Monthly Archives: April 2015

19) HA’OROT-RAV KOOK ON MEDINAT ISRAEL/STATE OF ISRAEL AND NATIONALISM

“מדינתנו, מדינת ישראל, יסוד כסא ד’ בעולם, שכל חפצה הוא שיהיה ד’ אחד ושמו אחד”

“Our state, the State of Israel, foundation of God’s throne in the world- her whole desire is that God will be one and God’s Name one.”  (Rav Kook, Notebook 1:186)

The sweep of history.

Frightening…extraordinary.

Last week, the State of Israel marked-יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה-Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day.

We remembered, we listened to the ever fewer survivors. 

Some wept.

On Sunday night/Monday, the State of Israel marks –יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה-Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

We remember and honor the  23,500 soldiers and 2,600 civilians that have fallen in the ongoing battle for Israel’s survival. Many mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters cry. It is the saddest day of the Israeli year.

Most associate it with  the fallen of the Israel Defence Forces since 1948 but the actual counting is for all those who fell since 1860 when Moses Montefiore built ‘Mishkenot Sha’ananim-Peaceful Habitations’ outside the walls of the Jerusalem old city.(1) This was the first new settlement in the rebuilding of Israel.

And then we reach a day of huge celebration.

The fifth of Iyar (this year marked on the sixth of Iyar to avoid Shabbat desecration)-the day in 1948 that the modern State of Israel was declared. This occurred on Friday, May 14- eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on May 15 1948.

The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of -מדינת ישראל- the State of Israel of 14 May 1948 says:

By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as מדינת ישראל– the State of Israel.”

 The new state was quickly recognised by the Soviet Union, the United States de facto, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, who immediately marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate.  The rest is modern Jewish history or ‘our story’- often referred to as ‘the Arab-Israeli conflict’.

How did we get the name מדינת ישראל-Medinat Israel-The State of Israel? In the days leading up to Iyar 5/May 14 a committee was debating the name of the about to be announced country. ‘Zion’, ‘Yehuda’, ‘Eretz Israel-The Land of Israel’ were all rejected and at the last moment, Ben Gurion decided to call it מדינת  ישראל-Medinat Israel.

It was however not the first time this phrase was used in the 20th century. Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook TZ’L is known by his acronym רב הראי”ה. It literally means ‘the rabbi of vision’.Quite appropriate-not only was he ahead of his time, he is also ahead of our time.

This world is currently divided into nation-states. For the most part, they are in military or economic competition with each other. Pockets of cooperation based on mutual self interest exist.

Nationalism is not human kind at its best. In entry 186 of Notebook Aleph (probably written late 1904/early 1905), Rav Kook wrote:

אין המדינה האושר היותר עליון של האדם. זה ניתן להאמר במדינה רגילה, שאינה עולה לערך יותר גדול מחברת אחריות גדולה, שנשארו המון האידיאות, שהם עטרת החיים של האנושיות, מרחפים ממעל לה, ואינם נוגעים בה.

The nation is not the highest level of happiness for humankind. This can certainly be said about most regular countries whose value is not more than a large mutual insurance pact.  Ideals, which are the crown of human life are irrelevant and beyond their purview.

מה שאין כן מדינה שהיא ביסודה אידיאלית, שחקוק בהוייתה תוכן האידיאלי היותר עליון, שהוא באמת האושר היותר גדול של היחיד. מדינה זו היא באמת היותר עליונה בסולם האושר.

This is not the case with a nation whose foundation is idealistic. A nation in which the highest content is embedded into its very being. This type of nation offers the highest happiness for the individual and it is the highest level in the ladder of satisfaction.

ומדינה זו היא מדינתנו, מדינת ישראל

And this nation is our nation, the State of Israel.

Let us remember that this is being in written around 1905 and is perhaps the first use of the name מדינת ישראל -MEDINAT ISRAEL in modern history.

What is special about Medinat Israel? He continues:

יסוד כסא ד’ בעולם, שכל חפצה הוא שיהיה ד’ אחד ושמו אחד, שזהו באמת האושר היותר עליון.

It is the foundation of G-d’s Throne in the world, and all its desire is that HaShem will be one and His Name one-this is truly the highest happiness.

The reason for Israel’s existence is to reflect the Divine Oneness in the world. While most nations are devoted to their material existence and survival, Israel’s raison d’etre is linked to helping humankind realize it’s highest ideals.

To bring this potential into actuality is an extraordinary challenge. Rav Kook explains this  as the ongoing task that began with Abraham and continues to this very day:

“Abraham heard the vast realm of the divine calling to existence: Be illuminated; calling to every living being: Fill yourself with happiness, greatness, loftiness, peace, good strength, love and delight…

The Jewish people took this aspiration as the basis of its national existence, as condition by its historic destiny…

Our strong commitment to assure the continuity of Judaism with its ideas and patterns of behavior, together with its corporate self on its own land, stems from the widespread recognition that we still have a long to distance to travel in order to complete what we began.

