Monthly Archives: August 2014




“ומעולם רחוק מלא נגוהות

שמשות שם רחבות כים

וכוכבים כאור שמשינו

על פני רקיע אבן ספיר, שם

And from a distant world full of illuminations

The suns there are as broad as the ocean

The stars like the light of our sun

On the face of the sapphire stone, there.


בשורות לי יגיעו

כטללים מלאים צוף פנג

נהלוני לעדן נעלם

שם חביון העדן

The news reaches me

Like dew full of the delight of heaven

Guiding me to the hidden Eden

There….the treasure is stored.”


We are marking Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook TZ’L’s 89th Yartzeit on Elul 3-Thursday night/Friday this week. He left us many treasures guiding us to the hidden Eden.

From 1865 to 1935 Rav Kook lived an extraordinary life and offered profound guidance and leadership to the multitudes who loved him, to all Am Israel and to the world. Everyone who met him including Einstein, Chagall and the poor construction worker from Yemen realized that they were in the presence of a rare  holy being. His love, genius,wisdom and vision inspired all

I have recounted some of Rav Kook’s life history in previous postings. (1) I invite the reader to read this for more information about him. (Wikipedia is also excellent).

In a poll carried out in Israel on the event of Israel’s 60th Day of Independence celebrations, Rav Kook was voted the person who was most influential on shaping the modern State of Israel. Ben Gurion was number two. (2)

After his passing, his family and students continued his work of growing the Israelite physical and spiritual renaissance. Their impact on modern Israel is incalculable. It is estimated that close to 40% of the officers in the combat units of the IDF are graduates of the Rav Kook knitted kipah religious-zionism yeshivot. (3)

His writings and teachings are a legacy that is available to all humankind. They are indeed precious treasures waiting for us to uncover them and be illuminated by their light.

In honor of his 89th Yaartzeit, I would like to take this opportunity and share some of my favorite pieces from the ‘Kook book’:

“The heart must be filled with love for all.

The love of all creation comes first, then comes the love for all humankind and then follows the love for the Jewish people, in which all other loves are included, since it is the destiny of the Jews to serve toward the perfection of all things.

All of these loves are to be expressed in practical action, by pursuing the welfare of those we are bidden to love, and to seek their advancement…

The whole Torah, its moral teachings, the commandments and good deeds have as their objective to remove the roadblocks so that universal love should be able to spread, to extend to all realms of life.” (Midot HaRayah-Ahava)


“When one forgets the essence of one’s own soul, when one distracts oneself from attending to the substantive content of their own inner life, everything becomes confused and uncertain. The primary role of teshuva/return/penitence…is for the person to return to themselves, to the root of their soul…It is only through the great truth of returning to oneself that the person and the people, the world and all the worlds, the whole of existence, will return to their Creator, to be illuminated by the light of life.” (Orot HaTshuva/Lights of Return 15:10)


“All the defects of the world, the material and the spiritual are derived from the fact that every individual sees only the one aspect of existence that pleases them, and all other aspects that are uncomprehended by them seem to deserve purging from the world. The thought that whatever is outside one’s own is destructive and disturbing leaves its imprint on individuals and groups, generations and epochs. The result of this is a multiplication of conflict.” (Orot HaKodesh 1:121)


“The more clearly one studies the character of individual human souls, the more baffled one becomes over the great differences between personalities….It is, however precisely through their differentiations that they are all united toward one objective, to contribute toward the perfection of the world, each person according to their special talent…the opposites are integrated and related to the other, so that through the fusion of all the diverse minds and physiognomies, there emerges a unified structure of consummate harmony.” (Olat HaRayah- 1:388)


“A chaotic world stand before us as long as we have not attained that degree of higher perfection in which we unite all life-forces and all their diverse tendencies. As long as each one exalts themselves, claiming, ‘I am sovereign, I and none other’–there cannot be peace in our midst…. All our endeavours must be directed toward disclosing the light of general harmony, which derives not from suppressing any power, any thought, any tendency, but by bringing each of them within the vast ocean of light infinite, where all things find their unity, where all is ennobled, all is exalted, all is hallowed.” (Orot HaKodesh 2:588)


“The illumination to be bestowed by the Messiah is derived primarily from the philosophy of the unity of all existence.” (Ibid, 2:474)


