Monthly Archives: October 2014

15) HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK: BEGINNING NOW AND AGAIN AND BETTER THAN EVER

“The perception that dawns on a person to see the world, not as finished, but as in the process of continued becoming, ascending, developing-this changes us from being ‘under the sun’ to being ‘above the sun’ from the place where everything takes on new form. The joy of heaven and earth abide in us as on the day they were created.

In this luminous perspective one looks at all the worlds, at the general and human development, at the destiny of each creature, at all the events of all times.” -Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot Hakodesh 2:517)

We are beginning again.

The new year. For the 5778th time.

The book of Breishit/Genesis. For at least the 2000th time.

The Torah describes the reality of time in existence as a simultaneous recycling circle and a spiral moving forward. And as a gateway to the Divine Presence.

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים- In the beginning Elohim Created” (Genesis 1:1)

Rav Kook explains that: “The Israelites are blessed with the capacity to see the Divine Light that fills the entire creation. The Torah begins with the creation followed by the name of Elohim. For the entire creation speaks of the glory of the Creator and even when His Name is not mentioned it soon becomes clear that the Divine will be revealed afterwards.” -(Maamrei HaRayah-246)

The Torah describes the discovery and experience of the Divine Presence through the experience of life of the people of the Bible. This is imbedded into our very beginnings.

” וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ:   זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם. –And Elohim created the Human in His image, In the image of Elohim He Created Him- Male and Female He Created Them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Rav Kook explains: “A foundation of the Torah is that the human is created in the Divine Image. The essence of this is found through the absolute freedom that humans have. As Maimonides points out in Hilchot Tshuva-The Laws of Return (4:5)- ‘without the foundation of absolute human freedom, there would be no space for the Torah to exist’.” (Pinkasei HaRayah, 2:16)

We are as the Divine, completely and utterly free.

What a blessing and a responsibility.

We are free to create, we are free to destroy.

We are free to love, we are free to hate.

And our choices have huge impact on reality. 

In the story of Noach, the Torah describes the Creator’s decision to end most human life:

” וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְנֹחַ, קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ. And Elohim said to Noach: ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me. The world is filled with human crime. I will therefore destroy them with the earth’.” (Genesis 6:13)

Rav Kook explains: “The Torah of Israel clarifies how the existence of the world and human ethics are dependent on each other. It is clear that the improvement  of the world is dependent on ethical improvement. This is the essence of the Israelite understanding of the Creator. ” (Notebook 1:499)

Therefore our doing of good is the most powerful tool we have for personal and planetary transformation.

“When the longing to be good to all is intensified in a person, then they know that an illumination from a higher realm has reached them. Praise be if they prepare a proper place in their heart, mind, actions and feelings to receive this noble light, which is the most precious asset on earth. Hold on to it, do not let it go.  Do not allow any physical or spiritual impediment to keep you from welcoming this holy thought into your inner being. Battle against them, remain resolute. ‘Draw your knowledge from afar’(Job 36:3). This is emulating the attributes of the Divine, who is good to all and ‘whose compassions are over all His works’(Psalms 145:5).” ” טוֹב יְהוָה לַכֹּל , וְרַחֲמָיו, עַל כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו-The Creator is good to all and His compassions are upon all his works.” (Ibid).

We, created in the Divine Image, are invited to be good to all and extend our compassion to the whole creation.

As Rav Kook poeticized in 1912:

“It is the good that I desire,

Its glorious expanses entrance me.

Its lips, its roses, I kiss,

Its beautiful vision exalts me.

 

Absolute good, without limitation,

Without end, constriction or boundary,

That is not separate from anything alive,

That with it’s love, fixes everything broken.

 

Good for me, good for all,

Good without bad  or tightness,

Good full of pleasure for all,

Full of tranquility without anxiety.

 

Good forever, good right now,

Good for every people and nation,

Who seek the good and not the bad,

And the light and the delight, ‘as the One is there’ (Genesis 21:7).”

