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Rav Kook's Journals
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The Exodus Never Ceases
The exodus from Egypt only appears to be a past event. But in truth, the exodus never ceases.
The arm of God that was revealed in Egypt to redeem the Jews is constantly outstretched, constantly active.
The revelation of the hand of God is the breaking through of the light of God, shining great lights for all generations.
Moadei Harayah, p. 292
Sometimes we rigidly cling to a state of consciousness or point of view that keep us stuck in wrongness—whether wrong acts or wrong viewpoints. And that has become our norm.
This rigidity is an illness that comes from having being immersed in a terrible slave mentality, a mentality that does not allow the liberating light of teshuvah to illumine, with its awesome strength.
Teshuvah yearns for real, true freedom. That is divine freedom, which has nothing to do with slavery.
Orot Hateshuvah, p. 42
We Yearn to Be Filled with Greatness
Our constant goal is not only to be redeemed from Egypt, not only to be healed from wounds and delivered from disease, not only to come forth from the bonds of poverty and the darkness of blindness.
We yearn to be filled with greatness: with the great wealth of the soul. We thirst for a fresh life, filled with brilliance.
And we come to the land of Israel. We hope for redemption, we pine for a redemption of the soul, so that the unveiling will be total, so that rays of eternal life will stream from the source of the holy of holies, from the source of the love of pleasure of the eternal Rock, who illumines the lovely land for us with beams of glory.
Moadei Harayah, p. 292
The Uplifting Never Ceases
“I am Hashem your God, Who raises you from the land of Egypt.”
Not only are we taken out, but we are also raised. And that uplifting never ceases.
There is no limit to the uplifting, and no end to the exalted yearning.
Moadei Harayah, p. 292
Elijah the Prophet
Elijah the prophet comes to proclaim peace: including peace between the holy within nature and the holy that transcends nature.
In the inner soul of the nation, a life-stream of nature breaks forth and flows toward the holy.
We all are approaching nature, even as it comes toward us. It is subjugated to our exalted desires—desires that come from the source of holiness.
In the essence of the depth of nature, a great call grows for holiness and purity, for refinement of the spirit and purification of life.
The youthful spirit that demands its land, its language, its freedom and honor, its literature and power, flows in the stream of nature. But its substance is filled with the fire of holiness.
Moadei Harayah, p. 318
The Supernal Purpose of Man
Opposed to the degradation of the spirit of slavery, which degrades all ethical feelings, remembering the exodus from Egypt, in which God brought us out with a strong hand from slavery to freedom, lifts up our refined, exalted feelings, which guide us to the supernal purpose of man in the world.
Moadei Harayah, p. 289
Any Force That Suppresses Our Worth
There are two conditions for redemption.
One is physical freedom from all outside subjugation, from all subjugation that oppresses the image of God within us, from all subjugation to any force that suppresses our worth.
The other is the freedom of the soul, the freedom of the spirit, from whatever takes it away from its true and strong path.
True freedom is that elevated spirit that lifts the individual and the entire nation to be faithful to the inner core, to the image of God within.
What was the purpose of sending the signs and wonders “against Pharaoh and all his servants” (Tehillim 135:9)?
Pharaoh was the king of Egypt, compared to a great serpent, a self-declared god who stated, “The Nile is mine, for I have created it.” His servants constituted a nation of physicality, a nation “whose flesh is the flesh of horses” (Ezek.).
The signs and wonders inform all generations that the foreskin of the heart of man—whether its cause is a purposeful wickedness that stems from ego, or a closed heart and wildness that stem from ignorance—will not obstruct the divine light, will not impede its appearance in the world.
Recalling the exodus from Egypt lifts the Jewish soul and sanctifies it in its own holy light.
The remembrance of the great light of the exodus from Egypt—the appearance of the miracles and wonders which are the nucleus of the coming forth of the wondrous, divine nation in its wondrous birth—itself presses its seal, the seal of holiness, into the midst of every one of us and into the depth of our heart.