We began to say something of immense importance among ourselves and to the world, but we have not yet completed it. We are in the midst of our discourse, and we do not wish-we are unable-to stop…” (ErechHaTechiya-Significance of the Revival,-Boktzer translation, p. 283/284)

The State of Israel is about to celebrate its 69th year of independence. It is in an ongoing process of learning, trial and error, accomplishment and discovery. It is by many parameters becoming one of the most successful countries in the world. Two years ago it was ranked as the 11th happiest country in world-out of 150. The number of simchas-celebrations per capita is probably the highest in the world. It is certainly a place of great idealism and many people and organizations are devoted to bettering life in all sorts of ways.

When was the second time the phrase “מדינת ישראל -MEDINAT ISRAEL” is used?

In 1921, Rav Kook wrote a manifesto “דגל ירושלים-The Flag of Jerusalem” calling on all to join the idealistic spiritual work of rebuilding and revivifying the Land of Israel. Towards its conclusion he invites:

“באו ונרים את דגלה של מדינת ישראל כארץ ישראל במלא מובנה….

Let us raise the flag of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel in its full meaning…” 

-במהרה בימינו- Quickly in our days.

 יום העצמאות שמח -Happiest Israel Independence Day

 

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1)The first ‘counted’ fallen of the ongoing war is Aharon Hershler, Z’L, who on January 1, 1873 was killed by a gang of Arabs in Mishkenot Shaananim after he tried to stop them from attacking this first settlement.   http://goo.gl/sg8zn6

 

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18)HA’OROT: RAV KOOK TZ’L ON HITLER AND THE SHOA/HOLOCAUST

שופר של חיה טמאה נהפך לשופרו של משיח. עמלק, פיטלורה,  היטלר וכו’, מעוררים לגאולה

“The shofar of the impure animal is transformed into the shofar of Messiach. Amalek…Hitler and their ilk are awakening redemption.”   -Rav Kook-Rosh HaShana, 1934.

It is soon to be (Sunday night/Monday-April 23/4) Yom HaZicaron LaShoa ve’Gvurah- Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day.. The nation wide 11 a.m. siren to mark a moment of silence will blow  in Israel.

This day-Nisan 27- was chosen by the Israeli Knesset in the early 1950’s because  in 1943 it was the close to the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and a week before Yom HaAtzmaut-Israel’s Independence Day-Iyar 5. They were interested in making explicit the historical connection of these events. My personal research has convinced me that the Holocaust did not need to happen for Israel to come into being.

But the Holocaust  did happen…it very certainly did. I knew of it from the womb.

My mother, Bluma -Zichrona LeBracha, arrived in Auschwitz from Cluj, Transylvania in June 1944 and saw her younger sister go directly to the crematoria upon their arrival. Most of my father’s family (he is the youngest of 12 children) were in the same transport and perished there. My father, Yosef, Shlita Ad 120, worked as slave labor for the Romanian-German army and thus survived as did my mother. They arrived in Israel in spring 1948 after a number of months incarceration in the British detainments camps in Cyprus.

It became obvious to me at a young age that they had experienced a very traumatic event. I wanted and needed to understand what actually happened there. At the too young age of 10 or 11, I began to read books containing eyewitness reports and testimonies. Not a great idea. I cut back somewhat after the night I saw a large illuminated face of Hitler shining outside my bedroom window.  

My obsessive fascination with the Holocaust continued for many years. I was a tour guide at Yad Vashem for a while.

At one point in my late teens, I made the conscious choice that the only responsible response to  such great darkness is to seek the greatest light and shine it in the world. A few years later, this brought me to study Torah in  Israel in 1973 and that journey brought me to the Torah of Baal HaOrot-the Master of the Lights-Rav Kook, TZ’L in August 1980.

What would Rav Kook say about the holocaust?  I can not know for sure, though I could speculate. What we do know for sure is what he did say about the Nazis and Germany before he died in 1935. Please allow me to share two remarkable statements that he made.

The first was on the first day of  Rosh HaShana -October 22, 1933. Hitler had come to power in January 30th of that year and by this time was Chancellor and Fuhrer. Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Germany and it was obvious that this wasn’t good for the Jews (or anyone else.) These events were being followed closely and anxiously in the Jewish communities in Palestine. It was announced that on that day Rav Kook would doven at Beit Yaakov-also known as the Hurva-Destroyed- Synagogue in the Old City and would speak about ‘inyanei de’yoma’-matters of the day. The synagogue was packed Rav Kook arrived with his entourage and the prayers began. After the chanting of the haftarah, Rav Kook stepped forward to speak.