May our desire for the absolute good be our catalyst for manifesting it.

With blessings from Jerusalem

Itzchak

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14)HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK: SUCCOT JOY AND UNIVERSALITY

14)HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK:         SUCCOT JOY AND UNIVERSALITY                                 My etrog-5775

“Radiant is the world soul,

Full of splendor and beauty,

Full of life,

Of souls hidden,

Of treasures of the holy spirit,

Of fountains of strength,

Of greatness and beauty.” -Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot HaKodesh 2:247)

The new beginning of Rosh HaShana and the cleansing of Yom Kippur brings us to the joy of Succot. We are now invited to step out of our private perspectives and prisons and celebrate the great miracle and gift of life.

Rabbi David Cohen TZ”L -Rav Kook’s main student-in his masterpiece ‘Kol HaNevua-The Voice of Prophecy’ explains that Succot is חג החיים-the Festival of Life. He points out חיים and לולב-palm frond have the same numerical value- 68. The lulav is waved three times in the six directions for a total of 18 wavings. The numerical value of חי-life is of course 18. If any of the four species are dry or lifeless, they can not be used.

The life process of constant renewal is a great gift of our creation. Rav Kook appreciated it deeply:“Succa is a very high level of joy…Joy emerges from renewal and the renewal of the succa is constant, therefore it is the ‘season of our joy’.” (Rav Kook, Notebook 2:212)

He elaborates:“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.” (Orot HaKodesh 2:535)

The physical experience of the succa and the four species offers us the opportunity to experience and celebrate  the fusion of heaven and earth. The Succot prayers. songs and celebrations direct us to the larger creation. Our Succa is not blocked off from the world. Everyone is invited to our Succa and we are invited to everyone else’s.

For a week we live outside of our normal private boundaries and join together with all life.

Rav Kook explains that this is very important for us to be able to do if we wish to truly grow. (I am translating this in the first person though it was written in the third.):

“We must liberate themselves from confinement within our private concerns. This pervades our whole being so that all our thoughts focus only our own destiny. This reduces us to the worst kind of smallness and brings upon us endless physical and spiritual distress. It is necessary to raise our thought, will and our basic preoccupations toward universality, to the inclusion of all, to the whole world, to humankind, to the Jewish people, to all existence. This will result in establishing even our private self on a proper basis.

The firmer our vision of universality, the greater the joy we will experience and the more we merit the grace of divine illumination…

The call to be committed always to the principle of universality, to the divine ensemble, where all things their being, is the essence of the soul of the ‘tzaddikim-righteous’ who walk before God and whose delight is in the Creator.” (Ibid 3:147)

When we are able to experience life with this perspective our every moment is enriched with meaning and significance. Succot is a tremendous reminder of the precious and wondrous gift of life that we are experiencing.

Rav Kook of course said it much more beautifully:

“The realm of mystery tells us- ‘You live in a world full of light and life.

Let us know this great reality, the richness of existence that we always encounter.

Let us contemplate its grandeur, its beauty, its precision and harmony…

In every corner where we turn, we are dealing with realities that have life; we always perform consequential acts, abounding with meaning and with the preciousness of vibrant life.

In everything we do we meet sparks full of life and light, aspiring toward the heights. We help them and they help us…

And everything aspires, longs, yearns, according to a pattern that is adorned with holiness and girded with beauty. For this life of ours is not a meaningless phenomenon.  

With the light of Your own presence, You have gifted us, HaShem Elokeynu, with תורת חיים-The Torah of Life.” (Ibid, 2: 343)

חג חיים שמח-A Joyous Festival of Life to all.

