“The brotherly love of Esau and Yaakov,of Itzchak and Ishmael, will rise above all the ‘mehumot’-disturbances…and transform them to ‘or ve’chesed olam’-universal light and compassion.”(Letters 1:112)
I read these words that Rav Kook wrote in 1908 while hearing radio reports about the rain of missiles being shot at Israel from Gaza. While an entire country is discussing what to do. While the miraculous Iron Dome demonstrates extraordinary success. While the Israeli Air Force is pinpointingly striking multiple strategic targets (the homes of all the Hamas leaders). While the Israeli Defense Forces are rumbling and preparing for more.
How has your Wednesday, July 9th been?
This war began in the aftermath of the June 12th kidnapping and murder of the three high school students in Gush Etzion.
The roots to this conflict however go way back into history.The return of the children of Israel is toppling the Islamic hegemony that has reigned here since 637 AD. They are trying to prevent our return at all costs.The Zohar describes the larger overall picture thusly:
“And the children of Ishmael are destined to rule over the holy land for a long time, when it is empty of everything, as their circumcision is empty without perfection. And they will delay the children of Israel from returning to their places until the merit of the sons of Ishmael is completed. And the children of Ishmael are destined to evoke great wars in the world… one at sea, one on land, and one near Jerusalem. “(Zohar-VaEra:203/4)
Rav Kook was not a stranger to war. At the outbreak of WW1 (on Tisha beAv/9th of Av, 1914), he was in Germany to address the leading rabbis of Europe at a conference of Agudat Israel. He was going to address their doubts and theological conflicts with the Zionist effort. His goal was to effect a reconciliation between the Orthodox leadership in Europe that opposed the efforts of the G-dless irreligious and sometimes anti-religious Zionists in Palestine and those Zionists.
He had already explained that the ultra religious were contributing to the Jewish world and the world’s redemption through their devotion to the mitzvot/commandments of the Torah. He emphasized radically that the secularist Zionist were also contributing to the progress of Jewish history and the world’s ultimate repair through their return to the Hebrew language, to the actual land and their devotion to its physical survival and revival.
He controversially explained that their contribution was just as holy as the one made by the religiously observant. It was therefore important to understand and honor their inner Godly soul spark which was moving them to such extraordinary efforts to create the renaissance in Israel. The outbreak of the war prevented this meeting and reconciliation from occurring. Rabbi Aryeh Levine TZ’L (the Tzadik of Jerusalem) (1), one of Rav Kook’s closest disciples, later commented on this saying that when too much light is about to emerge, Amalek steps in to ruin the day.
Rav Kook always directs our attention to the foundations of that which we are trying to understand. During WW1 in London he wrote:
“The building of the world, which is currently crumbling in the wake of the horrible storms of bloodied swords, requires the rebuilding of the Israelite nation…World culture is toppling, human spirit is weakening, darknesses are covering all the nations. “Darkness will cover the earth, and a thick cloud (covers) the nations.” Isaiah, 60:2) The hour has arrived for the light of the world, the light of the God of Israel to be revealed by His people…All the cultures of the world will be renewed through our spiritual renewal,…all the faiths will wear new clothing, they will remove the soiled clothing upon them and dress in precious garments, they will abandon everything despoiled, impure and disgusting in their midst, as they reunite to suckle from the dews of the lights of holiness….the current destruction is preparation for a new revival, deep and essential. The light of the highest love-or chesed elyon-is sparkling. The Name of God-I Shall Be That Which I Will Be-Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh– (Exodus 3:14) is becoming revealed.”(Orot-HaMilchama/The War, Ch. 9)
That’s the good news.However, history is a process.
Around the same time that Rav Kook became Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921, the British appointed Hamin Al Husseini as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. His major goal was to prevent the return of the Jews to Palestine and he devoted his efforts towards that end till his death in 1974. He initiated the massacres of 1929, allied with Hitler and lived in Berlin from 1942 till the end of WW2. He met with Hitler on the 28thof November, 1942 and asked him for a public declaration that ‘recognized and sympathized with the Arab struggles for independence and liberation, and that would support the elimination of a national Jewish homeland’. After the war, he fled to the protection of the Arab states and died in Lebanon in 1974.
The current militant anti-Israel movements, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others can all be traced to the influence of Amin Al Husseini and his followers. He is one of the most significant and perhaps most unknown evil people of the 20th century. (2)
Rav Kook was the spiritual titan that first fought against him. Unfortunately he outlived Rav Kook and the poison of his views and actions continues to infect the world.
Fortunately the Torah and Kabbala explain that human history in the story of the ‘goodification’ of the world and that the conflict with evil will result in the victory of the good. Evil exists in order to force the good to do something about it and thus grow the good. It is explicit that human history is directed to the rectification of all humankind by the choosing and doing of good.
Those of us who wish to be allies and agents for the good have much work to do. But we are to be encouraged when we understand how powerful our doing of good truly is:
“With every moral improvement, with every good attribute, every worthwhile subject of study, every good deed, even the smallest, even a goodly conversation, one raises their own spiritual state…It thus turns out that by raising ourselves spiritually, our whole being is raised to a higher status. Since each individual person is related with a firm bond to general existence, and automatically when one part of existence rises to a higher state, all existence is uplifted. Thus one truly improves endless worlds with every good action.”(Midot HaRayah/TheMoral Principles: Improvement:1)
How will this improvement come about in the Arab/Israeli conflict? Rav Kook offers a clear and hopeful vision of what can and will be. In a letter he wrote in 1908, he related to the Biblical reconciliation of Jacob and Esau-the twin brothers. Yaakov fled from Esau after he threatened to kill him for the deceit of the birthright episode with Yitzchak.
The Torah describes their reconciliation upon Yaakov’s return 22 years later:
“Esau ran to meet them (Yaakov and his entourage), He hugged Jacob…they both wept…Jacob said: ‘Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God (Elokim).: (Genesis 33: 4,10)
On this Rav Kook commented:
“The words of Jacob shall not go down as a vain utterance. The brotherly love of Esau and Yaakov, of Itzchak and Yishmael will assert itself beyond the conflicts –mehumot– that the evil brought on by our bodily nature has engendered. It will overcome them and transform them to eternal light and compassion. This broad concept…must be our guide on all our ways in the end of days, to complete our understanding of the Torah with the Messianic imprint, turning the bitter to sweet and darkness to light.” (Letters, 1:112)
In this perspective, the conflict between Yaakov and Esau is representative of the conflict between Judaism and Christianity and the conflict between Yitzchak and Ishmael is the root of the conflict between the Jews and the Muslims.
The Torah teaches us that at the root, we, who have been in conflict for so long, are destined to recover our brotherly love.
Bemehera bayemnu/Quickly in our days.
—————————————————————-(1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryeh_Levin(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_al-Husseini , http://www.tellthechildrenthetruth.com/amin_en.html
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