the mysterious teachings of R. Nachman of Breslov. He read and reviewed his works and talks a great deal, and studied his ideas” (R. Yisrael Porat).
I was told by Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz of Meron that he had heard from R. Meir Anshin, an elder Breslover who had lived for a while in Jaffa, where he would often visit the home of Rav Kook, that R. Nosson of Nemirov’s Likutei Tefilos (based on the teachings of Likutei Moharan) was on the shelf of R. Kook’s prayer stand, and he would occasionally look into it.
And a Breslover of Jerusalem, R. Yechiel Greenwald, told me that Rav Kook once said: “Ani nishmas Rebbe Nachman” (“I am the soul of R. Nachman”).
Chayei Harayah, pp. 171-72
THE DISTANT ISLES
When [righteous people] are connected with the activities of a normal life, they draw a light of supernal life into these this-worldly matters, and sanctify them for the entire world—and, how much more, for themselves. Similarly, they raise the worth of all minor things to a state that is elevated, great and uplifted.
When these righteous people—people who are constantly in the presence of the bond of supernal life and upon whom the blissful light of God’s holiness shines constantly—descend and engage in simple speech, this-worldly words, they know and recognize how the elevated stature of a completely holy life permeates everything hidden there. And from there, they unveil this light and bring it—with knowledge and mindfulness, and with the might of the life within souls—to a supernal place where holy life shines openly, revealed and not hidden, with an unmistakable, sparkling radiance.
When such people descend and look at the world with a superficial glance, when they turn to study this-worldly fields of knowledge— as well as bizarre matters, such as sorcery and strange, unclean faiths—from everything they draw the rays of His light and the scattered sparks of the holy life. From it all, they make crowns of grace with which to fill the light of life entirely, with which to fill the glory of supernal holiness from all sides.
How great this service is. So much deep knowledge, elevated understanding, goodness of heart and love of truth for all creatures, and light of a holy fire that is a thirsty yearning for closeness to the true God (a natural tendency toward taking pleasure in God throughout the entire fulness of one’s soul)—all these, and more, fill the heart of these princes of holiness, who know how to stand in the breach, to erect a fence and extend their awareness to the distances, to proclaim the praises of God to the ends of the earth, to the distant isles, and to sanctify the holy of holiness and beautify the beauty of the Life of worlds.
THE CONSTANT ANTICIPATION OF THE GREAT OF SOUL
It is necessary to develop that which is closed and hidden. The hidden light must send forth the rays of its light in order to bring life to those who are lowly in spirit.
It is impossible to remain in the terrible constricted state in which the world finds itself. However, not even the most supernal longings may skip any level. [They must go through everything, for] everything must be enhanced through them and by them.
When we wish to rectify everything, when we wish to improve the soul of all existence, to refine the very highest of the high, then we must rectify all human qualities. We must perfect the life of the individual and the life of the community, using the appropriate means.
A straight mind, Torah, the light of divine manifestation, the vision within holiness, the purity of the Holy of Holies, the emanated image (drawing sustenance from the very primal heavens): all these will help to perfect and rectify, to scatter the darkening clouds, to circumcise the foreskin of every heart and all flesh, to broaden the boundary of knowledge and intelligence, to free the spirit from all chains of foolishness and evil, to lift everything small and lowly by means of idea and desire, by means of awareness and natural tendency, to the height of abundance of what is great and high, to the heights that transcend every name and label, to a total elevation in the presence of whose brilliance all radiance and all brilliance are dulled.
For every most supernal goal, we must use all means and combine all paths, matching them to each other so that every path will add to the other might and life: expertise and craft, power and strength, song and beauty, prayer and Torah, talent for business and Godly service and true strength, love and full kindness, and the force of a spirit filled with strength, clarity of mind and a broad, rich, analytical power and a simple heart—with supernal faith, with a treasury of force and vigor, in the treasury of goodness and its source and the elevated aspect of all being.
All labels, all sparks, everything integrated and everything in order, everything individually emphasized and everything in harmony, everything in vision and in potential, and everything in actuality and true sovereignty, in the full understanding of existence and being, everything together: the Almighty unites them together.