“Teshuva emerges from the depths of being, from such great depths in which the individual stands not as a separate entity, but rather as a continuation of the vastness of universal existence….Tshuva is inspired by the yearning of all existence to be better, purer more vigorous and on than it is. Within this yearning is a hidden life force for overcoming every factor that limits and weakens existence.”  (Orot HaTashuva 6:1)


“It is necessary that the general human will be developed to its full potential. Then it is to be conditioned toward holiness…

How high the human can rise! They can make their will an active and dominant force in the world, radiating blessing on anyone they choose and influencing life according to their aspirations. ‘And be a blessing (Gen.12:2)-you will be a channel of blessing. (Genesis Rabbah 39)”  (Midot HaRaya-Ratzon/The Will)


“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…

Each particular individual 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-Tikun/Improvement)


“The great dreams are the foundations of the world…The crudeness of conventional life, wholly immersed in its materialistic aspect, removes from the world the light of the dream, the splendor of its wide horizons, its ascent above ugly reality. Thus the world is in convulsion with pains engendered by the destructive toxins of reality, devoid of the brightness of the dream….The dream of the uninhibited , in revolt against reality and its limitations, is truly the most substantive truth of existence.” (Ibid 1:228)


“Waves from the higher realm act on our souls ceaselessly. The stirrings of our inner spiritual sensibilities are the result of the sounds released by the violin of our souls, as it listens to the echo of the sound emanating from the divine realm.” (Ibid 2:346)


“The affirmation of the unity of God aspires to reveal the unity in the world, in humankind, among nations, and in the entire content of existence, without any dichotomy between action and theory, between reason and the imagination. Even the dichotomies experienced will be unified through a higher enlightenment, which recognizes their aspect of unity and compatibility.” (Ibid 2:425)


“Great souls cannot dissociate themselves from the most universal concerns. All they desire and aspire for is the universal good, universal in its comprehensiveness, universal in its full width, height and depth…


When love possessed people see the world, living creatures full of quarrels, hatred, persecutions and conflicts, they yearn with all their being to share in those aspirations that move life toward comprehensiveness and unity, peace and tranquility…

When they confront the human scene, and find divisions among nations, religions, parties, with goals in conflict, they endeavour with all their might to bring all together, to mend and to unite…

They want that every particular shall be preserved and developed and that the collective whole shall be united and abounding in peace.” (Ibid 2:456-7)


“The perception that dawns on a person to see the world, not as finished, but in the process of continued becoming, ascending, developing-this changes one from being ‘under the sun’ to being ‘above the sun’, from the place where there is nothing new to the place where there is nothing old, where everything takes on new form. The joy of heaven and earth abide in them as on the day they were created.” (Ibid 2:535)


“The greater a person they more they must seek to discover themselves. The deep levels of our soul remain concealed from him so that we need to be alone frequently, to elevate our imagination, to deep our thought, to liberate our mind. Finally our soul will reveal itself to us by radiating some of its light upon us.” (Ibid 3:270)

There is so much more.  As one continues to read Rav Kook’s teachings, it becomes clear that the author was in a state of extraordinary consciousness. We are told that the great tzaddikim/righteous ones draw their inspiration from the light of the future. Rav Kook TZ’L was tasting from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

His Torah offers us a deep taste of the Torah of Eden.

Let us conclude with a passage in which he invites us to taste of Eden as well.                                                                

His student HaRav HaNazir TZ’L entitled this piece:                     A Summons to Higher Contemplation

“If you will it human being, observe the light of the divine presence that pervades all existence. Observe the harmony of the heavenly realm, how it pervades every aspect of life, the spiritual and the material, which are before your eyes of flesh and your eyes of the spirit.

Contemplate the wonders of creation, the divine dimension of their being, not as a dim configuration that is presented to you from the distance but as the reality in which you live.

Know yourself, and your world; know the meditations of your heart, and of every thinker; find the source of your own life, and of the life beyond you, around you, the glorious splendor of the life in which you have your being.

The love that is astir in you – raise it to its basic potency and its noblest beauty, extend it to all its dimensions, toward every manifestation of the soul that sustains the universe, whose splendor is dimmed only because of the deficiency of the person viewing it.

Look at the lights, in their inwardness. Let not the names, the words, the idiom and the letters confine your soul. They are under your control, you are not under theirs.

Ascend toward the heights, because you are of mighty prowess, you have wings to soar with, wings of mighty eagles. Do not fail them, lest they fail you; seek for them, and they will at once be ready for you.