The Springtime of the Entire World
The exodus from Egypt will eternally remain the springtime of the entire world.
If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought our forefathers out of Egypt to eternal freedom—that is, to the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai—the entire world and the entire path of human life would have remained frozen, without the ability to change.
"Today you are leaving, in the month of spring.”
This day is unique in its spiritual nature, prepared for the exodus of Israel from Egypt, in the season of spring, when blossoming and life are renewed in all of nature.
The effect of this exodus is one that penetrates all of existence and nature, and transcends nature.
The intent of the pollution of Egypt was to obstruct the flow of life of the divine light, so that it would never shine. It was necessary to lay a road for the illumination of the light of a life of holiness and to open the gate until its full illumination would rectify the world.
The basis of the exodus from Egypt was to battle the pollution of Egypt—the gross nature of life that immerses us into the depths of secular existence—and to transform the great power within such a secular, gross life into the power of a life that is sublime and magnificent in its holiness.
Moadei Harayah, pp. 287-89
Experience That Greatness Now
We must immediately grasp the measure of the great light that constantly causes the light of redemption to penetrate us— even as it only begins with a meager appearance.
We are summoned from the depths of our soul to experience that greatness even now—even if it sends forth only the slightest rays of light.
Moadei Harayah, pp. 387-8
Broad and Elevated Thoughts
If, by your nature, your thoughts are broad and elevated in their supernal purity, do not lower yourself and limit your spirit within mediocre thoughts, even if they are good and honorable in essence.
Arpelei Torah, p. 53
They Shall Not Be Untrue
There are matters that are good and holy, which are sustained by ugly causes. For instance, weakness, falsehood and wickedness at times support the good basis of shame, modesty, faith, and the like.
“To the righteous, the good deeds of the wicked are evil.” Similarly, the goodness that something good and holy receives from something evil and unclean causes great evils.
The light of redemption reaches actuality only when all evil foundations—even those that strengthen the good and holy—are destroyed. This causes pain to goodness, holy and faith. It causes them to descend and appear impoverished. But in truth, that impoverishment and descent are ascent and improvement.
After the evil foundations disintegrate, the light of purity and holiness immediately begins to blossom upon healthy foundations of knowledge, wisdom, might, harmony, eternity and glory.
And with this, the eternal kingship is established in the light of God and His goodness, in the end of days, with the faithful love of David, an eternal covenant that shall never prove false.
“And He said: ‘Indeed, they are My people, children who shall not be untrue’; and He will be their savior. In all their suffering, He suffers, and the angel of His countenance has saved them. He has redeemed them in His love and mercy. And He took them and raised them all the days of the world” (Isaiah 63:8-9).
Arpelei Torah, pp. 108-09
From When Do We Read Sh’ma in the Evening?
“From when do we read Sh’ma in the evening? From the time that the cohanim enter to eat their terumah” (Berachot 2a).
The reading of Sh’ma in the evening and the morning signifies two types of calling out in God’s name that are incumbent upon the Jewish people. We must accept upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven; our proclamation that the name of Hashem is one must ultimately cause all inhabitants of the world to recognize and know that Hashem, the God of Israel, is King, and that His kingdom extends over all. However, during our exile, which is comparable to evening, our main activity is to influence ourselves, to fortify ourselves in the name of Hashem, in order to stand against the waves that roll over us.
Therefore, at night, “whoever does not conclude the evening Sh’ma with the words ‘true and faithful’ has not fulfilled his obligation” (Berachot 12a). Night is a time of faith. For us, it is enough to have faith, to receive the truth from our forefathers, who saw the light of God and His glory eye to eye.