This, and more than this, is the constant anticipation of the great of soul.
Arpelei Tohar, pp. 3-4
Holy people are ceaselessly connected to union with God. They cannot at all imagine for themselves a life absent of this pleasure of clinging to the Divine.
But every human thought has mixed into it a great deal of delusory imagination, and this is accompanied by a multitude of evil traits that spread like branches emerging from a small root, or like a profusion of plant-life from one seed.
Therefore, these people must clarify their clinging to the Divine by learning Torah and performing God’s commandments, so that it will be entirely clear and holy.
Orot Hakodesh IV, p. 459
IN ALIGNMENT WITH SPIRITUAL REALITY
We must put ourselves in alignment with physical nature and its forces. We must learn its ways and actions, which derive from the general principles governing the world—a world of which we ourselves are a part. And these principles govern within ourselves just as they do outside us.
In the same way, and even more so, we must—we are forced to—put ourselves in alignment with the rules of spiritual nature. These rules govern the entirety of nature even more [than do the physical rules]. [Reality] is a part of [that spiritual nature,] whose principles rule within it even more [than do the physical principles].
The alpha and omega of this alignment is the supernal core of clinging to the Divine in all our ways and all our actions, all our feelings and all our thoughts. Every alignment with spiritual reality—which encompasses everything—flows forth from [that core], and returns to it.
“God, You have been our dwelling-place in every generation. Before the mountains were born, before You made the earth and land, You have always been God. You bring a person down, and then say, ‘Return, humanity!’” (Tehillim 90:1-2).
Orot Hakodesh IV, p. 440
TO CLING TO GOD
To cling to God is a person’s most natural desire. Human beings have something developed within themselves, in an intellectual and emotional form, that exists in the entirety of all creation in a mute and silent form, a potential form.
And as for Israel: the nature of this people takes this desire as the basis of its national life, congruent with its historical fate.
A desire to cling completely to the living God, to the light of the Infinite Being, is something whose substitute can never be found in natural being. Just as we must live, just as we must eat and grow, so must we cling to God.
Clinging to God—this thing that is demanded of us in the entire fullness of our soul—must continuously develop within us, continuously grow ever more profound in feeling, ever more clear in recognition and understanding.
There is no way that humanity—or, for that matter, the entirety of existence—can live without the stream of desire to cling to the Divine. [This desire] lives constantly within [everything] in a hidden and concealed manner.
The childhood of humanity, the days when darkness lay thick and corporeal, placed into the world the foundations of a type of life that has preventing clinging to the Divine from emerging in its entire fullness.
It is impossible to imagine the pain of the universal, encompassing Soul, and the inner soul-pain of every living being and every human being, due to this spiritual oppression, to the blockage of goodness hidden within it, [a goodness] that shines so much and refines so much, that quickens a life of expansiveness, a life of eternity, a life of great stature and might. It must have this life. [This life] is the essence of its nature and meaning.
Orot Hakodesh IV, p. 439
All teachings, rulings, thoughts, ethics, impressions, structures, civilities, wisdoms, songs, wills, springings of life, movements of being (its progression, its grasp of the nature of being): are none other than treasures filled with a happiness that [God’s] Will, which transcends everything, shall for our sake—in the might of its power and in the splendor of its victory in the foundation of its glory and in the height of the desire for the glory of its sovereignty—be revealed and seen in [all things], fully shining.
From the lowest movement, matters continue in their ordered way, without cease, to the supernal heights.
Political community; individual life, desires, worries, the lowest needs of existence, the desire to uplift all (the entire nation, the entire world, all being, all souls, all senses, all proclivities), to unite all worlds, to conquer death, to enrich the life of lives from the heights of its source—all these desires, and everything higher than they, without any separation or polarity, are established in the soul of the totality, in the form of the Congregation of Israel, in the visage of Yaacov.
And every differentiation within these levels between supernal and low, between individual and general—each becomes a basis to the other. And that which is superior becomes [the other’s] inner being, soul, and light.