The forms that robe reality are precious and holy to us, and especially to all who are limited in their spiritual perception. But always, when we approach a life of enlightenment, we must not swerve from the perspective that light flows from the incomprehensible to the comprehensible, by way of emanation, from the light of the En Sof (“Infinite One”).

And we are summoned to share in the heavenly delight, in all the particularized perceptions, which are included in this universal whole, from which all the proliferations of life are engendered (Ibid 1:83-84).


We, who have wings to soar with, wings of might eagles are invited to share in the heavenly delight of the universal whole.

May we be so blessed.

יהי זכרו ברוך

May his memory be for a blessing.



Most translations in this piece are adapted from Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser wonderful translations of Rav Kook.





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“הַטּוּ אָזְנְכֶם וּלְכוּ אֵלַי שִׁמְעוּ וּתְחִי נַפְשְׁכֶם וְאֶכְרְתָה לָכֶם בְּרִית עוֹלָם
Turn your ears and come to Me,
Hear and your souls will live,
And I will hew with you an eternal covenant.”
(Isaiah 55:3)


“May it be the Divine Will that we be worthy of the renewal of the holy, of the rebirth of our prophetic auditory spirit,through our national revival in our holy land.”

With these words Rabbi David Cohen-HaRav HaNazir -The Nazirite Rabbi TZ”L and Rav Kook’s main student- concludes the introduction to his magnum opus, Kol HaNevua-The Voice of Prophecy. Published in 1970, two years before his passing,It is perhaps the most important book written in Torah thought in modern times. Along with everything written by HaRav Kook TZ”L until his passing in 1935.

Kol HaNevua is a profound encyclopedic journey that weaves together all the strands of Jewish thinking and history as it explains the singular reality of Jewish experience:

The Torah is an account of our communication with the Divine Intelligence. Adam and Eve, humankind at birth, were created with that capacity active. Our ‘descent’ into the consciousness of good and evil blocked up our hearing. Avraham and Sara re-learnt to turn and open their ears to that conversation. Their children have been involved in it ever since.

Moshe Rabbenu-Moses Our Teacher is our prime historical hearer. He was followed by a series of prophets and prophetesses. The age of prophets ended with the deaths of Malachi, Zechariah and Chaggai around the beginning of the Second Temple period-486 BCE.

We entered the age of the Sages and Rabbis as we historically went into exile from the Land of Israel. Most of the Jews in the world did not return during the Second Temple period and the nation of Israel did not have true independence for most of that period. This process was heightened after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. By the year 500CE very few Jews remained in the Land of Israel.

The conscious modern return to Israel began at the beginning of the year 5000- 1240 CE.The Zohar and the Kabbalah of the Ari spoke clearly about the necessity and inevitability of the return of the Children of Israel to their homeland. Rav Kook was a primary carrier of this teaching and his return to Israel in 1904 was an important milestone in this unfolding.

At the core of this teaching of return is the understanding that prophecy will be reborn as an active spiritual force as the physical return grows strong.

This historical narrative is important to understand the context for the Rav HaNazir’s unique life.

David Cohen was 28 years old when he first met Rav Kook in August 1915 in Switzerland.He came from a distinguished rabbinic family, close to the Chofetz Chayim (as was Rav Kook) and was a profound spiritual seeker and scholar. At the outbreak of WW1, he was inspired by a mekubal/kabbalist that he met at a German prisoner of war camp (he was arrested for a month as a Russian citizen), to undertake the practice of Nazirut-no grape products and not cutting your hair. He personally included vegetarianism after hearing the cries of cattle from a nearby slaughterhouse. He also refrained from wearing leather and spent periods in silence and meditation.

This was in order to cultivate his prophetic capacities-in accordance with the teaching that טהרה-purity and נזירות-abstinence were the pre-requisities for נבואה-prophecy. At the same time, he was studying for his Phd in philosophy in Germany and after his release, continued at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Rav Kook was also in Germany to address the rabbis of Europe about Israel and Zionism when WW1 broke out on Tisha Be’Av, 1914. The meeting never took place (the hand of Amalek). He could not return to Israel and spent the war years in Switzerland and England. In historical hindsight it is apparent that the Divine unfolding required that. The Balfour Declaration would probably not have come into being if Rav Kook was not in London at the time of its deliberation.