However, in the time of the redemption, the might of Israel shall be exalted. That will be the time of reading Sh’ma in the morning—at that time, Sh’ma is introduced by the words “with great love.” At that time, all the nations will proclaim the light of Israel to be an eternal light. Then, all those aspects of the Torah that had been hidden will become revealed (Pesachim 3a). In order to draw close those who are distant, it is fitting to clarify the words of truth and to translate the matter in accordance with the superficial understanding of the nations. Therefore, the morning Sh’ma concludes with the words “emet veyatziv”—emet is “truth” in Hebrew, and “yatziv” is “established” in Aramaic.
The people of Israel are the priests of God in this world. In regard to their involvement with inner matters amongst themselves, they have nothing to do with outsiders.
When the cohanim teach Torah or even when they offer sacrifices, they have a connection with outsiders. They may be our agents or God’s agents (Yoma 19a), but they rate, at any rate, agents. However, when they enter to eat the priestly portion of terumah, they enter a cohanic sphere, where it is forbidden to be in partnership with an outsider. An outsider has no part in that food at all, and it is necessary to be separate.
Similarly, the time of the evening Sh’ma causes Israel to be a separate nation, so that it may guard its holy acquisitions: an eternal life with God in its midst.
Thus there is a connection between reading Sh’ma in the evening and the time that the cohanim enter to eat their terumah.
A Nation Born in an Instant
The concept of matzah is characterized by the themes of bread of poverty and hasty departure.
At the core, the hasty exodus was at the initiative of God. It was meant to raise the level of Israel—not in accordance with gradual development, which every other nation experiences as (in a natural progression) its physical and spiritual levels proceed slowly—but rather that the great forces that were asleep in the spirit of the Jewish nation the entire time it was in Egypt, oppressed by poverty and degradation both physical and moral, burst suddenly forth from potential to actual, until the people of Israel were transformed from lowly slaves into a cultured nation with a divine culture, rich and lofty, a holy nation fit for the most elevated guidance, the greatest light: that of the true Torah.
Then behold, a nation was born in an instant. The hand of God accomplished this in order to establish Israel as a nation before Him with His strong hand.
Therefore, the essence of its structure is that its national being may not be adulterated by any cultural form, that all the spiritual acquisitions of a national nature that the Jews witnessed in Egypt did not touch them at all. They pulled away from the little that clung to their hand of Egyptian idolatry before they sacrificed the paschal lamb, to the point that they were divested of any national form. Then it was possible for the impression of the divine form to rest upon them, in a manner that would set the foundation of the structure of the nation in its entirety. “Hashem alone has established him, and there is no strange god with him.”
If not for the fact that Israel is a nation that can only develop in accordance with the divine planting, to which no other form can be grafted, there would have been no need whatsoever for that haste. Instead, the Jews would have developed bit by bit, higher and higher, from the midst of the Egyptian culture to a superior culture, until they would have been prepared to receive the Torah.
However, since every other culture impedes the ability of the holiness of the Torah and the divine form unique to Israel from resting upon it, the nation of Israel was never qualified for gradual growth. And therefore, the haste was imperative.
Thus, the symbol of the Jewish people is matzah, which lacks the form of any taste; yet which, when it reaches its fullness and goodness, is filled with the taste of many meanings.
Therefore, this separation from the generality of nations that lies within the exodus, this burgeoning independence, brought about the matzah, the withholding of gradualism, the nullification of the admixture of alien powers.
“Hashem is our king, Hashem is our lawgiver, and He shall redeem us.”
Olat Harayah, p. 287
Rabbi Chiya said: “A person who wishes to see Miriam’s well should go to the top of the Carmel [Mountain] and gaze, and he will see something like a sieve in the sea. This is the well of Miriam” (Shabbos 35).
(Rashi: This well accompanied Israel in the desert in the merit of Miriam.)
The generation of the desert contained within itself the spiritual power of Israel in all its particulars, to the end of all generations. “The kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal state, your following Me in the desert” (Jeremiah 2:2). [The word for “bridal state” can be interpreted as “totality.”] The foundation of supernal life that flows from the depth of Torah—[this life] is hidden in the Great Sea, the Sea of Torah, which comes forth from the height of the Supernal Mind, the Source of wisdom and knowledge, may He be blessed.