TORAH SCHOLARS WHO ARE HEALTHY
In order to conquer lawlessness and destructive atheism, we must educate Torah scholars who are healthy physically and in all psychological and spiritual areas. They must be properly educated to have an acute recognition of the pleasurable feelings that come from involvement with the transcendent within the beauty of song and poetry, as well as from [involvement with] the glory of nature and the beauty evident in the creations of man.
“A beautiful house, a beautiful wife and beautiful utensils—these expand a person’s mind.”
Orot Ha’emunah, p. 17
A BOOK OF TEACHINGS
It seems that we can only fulfill our obligations regarding the “duties of the heart”—[e.g., faith, love of God, and so forth]—by composing a book of teachings relevant to ourselves on the subject. This is [certainly] so in regard to particulars. But when we create our own insights, we can even understand the general principles better.
If a person is already at this stage of consciousness where he can construct structures of thought in his mind, he can achieve self-perfection only if he applies his mind to this.
Musar Avichah, Introduction
“The essence of learning—that which causes an impression on a person—is the learning that comes as a result of writing” (Maharsha on Bava Batra 10b).
IF YOU DESIRE
If you desire, human being, look at the light of God’s Presence in everything.
Look at the Eden of spiritual life, at how it blazes into each corner and crevice of life, spiritual and of this world, right before your eyes of flesh and your eyes of soul.
Gaze at the wonders of creation, at their divine life—not like some dim phenomenon that is placed before your eyes from afar.
But know the reality in which you live.
Know yourself and your world.
Know the thoughts of your heart, and of all who speak and think.
Find the source of life inside you, higher than you, around you. [Find] the beautiful ones alive in this generation in whose midst you are immersed.
The love within you: lift it up to its mighty root, to its beauty of Eden.
Send it spreading out to the entire flood of the soul of the Life of worlds, Whose light is reduced only by incapable human expression.
Gaze at the lights, at what they contain.
Do not let the Names, phrases and letters swallow up your soul.
They have been given over to you.
You have not been given over to them.
Rise up, for you have the power.
You have wings of the spirit, wings of powerful eagles.
Do not deny them, or they will deny you.
Seek them, and you will find them instantly.
Orot Hakodesh I, pp. 83-84
When supernal holiness rests upon an individual and upon the community, it places them upon the level of the supernal Will that manifests within all being.
And thus it also causes the primal light that vivifies that holy and elevated Will to shine within them.
Then one’s specific will is not constricted and darkened, closed within the straits of an awareness and desire determined by the constricted conditions of existence.
Instead, it bursts upward, and it shines ever more strongly, beyond understanding.
It unites with the very innermost being of Supernal Pleasantness, [also known as] Divine Freshness, in all its fullness and goodness, which descends to all existence with its stream of light.
When one’s will rises to these supernal heights, it renews the entire mold of existence in an elevated state.
The laws of life, the laws of heaven and earth, shine with that supernal light: a light of greatness; a light of the manifestation of life in all existence in a supernal form, in a broad and full form; a light of the Light of universes, the Source of true life.
Arpelei Tohar, pp. 2-3
THE DIVIDED SOUL
When the soul was created as a joined double form [as were Adam and Eve], it did not have the capacity for the perspective of this world. Only after the soul divided did it gain this ability.
There are souls of elevated tzaddikim that have not yet been completely divided. These tzaddikim can only gaze with depth, and with an understanding that transcends by far all the structures of finite reality.
But out of their desire to help everyone, they undergo the process of being divided. As a result, the power of this-worldly understanding broadens within them. And then they return to their elevated state, equipped with a great this-worldly teaching, with an understanding of a broad and complete service.
Then they connect to the realm of the “pleasantness of God” through a clear lens, a lens that directs the entirety of this-worldly reality. They are like Moshe, whom God knew “face to face,” [and by whose name tzaddikim are praised with the words,] “Moshe, you have spoken well” (Shabbat 101b).
Arpelei Tohar, pp. 100-01
THE GOOD TREASURE
Everything that is said about the greatness of man as well as everything that is said about his insignificance is true. If he is worthy, he takes precedence over Creation. If he is unworthy, a flea is more important than he.
Thus, we must always use these opposite points of view for the good.