Upon finding out that Rav Kook was also in Switzerland, David Cohen asked to meet him. In August 1915, he was invited to Rav Kook’s abode in St. Galen. He describes the fateful meeting in his introduction to Orot HaKodesh- The Lights of Holiness:
“After taking a mikveh in the Rhine River, carrying a volume of ‘Shaarei Kedusha-Gates of Holiness’ (by Chayim Vital), full of uncertainty and expectation, I made my way to the Rav on Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul -5675-1915. I found him engaged in halachic/legal studies with his son. We spoke about Greek wisdom and its literature; which did not satisfy one who knew the sources in their origins. [The Rav HaNazir was studying Greek philosophy by reading it in Greek.]
I stayed to sleep in their home. My heart could not rest at night. My life’s destiny was hanging in the balance.

I awoke in the morning and I heard the sound of footsteps back and forth. (I approached the room from whence the footsteps came.) It was the Rav praying the morning blessings, the tefilla/prayer of Akeidat Itzchak-the almost sacrifice of Isaac in a sublime supernal melody.“From the eternal high heavens, and it reminded us of the love our ancestors.” [from the introduction to Yom Kippur Shacharit prayer]
As I listened I was transformed becoming a different person. I quickly wrote in a letter that I had found more than I had hoped for. I found for myself a Rav.”

At this moment an extraordinary relationship between two spiritual giants began. HaRav HaNazir was 28 years old at the time when that he recognized that HaRav Kook, who was then 50, was experiencing a spiritual state akin to prophecy. His being cleaved to him. In 1922, he was invited to Jerusalem by Rav Kook to help establish the “Central Universal Yeshiva”-now widely known as ‘Mercaz HaRav’- and write the curriculum for it. He arrived in Jerusalem and basically stayed by Rav Kook’s side for the rest of Rav Kook’s life.

Around 1924, Rav Kook give him the 8 Notebooks that he had been filling with his spiritual illuminations between 1904 and 1919. The Rav HaNazir than dedicated many years of his life to the publication of these new Torah gems through the 4 volume vessel- Orot HaKodesh-The Lights of Holiness.

During this time and with Rav Kook’s guidance and inspiration he also developed his unique spiritual and intellectual insights about the uniquely auditory nature of Jewish experience.

In 1970 after over 50 years of working on it,Kol HaNevua was published and released in a special ceremony at the house of the President of Israel-Zalman Shazar. He was a student of the Nazir in a unique learning circle that was held in Switzerland during and after WW1. When he was President he visited and learned with the Nazir at his succa every Hoshana Rabba.

The Nazir passed away on the 28th of Av, 1972.
Rav Kook TZ’L was known as the great visionary-הרואה הגדול. Rabbi David Cohen, HaRav HaNazir TZ’L is known as the great hearer-השומע הגדול

It is thus my honor as a humble student of these  extraordinary Torah sages  to share varied selections from the Rav HaNazir’s writings. 

During the 1948 War of Independence his son Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Shlita was imprisoned by the Jordanian army after trying to protect the Jewish community of the Old City. At that time, the Nazir wrote an extraordinary document, ’מגילת מלחמה ושלום-The Scroll of War and Peace’. It was published in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. In it he wrote:

“The call has to go out to the nations, to the masses and their leadership through essays and book, to AWAKEN THE PEACE MOVEMENT in absolute opposition to mass murder, to war.
The leaders of the nations, their ministers, advisors and parliaments must legislate that the law ‘Do not murder” includes the prohibition of the mass murder of war. They must forbid war, not declare it…
Each human being, each writer and thinker is commanded: “Do not stand idly by as your neighbour’s blood [is being spilled]” (Leviticus 19:16).
Let us call out with all strength to the destroyer: STOP!
No! ‘Do Not Murder’ (Exodus 20:13/Deuteronomy 5:17), do not go out to war, to commit mass murder, “nation shall not lift sword against any other nation and they will no longer learn war”. (Isaiah 2:)” (p.12-13)

His son in law, Rabbi Shlomo Goren was the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces during the June 1967 Six Day War. When the Kotel was liberated on the third day, Rabbi Goren immediately sent a jeep to bring Rav Kook’s son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda TZ’L and the Nazir to the Kotel.
Here is a picture of the three of them there:

The Nazir wrote of this moment:

“The liberation of Israel and the rebirth of the State of Israel is accompanied with the rebirth of the spirit of Israel, the renewal of the holy. We saw this with our own eyes on the day of the liberation of Jerusalem. Every Israelite as they arrived at the Temple Mount, at our House of Holiness,at our liberated Western Wall, covered their head, put their face to wall, kissed and clung to it with tears of joy upon their faces…The light of the liberation is sparkling, spark by spark-the /גאולה/liberation is approaching step by step…”
(The Sparkling Light of Messiach -published 1989.)