The ability to draw from it and quench the thirst of every heart—so that every individual will sense and feel his intense connection to the holiness of Israel through the holiness of Hashem and the holy Torah—depends upon the power of good feeling in the emotional, pure heart. [This feeling] is placed in a human being’s limited heart, which changes with shifting circumstances. Nevertheless, this supernal, pure and sanctified feeling—by means of which the connection of Israel to their Rock and Redeemer and to the holy Torah is built—is great and mighty, without an end and limit.
The source of this pure feeling and the merit of receiving it from the generation of the desert (who also bequeath to us the Torah of the living God, “an inheritance for the congregation of Yaacov” (Devorim 33:4) is the merit of Miriam. Woman is liable to an extra measure of feeling. In accordance with the greatness of her divine status, she was suitable to establish in the people of Israel the foundation of Jewish feeling. This is not like any other feeling, whose source is the storminess of the heart that comes from seeing this fleeting present. Rather, its source and stance is the Great Sea, the Sea of Torah, the source of wisdom and truth, which has no end or limit.
In the days of [the prophet] Eliyahu, when the Jews had descended to the lowest level, what was it that influenced them to return, after seeing the miracle of [God’s] reply by fire, to re-accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and to cry out, “Hashem is God” (Melachim I 18:39), after they had descended so astonishingly and their heart had turned aside (Ibid., ibid. 37)? They had not yet arisen to the Supernal Mind, nor did the light of the Torah that they had abandoned for so long illuminate them in actuality.
However, the power of Jewish feeling, hidden in the heart, awoke. This was so even though it was not visible at a glance, even though it was swallowed up amongst a mass of various feelings. But it could be seen with the inner gaze.
[This feeling may] appear to have no firm stance. Just as [the heart] can be filled with feeling and arousal, so, it seems, can it be emptied out.
However, this is not the measure of the feeling of Jewish holiness, which brings the entire nation to cling to its Maker. In truth, it is connected to and clings to the depth of the Sea of Wisdom, so that all the spiritual treasure filled with all the strength and beauty in the world sustains and creates it. Even if the sight of something [in the world] causes [the heart] to empty out, [its waters] will immediately be filled by the power of the sea that surrounds it, by the power of ideas of truth and conceptions filled with knowledge beyond investigation.
Therefore, [the heart] is constantly full.
The vessel itself—the heat and storminess of the heart—does not have the grasp and lasting power of the idea and thought and their permanent connection. But “a person who wishes to see Miriam’s well”—[a person may wish to see that pure feeling] despite its similarity to some passing feeling, which is burdened by the commotion of other flitting feelings filling a person’s heart, which is like a sieve that, as soon as it is filled with water, empties it out.
[This person should go] to “the top of the Carmel [Mountain]”—to the top of the glorious achievement that is also the eternity of the echo of the call, “Hashem is God,” which came forth and still comes forth from tens of thousands, even when they are on the lowest, most degraded level, as the direct outcome of the holiness of their natural feeling. It may not be recognized because, with violent action, the Torah is abandoned and there is a commotion of the abandonment of the customary [difficult phrase]. But “he will gaze,” and recognize “something like a sieve.”
One may not trust [the heart’s] ability to hold water. Who would gather water in a sieve? But since it stands “in the sea,” its waters are assuredly within it. This feeling is not the offspring of ideas born to temporary sights, but a divine, eternal feeling (although revealed in a form of feeling and a matter of the heart). Since in its essence it flows from the sure source of the light of the entire world, of the entire sea of wisdom and the treasure house of the Torah and the knowledge of the true God, that is “the well of Miriam.” This is the power of its eternity, forever and ever.