When it comes to divine, supernal teachings, when it comes to pouring forth our spirit for the sake of glorious and elevated ideals, we must draw power from the perspective of our greatness: of how man is the central point of the most primal creations, of how all acts of creation are included within him. When man rises, everything rises; when he falls, everything falls.
But when it comes to concerted action and societal endeavors (communal or private) within the secular sphere, then “Go to the ant, lazy one; look at her paths and grow wise.” We must then make use of the perspective that “a flea is more important than you.”
Arpelei Tohar, p. 100
by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah
As a result of Rav Kook’s connection to the teachings of Breslov and his close relations with Breslovers, when his only son, R. Tzvi Yehudah, went to learn from R. Epstein in Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Jerusalem, the Breslover Hasidim of Jerusalem befriended him and tried to draw him into their circle and way of service (hisbodedus meditation, midnight tikun chatzos, immersion in the mikveh, and so forth). R. Tzvi Yehudah decided to ask his father for guidance, and his father’s response was not long in coming. This response contained a certain measure of reserve (for that which is fit for adults is not appropriate for youngsters who are still maturing). And here is part of his reply.
“The inner quality of this man, [R. Nachman,] requires great study. For this, however, one needs a healthy heart and a healthy spirit, a path of good hygiene (both psychological and physical) and a fitting and straight connection to other studies—both those that support and those that disagree with [Breslov’s] points of view. In that way, matters will be properly illuminated.”
Despite this expression of reserve and the [expressed] need for an appropriate critical approach, Rav Kook had great appreciation for R. Nachman’s person and the teachings of Breslov.
When Yeshiva Chasidei Breslov was founded in Jerusalem, Rav Kook sent a letter (dated Thursday, Adar I 5692) of congratulations to the rabbis “who founded a yeshiva in which will be learned, together with other topics of Torah and piety, the wondrous works of the rabbi, the holy gaon, unique in his uplifted thoughts, Moharan of Breslov.”
Chayei Harayah, pp. 171-72
TO TEACH THE SONS OF YEHUDAH
by Prof. Chaim Lifschutz
Following the Hebron pogrom in 5689, Rav Kook learned from one of his students (R. Khad Sovol) that a religious division of the Haganah was being organized, which would not train on the Sabbath (as the Haganah did).
Rav Kook supported this and said that the time had indeed come “to teach the sons of Yehudah to use the bow.” At that time, many of his students joined the ranks of the Haganah.
Shivchei Harayah, p. 236
THE STONES OF ACCO
by Prof. Haim Lifschitz
Once, when a Hasidic rebbe came to the Holy Land, Rav Kook asked him the purpose of his visit.
The rebbe replied, “It is my custom to prostrate myself at the grave sites of my holy forefathers every year. But now, since the Bolsheviks have taken over Russia, I can no longer do so. And so I have come here in order to prostrate myself at the grave sites of the tzaddikim in the Holy Land.”
Rav Kook told him, “In the land of Israel, every piece of land has holiness, and one can prostrate oneself there. As the Gemara says, ‘R. Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco’ (Ketubot 112a).’”
Shivchei Harayah, p. 232
THE DENIAL OF IDOLATRY
It does not suffice to hate idolatry, to despise and loathe it, to seek its destruction, annihilation and extermination.
It is necessary to deny it, to believe that it is a nothing, an emptiness, a nullity and negativity of being, totally vacuous. Only because it has smashed forth to appear like something that exists and has being is it revealed—in its disgusting nature, its ugliness, its pollution and stench, and every evil blemish, every evil name and shameful name that it possesses.
The depth of true Judaism is of a piece with the denial of idolatry, which rises ever higher and makes profound the intimate connection between the holiness of Judaism and its hatred and despising [of idolatry],with every distancing, loathing and abhorrence of [idolatry,] that entire alien nature, which issues forth like the flow of “a ritually unclean woman, who is told, ‘Leave’” (Talmud).
All of this depends upon the depth of rejection of idolatry. “Whoever denies idolatry is called a Jew.”
Orot Ha’emunah, p. 5
If something has a touch of idolatry, we may know that, although it may have a quality of physical or even spiritual beauty, this comes only from its superficial aspect. But within it lies the venom of a profound destructiveness.