In his diary in 1922 he wrote of his own spiritual process:
“The main thing is to come closer to the path of the discovery of prophecy. Our teacher and our rabbi, [Rav Kook]  the holy one of Israeli, he who gazes at the Divine flow sees that this is the essential core of my spirit and life and supports and guides me in this. This elevated process of approaching [the Divine] is a necessary pre-condition for the period of liberation, even at its beginning.

Our teacher and rabbi [Rav Kook] is the soul of the renewal and its leader. It is upon me to serve him in this despite being small and weak, ‘חֶרְפָּה שָׁבְרָה לִבִּי-humiliation has broken my heart.’ (Psalms 69:21)

This passion in my heart has not been for nought. On Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah I recognized that the elevated  spirit of prophecy is approaching and beating within me..”.

Elsewhere he spoke about the methodology of enlightenment and prophetic spirit:
“The source for prophecy and the holy spirit is in the inner Israelite wisdom. Its purpose has always been, as it is today-’אם בקולו תשמעו -If you listen to His voice’ (Psalms 95:7) – [to cultivate] the call of the prophetic spirit…

And the way is: Quieting the noise of the world around us, erasure of the forms and images that are apparent to us and seen through our eyes…meditation in a holy place…holy song from the songs of God’s anointed with the joy of Torah, expansion of consciousness and and understanding through the fusion of mystical study and intellectual investigation.

The engagement with Torah study in all its aspects…the fulfilment of the Mitzvot in all their dimensions-between human and human, to do good and kindness (and without this, you are limping)…

The path and even a little of it is long and far and yet it is close…. לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא-it is not in the heavens-
בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ-it is in your mouth and heart to do…”
(Deut. 35 12-14)

As his holy Rebbe, Rav Kook TZ’L wrote:
“Waves from the higher realm realm act on our souls ceaselessly. The stirring of our inner spiritual sensibilities are the result of the sounds released by the violin of our soul, as it listens to the echo of the sound emanating from the divine realm.
Though we do not know how to delimit and we cannot particularize, and certainly not sum up, or see an ordered content in the subjects with which the divine reverberation concerns itself, nevertheless, we listen with a general attentiveness. We hear the sound of words.
…All our endeavours in Torahitic and scientific studies is only to clarify whatever comprehensible words it is possible to distill from the divine voice that always reverberates in our inner ear.”
(Lights of Holiness 2:346)
May we and all humankind be blessed to hear the divine voice that reverberates within each of us.

Rabbi David Cohen, the Rav HaNazir TZ’L devoted his life and being to this search and process. He was a pioneer hewing out a path, illuminating the way for all spiritual seekers.

May his memory be for a blessing for all life.
יהי זכרו ברוך


Rabbi David Cohen TZ’L

-Hebrew-more information:




“Understanding reach by our own mind is the highest expression of spiritual progress. All that is learned by study is absorbed from the outside and is of lesser significance as compared with what is thought through within the soul itself.”– Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot HaKodesh 1:178)

The highest expression of spiritual growth is our capacity to understand the nature of reality from within our own being. We are not here to mimic or conform to a truth that is imposed or expected of us from the outside. We are here to live in our original and unique relationship with creation and the Creator.

One of the foundations of Torat HaRav Kook is the integration of above and below-the material and the spiritual, the inside and the outside.

A great great focus of Jewish thought and history has been directed to  achieving freedom from the outside.Freedom from Pharaohs and Egypts, Hitlers and Nazis.  

One of the blessings of the  Israelite return to and rebirthing in the Land of Israel is the freedom from our outside enemies. It’s not an easy battle by any means.

Rav Kook taught that the external freedom and autonomy in Israel enables our inner soul dimension to emerge. As we achieve outer freedom and independence, we are invited to also experience inner freedom and liberation.

“Whoever is endowed with the soul of a creator must create works of imagination and thought…the flame of the soul rises by itself and one cannot impede it on its course.

Scope for thought-this is the constant claim that a thinking person address to themselves. 