In a hushed voice he began: “We say in our prayers, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the banner to bring our exiles together. What is the significance of this ‘great shofar’?

There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashanah. Preferably, one should blow a ram’s horn. If this is impossible, one may use a shofar made from the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow.

But if neither of these types is available, we may blow the horn of an animal which is ritually unclean and do so without reciting a blessing.

These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three ‘Shofars of Redemption,’ three Divine calls summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land.

The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God and the unique mission of the people of Israel. This elevated awakening corresponds to the ram’s horn, a horn that recalls Abraham’s supreme love of God and dedication in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of heavenly Jerusalem united with earthly Jerusalem, that inspired Nachmanides, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, the students of the Vilna Gaon, and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. It is for this ‘great shofar,’an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism, that we fervently pray.

There exists a second Shofar of Redemption, a less optimal form of awakening. This shofar calls out to the Jewish people to return to their homeland, to the land where our ancestors, our prophets and our kings, once lived. It beckons us to live as a free people, to raise our families in a Jewish country and a Jewish culture. This is a kosher shofar, albeit not a great shofar like the first type of awakening. We still recite a brachah over this shofar.

There is, however, a third type of shofar. (At this point Rav Kook burst out in tears.) The least desirable shofar comes from the horn of an unclean animal. This shofar corresponds to the wake-up call that comes from the persecutions of anti-Semitic nations, warning the Jews to escape while they still can and flee to their own land. Enemies force the Jewish people to be redeemed, blasting the trumpets of war, bombarding them with deafening threats of harassment and torment, giving them no respite in the Diaspora.

The shofar of an impure animal becomes the shofar of Mashiach. Amalek, Petilura [a Ukranian Jew killer-1879-1926], Hitler and their ilk- awaken us to redemption. The one who did not listen to the sound of the first shofar and the ones whose ears are closed up and do not want to listen to the sound of the second, ordinary shofar will listen to the sound of the impure, invalid shofar. They will listen against their will. Over this shofar, however, no blessing is recited. “One does not recite a blessing over a cup of affliction” (Berachot 51b).

We pray that the Holy One does not force us to listen to the invalid and impure shofar. We also do not long for the ordinary, medium sized-almost secular- shofar.

We pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom”, a shofar which comes from the very depths of the sanctity of the Jewish soul, from our Holy of Holies. We all await that  great day of  which it is written: ‘It shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria, and the oppressed in the land of Egypt will come and worship God at the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)

Rav Kook explained that Hitler and Nazism was the call of the impure shofar calling upon the people to flee, to return home to the Land of Israel. This drasha had a deep impact on all who heard it and was repeated in the newspapers of the time.

Shortly before he died in Elul 1935, Rav Kook wrote his last words of Torah. They are contained in a short notebook entitled “Jerusalem, notebook 34″. After a number of pithy spiritual insights, Rav Kook wrote a short essay entitled-’The Land of Israel, The Land of the Tanach (Bible)’. He began by explaining the Biblical connection of Israel to the Land of Israel and the importance to encourage the return of the Jewish people to its land. He concluded the piece thusly:

“The events that are occurring recently are stirring spiritual and national recognitions within Am Israel-The Nation of Israel in relation to its return to its ancient land. This understanding is also penetrating into the hearts of the refined among the nations of the world… England and all people with a more developed sense of hearing have begun to understand this wondrous secret that will bring life to the world in the near future.

Germany has begun to stand against the spirit of pure prophecy of the Book of Books as it unveils its vicious hatred to the people of the Bible. It must return in complete penitence to save itself from absolute destruction.

And finally the Land of the Tanach must be rebuilt by the Nation of the Tanach in order to bring the Godly Biblical spirit of peace/wholeness [רוח השלום] in all its supernal refinement to the lives of all the nations on planet Earth.”

The reference to Germany was chilling then and continues to be in hindsight.  This is basically the final teaching that Rav Kook left for us.

“The Land of the Bible must be rebuilt by the people of the Bible in order to bring universal Divine peace to the entire planet.”

Be’Meheira be’Yamenu-Speedily in our days.

 

17)HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK: PESACH-FREEDOM AND LIBERATION

“The core of freedom is to be…loyal to our inner essence; to the ‘Tzelem Elokeem-Divine Image’ that is within us”.

In Erev Pesach 5694/April 30, 1934 Rav Kook TZ’L wrote an impassioned call to freedom as his Pesach message to the children of Israel. He was weakened from  the disease that felled him two weeks before his 70th birthday a year and half after this was written. It was published in HaYesod, a newspaper of the time and has the special significance of being one of the last public statements we have from him.