If a person is bonded with a link to such a worthless faith, the site of his linkage lies within the innermost being of its content—the very thing that pours forth inner evil. This is because all idolatry is repulsed from the source of life and goodness, the source of living waters, and instead hews broken cisterns that will not hold water.
CONCERNED FOR THE UNIVERSAL
Everything to which we are accustomed in regard to Torah outside the Holy Land relates to the particular. But the worth of the Torah of the land of Israel ascends to universality.
Outside the land, the Torah works on rectifying the individual spirit. It is concerned for an individual’s physicality and spirituality, his purification and elevation, in this temporary life and in the eternal life—only within the framework of that individual spirit.
How different is the Torah of the Land of Israel! It is always concerned for the universal, for the totality of the soul of the entire nation.
The individual details enter within her inclusiveness. They rise when she rises; they are crowned when she is crowned: “a crown of beauty to those borne from the belly, who will in the future be renewed like her and praise their Maker for the name of the glory of His kingdom.”
And also, the elevation from the individual to the universal that takes place across the entire breadth of Torah—in particular, regarding the breadth of the concepts of faith and true fear of heaven— is an uplifted and elevated innovation of the Torah of the land of Israel.
Orot Hatorah 13:3
Everything in Torah must be preceded by a natural civility.
If it is something upon which intellect and natural conscience agree, it must pass on a straight path with the inclination of the heart and the approval of the will deep within us. Just as we [can learn about] thievery, adultery and modesty from the ant, the dove and the cat, how much more [can we learn from] our inner recognition and spiritual sense.
If it is something that transcends intellect and heart-felt inclination, it too must pass through the path of the conduit of natural civility, in regard to the connection between every detail and total inclusiveness, so that [it is an integrated unity, like] “a good deed that draws another after it.”
Also, the fact that a sense of justice based on sensory factors is connected to Torah with the supernal, divine will as it is revealed within the light of Torah; and the fact that we are bound to the totality of the [Jewish] people throughout its generations (as it is connected in the paths of its life with the holy conception): all these are paths of natural civility.
And these paths prepare us for illuminations that are more inward than the paths themselves, which will shine with a glowing, radiating clarity.
Orot Hatorah 12:3
A SURGE OF SPIRITUAL POWER
Observing the Torah must result from a surge of spiritual power within the depth of the holiness of the soul, as it pours forth its flow of life (onto the activities of each individual and of the entire community) with a sudden outpour—and not by slow growth and linking parts together “command to command, line to line” (Isaiah).
Then, that which is distant [from us] draws a sustenance of life that is appropriate for itself just as that which is near [us] does. And the foundations of the Torah, including its details, decrees, enactments, customs, righteous rulings, positive articles of faith and the ramifications of all of these, all together beat with the steady pulse of their life, as one.
This is not how matters proceed when there is smallness of faith. Smallness of faith comes from a contraction of logical impoverishment, when the intellect must toil before it can find a link between the essential thing that the heart does understand (to the extent that it can) and the distant branching of individual paths. And it constantly stumbles and blunders in the paths of life. This limited intellect, with all its calculations, cannot illuminate our way. This broken vessel cannot draw forth water from the flowing and living spring of the light of God that is found in His world and in His Torah, whose strength is not withheld.
So now the light of teshuvah goes forth, clearing a path for the nation. It powerfully proclaims a return to God so that we will hear His voice, walk in His ways and cling to Him. Only with this mighty strength will the nation live and survive.
Then our normal intelligence, with all its ability, will be a fine servant, one that can help—to some degree—the spirit of life pulsing within the fulness of the soul, in regard to the form and shape of some specific matters. But the foundation of everything, the wellspring of life, is the spirit of God within the heart, living within the innermost part of the soul and filled with might and strength, assuring that “He will not be still until He shall establish and make Jerusalem the object of praise upon the earth.”
Orot Hatorah 11:3
I AM WITH THE OPPRESSED
The Torah brings the spiritual world down to us. With this, all supernal pleasures are open to us. This is our happiness. It is the purpose for which we were created.