Superficial study narrows thought. It aborts it at birth. It  aggravates the sickness of narrowness of thought.

With all one’s strength, we  must liberate ourselves from this, in order to free our soul from its narrow confines, to redeem it from its Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Ibid, 1:179)

Each human being on the planet Earth is a unique integration of body and soul, consciousness and being. Life is an opportunity for each of us  to express our unique light-our singular contribution to the world’s unfolding.

Rav Kook discusses two aspects of this process.

First, we have to know our individual uniqueness:

“The greater we are, [and each of us  is invited to be our greatest self], the more we  must seek to discover ourselves. The deep levels of our soul remain concealed from us. We need to be alone frequently, to elevate our imagination, to deepen our thought, to liberate our mind. Finally our soul will reveal itself to us by radiating some of its light upon us.” (Ibid 3:270)

As we ‘liberate our mind, deepen our thoughts, elevate our imagination’ -our inner light will reveal itself to us.

This light is very very precious. It is the personal manifestation of the Divine within each of us.

It is the Light that we are each the physical expression of.

Once we are in touch with this light, our second step is to shine it-to express it freely:

“The inner essence of our soul, that reflects-that is conscious,  must have absolute inner freedom. It experiences its freedom, which is life, through its originality in thought.

This inner spark can be fanned to a  flame through study and investigation. It is however the basis of our imagination and thought.  If our autonomous spark is not given scope to express itself-to manifest its light, then whatever we acquire from the outside is of no avail.” (Ibid 1:177)

This is our most precious contribution to human progress and fulfillment:

 “The uniqueness of the inner soul, in its own authenticity, is the highest expression of the seed of divine light…from which will bud and blossom the fruit of the tree of life.” (Ibid)

And Rav Kook reassures and encourages us that world transformation will occur through each of us freely self-expressing and creating:

“Let each of us  express in truth and in faithfulness whatever our soul reveals to us.

Let each of us bring forth our spiritual creativity from potentiality to actuality, without any deception.

Out of such sparks torches of light will be assembled and they will illuminate the whole world out of their glory.

Out of each of our fragments of inner truth – the great truth will emerge.” (Ibid, 1:166)

BeeMhera Be’Yamenu/Soon In Our Days


The translations are in this posting adapted from Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser’s translation. I have taken the liberty of changing  some passages to the first person from the third.

Your comments are invited.


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“When we reflect on the aggadah that the descendents of Sisera taught Torah in Jerusalem and descendents of Haman taught Torah in Bnei Brak [and the descendants of Sennacherib taught Torah in public]
(Gittin 37b) we reach the depth of compassion, which call on us not to be caught up in the stream of hatred even of our fiercest enemy.”
Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot HaKodesh:3:326)

The depth of compassion calls on us not to be caught up in the stream of hatred even of our fiercest enemy. That is a challenge.

Let us look at the amazing Talmudic prophecy pointing us there.
The descendants of our great historical enemies are going to be Torah teachers! The heavyweight enemies!

Sisera was Canaanite general who oppressed the Israelites for 20 years until our heroine Yael got him drunk and beheaded him. (1)
Haman, a descendant of Amalek, was the archetypal anti-Semite who tried the first recorded genocide of Jews in exile. (2)
(Unlike Hitler he didn’t succeed.)
Sennacherib was an Assyrian king (705-681 BCE) who also didn’t like Israelis, Judah-ists and Judah-ism. In addition to defeating and exiling the Ten Tribes (now lost) he laid siege to Jerusalem (3)
In his own words:

“Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, as countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem…” (Sennacherib’s_Annals).(4)

Hamas would have liked these guys.They certainly see themselves as continuing in their evil tradition.

Does this Midrash suggest that the descendants of Amin Al Husseini (the grandfather of Hamas) will become teachers of Torah?

Its hard to see it based on current evidence. Their immersion in hate seems too powerful and deep for such a transformation to occur.

There are however many ways to teach and learn Torah-directly and indirectly.
is there a Torah that we are to learn from them?
From our blood soaked encounter with them?

Right now the Hamas leadership are coming out of the bunkers and surveying the damage they brought upon themselves while declaring ‘victory’.
In Israel there is general gratefulness that the active war seems to be in respite. Many are in mourning and many will be in rehab for quite some time. The opportunity to destroy as many tunnels as possible is generally seen as a blessing. Apparently they were to be used this coming Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur to surprise attack Israel and murder and kidnap as many as possible. 