Supernal holiness is a holiness of silence, a holiness of being, when we recognize ourselves, our own particular inner self, as nullified, and we live an all-inclusive life: a life of all. We feel the life of the inanimate, plant and animal, the life of the entire totality, of all humanity, of every individual, the life of every mind and every intelligence, everyone who strives and everyone who feels.
Then with us, existence, in its entirety, rises to its source. And the source is revealed continuously—upon itself and upon us—with great glory, in the splendor of holiness, in truth and tranquility. All happiness, all that is good and just, all strength and harmony, all might and power flow upon us. We are the light of the world, its foundation and the force of the drawing forth of its life. In our merit, the entire world is sustained. Yet in our own yes, we are entirely as nothing. We are not set aside, separate, apart. We are alive, and all of our life is a holy of holies, a life of life. The beating of our heart, the flow of our blood, the ideals of our spirit, our look and the gaze of our eyes: all of these are a life of truth, a life of divine might pouring into them and through them.
If this holiness of silence will cast itself down to a restricted serve—to prayer, Torah, the constriction of particular ethics and care—we will suffer and be oppressed, we will feel that a soul filled with all existence is being crushed in tongs, imprisoned and compressed in measurement, the designation of one specific road, at a time that all roads together are opened before us, all of them filled with light, all of them containing life.
The arrogance in the era preceding the messiah stems from an inner yearning for the holiness of supernal silence. In the end it will come, for in the future, Israel will rise yet higher than the ministering angels, who will ask: “What has God wrought? What is now being taught in the heavenly academy?”
The sons of the arrogant, of those who make breaches in the roads and fences, will in the future be prophets of the highest order, of the level of Moses and with the supernal radiance of Adam. The tree of life completely, in the full depth of its goodness, will be revealed in them and by them.
To bring this supernal light to the world, it is necessary to have the service of holy people filled with supernal love, who reveal in the meditation of their heart and sensitivity of their soul the treasury of goodness hidden in the most particular unique nature of the life-force of Israel. And it is also necessary to have a populace connected to the holiness of the forefathers, to the inheritance of the community of Jacob, yearning for the central point of its life with all its might, fearful and suffering regarding the destruction, recoiling from the breach of the fences, girding its strength to keep and guard every ruling written with faith and skill.
In life, there appear disputes between Torah scholars and different paths that contradict one another.
But the outpouring of light brings about its accomplishment in the chambers of the soul, of the soul of the nation in its great holiness. And the light of the messiah is increasingly revealed.
Arpelei Torah, pp. 16-17
An Elixir of Life and a Drug of Death
The concept of evolution of existence and of all beings both depresses and elevates our spirit. Within ourselves, an elixir of life and a drug of death are immersed together.
When we turn to the past, we see the degradation that had existed then. We also see that as we stand now—morally, intellectually, physiologically—we surpass that past. Then in one regard, our mind grows self-satisfied; our moral restraints grow feeble. Regarding our present moral level, we claim—when struck by the evil spirit of some desire—that it is beyond our measure: much more than can be expected of creatures like us, who come from an animalistic nature and a coarse wildness.
In contrast, the outlook of evolution relating to the future exalts and elevates us: literally, to such a moral height that it is right that we think of ourselves in accordance with our understanding of the greatness of humanity at the beginning of its existence, of humanity’s divine dwelling-place before its exile—in that primeval era—from the garden of Eden.
The more that we rise in knowledge and wisdom, in learning Torah and in good character traits, the more does our moral sense—intellectual and imaginative—soar. We proceed to the future. Automatically and continuously, the concept of evolution acts upon us, straightening our ways and supporting our moral faculties, until we enter palaces of holiness and purity with supernal might, filled with the power of God.
Then, the outlook of the past girds us with a strength of fear: we consider in our heart the terrible degradation of the past. We feel that if we disgrace our ways, we may fall back to that same dark degradation, rather than—by rectifying our ways and actions, private and communal—beholding a great light that shines forever, rising without end, substantial before us.
Orot Hakodesh II, p. 543