In order to bring the spiritual world down to us, we must feel our need. “I,” says God, “am with the oppressed.”
The Holy One, blessed be He, carved out all the mountains and hills of the world. But He rested His Presence on Mt. Sinai, a mountain that does not vault upward.
Orot Hatorah 11:4
THE PATHS OF THE MYSTERIES
There are people great in Torah [learning], fear of heaven and wisdom, to whom matters relating to the secrets of the Torah have no relevance, because they are on that great level and possess a breadth of resources with which to occupy their spirit in the treasures of revealed Torah and wisdom.
If you instead sense within yourself an inner sensitivity to the paths of mysteries and a pressure of the yearning of your soul, do not be dismayed. Even if it grows clear that you have this desire because your ability in revealed matters is minimal, what of it? This is, in the end, the gift of your inheritance. Rejoice in your portion, for “Hashem is close to all who call to Him”—who call to him truly and whole-heartedly. And “He does not favor the wealthy in relationship to the poor” (Iyov 34:19).
Orot Hatorah 10:4
To the degree that we gain clarity in [our understanding of] Jewish laws as we perform them and cause them to shine, we gain joy from them.
[If we] lack clarity, if we do not possess a clear knowledge that clings to our soul, then we will associate adhering to Torah law precisely and in accordance with all its details with a feeling of heaviness. This can lead to a trembling weakness that will [ultimately] result in disgust with the Torah (heaven forbid).
If we possess a broad mindfulness, we will not find the [Torah’s] precision—a precision of breadth—to be in the least oppressive. To the contrary, [we will see that] this precision is a consequence of perfection—just as the precision of grammar indicates the perfection of people’s speech.
The value of the elevated nature of the conceptual [world] and purity of the innermost foundation of true Torah corresponds to a great precision whose details, which are expressed in action—like branches extending from their root—are many and broad. A person of understanding and perception takes these all in with one broad glance.
If that precision in action is lacking, then a clear image of the elevated nature of the value of the divine Torah, the elevated nature of its rules and laws, and the preciousness of their worth will totter.
Then the loss that will in consequence affect the entire spiritual burden borne by the soul of all Judaism for humanity in general and for Israel in particular is beyond measure.
Therefore, we have the great responsibility that, when we clarify halachah, to learn Torah for its own sake: [seeing to it that what we learn will be as free from imprecision] as a garment is bleached [of stains]. Then learning the precise details (in their breadth) will be the outcome of the pleasure in understanding a supernal concept and its joyful state.
This is one way—it is a glorious way—to learn Torah for its own sake. It is one of the forty-eight paths by which the Torah is acquired: in joy and purity. An inner knowledge of clear understanding certainly leads to the strengthening of this path.
Orot Hatorah 9:4
THE WEAPON OF THE AGE
I come to rouse you and all the young people who seek encouragement in [leading a] spiritual life—a life that is truly made honorable and perfected (with the help of God)—regarding the topic of literary expertise.
We have the obligation to acquire literary ability, a style that is alive in all its hues: prosaic and poetic. If there is a person among us who feels in his spirit a talent for song and poetry, he should not ignore that talent. There should be training, training that will teach the children of Judah to use this bow (cf. Shmuel II 1:18).
Ultimately, my teaching (to myself and to others) is that the measure of peace and kindness must take precedence within our souls and abilities. Nevertheless, we must arm ourselves in the divine war against Amalek, who is both within us and outside of us. And we have the obligation to prepare the weapon of the age: the pen. We must translate into a modern style the entirety of our holy treasure, the treasure of the opinions and feelings of almost the entire Torah, in order to bring them close to the people of our generation.
as told to Chaim Lipschitz by R. Shmuel Hacohen Kook
One time Rav Kook went for a walk with his brother, R. Shmuel. They sat down to rest under a non-fruit-bearing tree, and R. Shmuel plucked a leaf.
Rav Kook was taken aback and told him, “What did you do? Everything planted in the ground has value. What is planted today gives life to the earth. We have the four species that we take on Succos--chag ha’asif, the harvest festival. They represent the gifts of the earth. And the reason that one of them is a willow is to teach us that even a non-fruit-bearing tree has value.”