That the cease fire occurred right before the 9th of Av is certainly appropriate. The Midrash tells us that on the afternoon of this day of mourning, the Messiach is born. In the time of greatest darkness, a great light is also born.

Kabbalistically this is a time of transformation. We have just completed the three week period of mourning that began on the 17th of Tammuz-marking the breaching of Jerusalem’s wall before the destruction of the 2nd Temple. These weeks just culminated in the mourning day of the 9th of Av-when the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed. We are approaching the 15th of Av, a great yearly celebration of the world coming back into alignment after a period of great negativity.
[Further explanation of the Kabbala behind this in footnote (4)]

What is the great transformation that humankind awaits, longs for?
We have created a world full of anger, full of war.
How are we to repair that?

Rav Kook wrote in the years prior to WW1:
“It is an art of great enlightenment to purge anger from the heart entirely, to look at all with a benevolent eye, with compassionate concern, without any reservation. It is to emulate the eye of God, the elevated eye, that focuses only the good. This includes the work wrought by the wicked, even those most thoroughly immersed in evil It means to pity them for being sunk in the mire of wickedness, to find their good aspects and to minimize their aspects of guilt.”(Lights of Holiness, 3:326)

What does this mean for us?:
“It is for people of integrity, who concern themselves with holy pursuits in truth and in uprightness, to refine all the ways of thinking that are active in life, from their dross, and to establish them on their clearest basis. It is precisely through the refinements of thoughts in which there is a mixture of evil and impurity that there will emerge great life-renewing light, exceeding in importance the conventional positions”. (Ibid)

Through out confrontation with evil, our willingness to face it, we can participate in its transformation. That process creates an even greater reality.

But what about the hatred? Is it really possible to ‘purge anger from the heart entirely’? Rav Kook continues:
“Hostility and disparagement are to be directed not at what is present in any movement or culture, but at what is absent in it. In other words they are to be directed at the fact that they have not yet completed the process of clarification to a point of being linked with the higher sweep and the penetrating perception of the sublime idea, of the absolute reality of God, in its majestic significance.” (Ibid)

Hatred is to be directed at the fact that humankind has not yet realized their full potential. It is to be directed at the fact that so many people are caught in the mire of evil and are not expressing, experiencing their true and highest self. They are not linked with the higher reality

Our challenge and our work is to participate in helping them extricate themselves from their immersion in evil.
It is clear that the first necessary step to do that is to remove/transform any and all evil within ourselves. Not easy but apparently do-able.
To transform our anger into passion for tikkun-repair.
Perhaps this is the Torah that we are challenged to learn in order to fulfill our goal of creating peace on Earth for all humankind.

“When love possessed people see the world, especially living creatures full of quarrels, hatred persecutions and conflicts, they yearn with all their being to share in those aspirations that moves life toward towards wholeness and unity, peace and tranquility. When they confront the human scene and find divisions among nations, religions, parties, with goals in conflict, they endeavour with all their beingt to bring all together, to mend and to unite…They want that every particular shall be preserved and developed and that the collective whole shall be united and abounding in peace.” (Lights of Holiness, 2-457)

“To bring all together, to mend and to unite.”
This is our work , this is our challenge.


4. The Kabbalistic explanation and background:
It is important to know that each month in the Hebrew calendar has a permutation of the Divine Name-י-ה-ו-ה.
These 4 letters can be permuted into 12 different orders that also correspond to the 12 Tribes.
Each letter is also connected to each week of the month.
This has interesting ramifications.
The first month, Nissan is permuted .י-ה-ו-ה.
The second month Iyar is permuted י-ה-ה-ו.
These continue. Tammuz-the month before Av- is permuted -ה-ו-ה-י.
Here the Divine Name is backwards. During Tammuz we begin the three week period of mourning from the 17th of Tammuz-marking the breaching of Jerusalem’s wall before the destruction of the 2nd Temple. These weeks culminate in the mourning day of the 9th of Av-when the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed.
The permutation for the month of Av is ה-ו-י-ה Note that the first two letters are still in ‘backwards order and the third and fourth letters are back to the forward order. We celebrate the realignment at the cusp of the third week-on the 15th of Av-Tu Be’Av. Great time for love to align.

The Translation of the passages from Rav Kook are based on R, Ben Zion Bokser’s translation:

Comments are invited:



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