When the Rav Kook Haggadah was collected, this piece introduced the seder. As my Korban Pesach/Offering, please allow me to share selections of it on the eve of the Pesach we are approaching. The Hebrew is included.

It is entitled- Cherutenu-Our Freedom and the Burning of Chametz:

.אלה השנים המסמנים לנו את חג הגאולה”

?  ולדורות מה אנחנו למדים מאלה שני הנושאים הללו התלויים זה בזה

Freedom and the burning of chametz symbolize for us the Chag HaGeula-Festival of Liberation. What are we to learn for all generations from these two interdependent realms?

תשובה הנצחית היא, שתנאי הגאולה שנים המה:

החירות העצמית, חירות הגוף מכל שיעבוד זר, מכל שיעבוד הכופה את צלם אלקים אשר באדם להיות משועבד לכל כח אשר הוא מוריד את ערכו, את תפארת גדולתו והדרת קדשו, והחירות הזאת אינה נקנית כי אם על ידי חירותה .של הנשמה

חירות הרוח מכל מה שהוא מטה אותו ממסילתה הישרה והאיתנה היצוקה במהותו העצמית.

אבל אלה שני סוגי החירות אינם באים, ואין האדם בתור אישיות פרטית ולא העם בתור קיבוץ שלם בעל רוח מיוחד זוכה להם, כי אם על ידי הביעור מכל גבולו את כל דבר המעכב את חירותו, שזה חמצו השאור שבעיסה שהיזקו מצוי ביותר בעת אשר אור של גאולה מתנוצץ עליו

The eternal answer is that there are two conditions necessary for liberation to occur. The first is cherut haguf/ freedom of the body [our physical experience] from any external enslavement, from any enslavement that subdues our Tzelem Elokim/Divine Image. Freedom from anything that reduces our sense of value, our splendrous greatness and glorious holiness.

This Cherut/Freedom can not be reached except through freedom of soul. This is the freedom of the spirit from anything that diverts  it away from its direct powerful path- cast of its inner essence.

These two types of freedoms do not come, to individuals or nations, except by the act of biur-excision of anything and everything that delays liberation from our midst. This is the ‘leaven in the dough’ whose damage is particularly felt at the time when the light of geula/liberation is shining upon us.

להתלמד אנו צריכים איך לסגל לנו את אותו הרוח הגדול של החירות…

We need to learn how to experience this great spirit of liberation

ההבדל שבין העבד ובן החורין, איננו רק הבדל מעמדי, מה שבמקרה זה הוא

משועבד לאחר, וזה הוא בלתי משועבד. אנו יכולים למצא עבד משכיל שרוחו הוא מלא חירות, ולהיפוך, בן חורין שרוחו הוא רוח של עבד.

The difference between a slave and a free person is not just a difference of status. This one is enslaved to another and this one is independent. We can find an enlightened slave whose is spirit is filled with freedom and a free person whose spirit is that of a slave.

החירות הצביונית היא אותה הרוח הנשאה, שהאדם וכן העם בכללו מתרומם על ידה, להיות נאמן להעצמיות הפנימית שלו, להתכונה הנפשית של צלם אלקים אשר בקרבו, ובתכונה כזאת אפשר לו להרגיש את חייו בתור חיים מגמתיים שהם שוים את ערכם

The foundational essence of freedom is that elevated spirit by which a human being and a nation rises to be loyal to their inner being-to the Tzelem Elokim-The Divine Image within. In this way we can  experience our lives as purposeful, worthy of their value.

מה שאין כן בבעל הרוח של העבדות, שלעולם אין תוכן חייו והרגשתו מעורים בתכונתו הנפשית העצמית כי אם במה שהוא יפה וטוב אצל האחר השולט עליו איזה שליטה שהיא

This is not so with the one whose spirit is enslaved.

They do not experience their lives illuminated by their inner essence. They are controlled by that which others define as tov-good and yafeh-beautiful…

נסע ונלך להבליט יותר ויותר את עצמאותנו הרעננה הפנימית, אותה שקנינו על ידי גילוי שכינה, אותה החירות שקנינו על ידי הפלא הגדול היחיד בעולם, שנעשה עמנו בעת אשר גאלנו השם יתברך, וגאל את אבותינו ממצרים לחירות עולם.

Let us go forth and express more and more our inner vibrant independence. We acquired our freedom at the singular wondrous event of Pesach: Gilui HaShechina- The Revelation of the Divine Presence.

We experienced this at the time that the Holy One liberated our ancestors from Egypt to eternal freedom…

שמרו את החירות ואת ביעור החמץ, והגאלו מהרה גאולה שלמה.

Let us protect this freedom, let us fully excise our chometz. We will be quickly and completely liberated.”

Amen ve Amen. To freedom.

Chag Kasher veSameach

Itzchak