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13)HA’OROT:YOM’HAKIPPURIM-THE DAY OF -AT-ONE-MENT

13)HA’OROT:YOM HA’KIPPURIM-THE DAY OF AT-ONE-MENT

RAV KOOK BEIT HAMIKDASH

“In the depths of the human soul the voice of God calls ceaselessly. The tumult of life can confuse the person so that most of the time they will not hear this voice.”  (Maamarei HaRayah, p.113)

Yom HaKippurim-The Day of Atonement is our best yearly opportunity to hear this voice. In ‘Kol HaNevua-The Voice of Prophecy’ Rabbi David Cohen -Ha Rav HaNazir TZ’L, Rav Kook’s main student (1)  explains the Kabbalistic understanding of Yom Kippur:

“On the holy day, on Yom HaKippurim- we can eat and drink from our holy inner voices of understanding. The fast is connected to the secret of inner eating and drinking.” (Kol HaNevua p. 249)

On Yom Kippur we are invited to step away from engagement with the material daily world and enter our inner Holy of Holies. Just like the Cohen HaGadol/High Priest entered the Holy of Holies for a full experience of the Divine Presence 5 times during the Yom Kippur Temple service, we are invited to reflect that process and experience through our Yom Kippur prayers.

The act of fasting enables that process. The liberation from pursuing our material sustenance frees us to tap into our spiritual wellsprings. Interestingly the numerical value of ‘עינוי-affliction’ (the things we desist from on YK), ‘צום-fast’ and ‘קול-call,voice’ are all 136. This is a hint to the reality that our fasting and separating from the physical allow the spiritual to come forth.

With this perspective we experience Yom Kippur not as a harsh day of suffering and deprivation to expiate us from our sins but as a glorious day of being in the Divine Presence more intensely and joyously than at any other time in the year.

A major theme in Rav Kook’s writings is the understanding that our capacity for communication with the Divine is deeply imbedded in our being:

“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…All our endeavours in Torah and science is only to clarify whatever comprehensible words it is possible to distill from this divine voice that always reverberates in our inner ear.” (Orot HaKodesh 2:346)

Elsewhere, he writes:

“Understanding from within our own consciousness is the higher 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. All that is acquired by study is only a profound strategy as to how to draw on what is hidden in the heart, in the depths of the soul, one’s inner understanding, from the knowledge within.” (Ibid, 1:188)

The Cohen Gadol/High Priest performs a very special and unique divine service on Yom Kippur. It is described extensively in the day’s liturgy. Rav Kook explains that each of us has an inner high priest and Yom Kippur is our opportunity to tap into it and enhance our unique personal divine service:

“Every person must know that they are called upon to serve according to their distinctive comprehension and feeling-according to the promptings of their own soul. In that world, which embraces endless other worlds, will they find the treasure of their life.

Be not confused by suggestions streaming into you from alien worlds which you do not properly comprehend, which you are not conditioned to introduce into your own pattern of life. Those worlds will find perfection in their own place, among those especially suited to establish and perfect them.

Each person must concentrate on their own inner worlds which are full of everything for them and embrace everything.” (Ibid, 3: 221)

This is a great blessing. The Divine Imperative is for each person to hear  and amplify  the Divine Call within:

“The greater a person the more they must seek to discover themselves. The deep levels of our soul remain concealed from us so that we need to be alone frequently, to elevate our imagination, to deepen our thought, to liberate our mind. Final our soul will reveal itself to us by radiating some of its light upon us.

Then we will find our happiness.

We will rise above all lowliness.

We will elevate ourselves above the flux of events by submitting to and uniting ourselves with the events…

Then we will recognize every spark of truth, every spark of equity, wherever it makes its appearance in the world.

All all be drawn to us, without hostility, jealousy and rivalry. Peace and courage  will dawn on us, compassion and love will shine in us. A zeal for accomplishment and work, a desire for action and creation, a yearning for silence and inner contemplation will join together in our spirit.

We will become holy.” (Ibid 3:270)

May we be blessed this Yom Kippur (and always) to shine in the light of our inner illumination and bring true holiness to all life.

G’mar Chatima Tova-May we be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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  1. https://haorotlightsofravkook.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/2-rav-kook-tzl-and-harav-hanazir-tzl-the-5-foundations-of-reality/

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