16) HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK: THE POET OF LIGHT
“All existence whispers to me its secret.
I have life to offer, take please take…”
With those lines begins one of Rabbi Avraham Itzchak Hacohen Kook TZ’L’s extraordinary poems. I began reading it and some of his other poems when I was beginning to meet Rav Kook’s Torah and being over 30 years ago. In the last decade my engagement with his poetry has deepened and it is now a major focus of my learning and teaching.
Rav Kook was a being of immense illumination. His poetry is an expression of his most elevated states of consciousness and insights. In this posting, I would like to share some of the poems I am most moved by.
Rav Kook’s Hebrew is much better than my English and I did not try to duplicate the rhyming that is found in the Hebrew. I also have recorded and performed these poems with a New York based jazz group “Greg Wall’s Later Prophets”. A huge thanks to Rabbi Greg Wall, Shai Bachar, Aaron Alexander, Dave Richards for the recording and perorming. When appropriate, I will link the recorded tracks along with the poems.
Let us return to the opening poem, ‘The Whispers of Existence’:
All existence whispers to me it’s secret:
‘I have life to offer, take, please take.’
If you have a heart and your heart is flowing with red blood
That has not been poisoned by the toxins of despair.
But if your heart is uncircumsized/covered,
And beauty holds no spell for you,
Then existence whispers to me:
‘Away from me, away, to you I am closed, locked, forbidden’
If every gentle sound,
Every living beauty, stirs you not to a holy song,
But instead awakens in you a stream of strange fire,
‘Away from me, away, to you I am closed, locked, forbidden.’
And a generation will awaken,
And sing to beauty and to life,
And draw unending delight
From the dew of heaven.
And from the splendor of the Carmel and the Sharon,
The wealth of life’s secrets
Will be heard by the ears of a people alive.
And from the eden of her song, and the beauty of her life
A holy light will fill all,
And all of existence with murmur lovingly to us:
‘My beloved, I am yours, I am yours.’
Here is the recording http://goo.gl/fKTM36 -in Hebrew.
Rav Kook’s passion found powerful expression through poetry. In 1902, he wrote a 42 verse poem about protecting Zion. Its title ‘Encircle Zion, Surround Her’ is based on Psalms 48.
It’s words unfortunately ring as true as ever.. Here are the first four verses:
Encircle Tzion, encircle,
Like a wheel around the point,
Surround her, crown her,
With testimony and Torah.
Encircle, watch over Tziona
From every vengeful foe,
Surround, protect her many
From every fool pretending wisdom.
Surround her so that she will not be breached,
By terrorists, foxes of the vineyard,
Surround her so that she will not be swarmed
By smearers of lies and slander.
Encircle Tzion, encircle
With the fence of fire and law,
With might protect her
And fearlessly do it all.
Here is what it sounds like in Hebrew: http://goo.gl/jlrIU0
Through poetry he described his prophetic visions. Here is one of the most remarkable ones. It is entitled‘ME’OLAM RACHOK: From A Distant World’:
From a distant world, full of illumination,
The suns there are as broad as the ocean,
And the stars, like the light of our sun,
On the face of the sapphire stone…..there.
The news reaches me,
Like dew full of overflowing delight,
Guiding me to the hidden Eden,
There the treasure is stored.
All the faces there are joyful,
Every mouth is singing songs of praise,
The highest feelings fill each heart,
And all the legs are dancing in jubilation.
The past and the future are scrolled into one,
Nothing is hidden, everything is known,
And every soul is full of love for all,
Feelings for the multitudes, and the light is sown.
All the pasts flow like rivers,
And purity, illumination, strength and light,
Life renewed, freedom and liberation,
Fills all our thoughts and activities.
And without teachers, guides, judges or politicians,
Everything is good, everything is clear,
There is no crookedness or corruption, everything is with integrity,
And the night shines like the day.
To a world such as this my soul longs,
In life such as this my spirit soars.
It’s reassuring to know that the future is so perfect.
Though there is alot of fixing we need to do to bring it about.
Here is the poem in Hebrew and English: http://goo.gl/I4iHU
Rav Kook wrote approximately thirty poems. Many of his prose pieces are also very poetic and can be read as poems. Let me conclude this introductory survey with one of my favorite poems to perform. We often end our show with it. It is called “Techiya-A Call To Renewal”:
Give me, give me
Rays of light,
Too much for me, too much
These pits of darkness.
Give me the gift
Of purity of thought,
Enough for me, enough
These prisons of confusion.
Gift me, gift me
With the the power of desire,
Extend to me
Balls of fire.
I’ll explode with them
The false towers and structure
And the vanity of vanities
That dwell within.
I call for liberation
For my words and my pen
My wine in its barrel.
And without fear
The anxiety of the enslaved
We will announce together
Words and matters of unity, uniqueness and unification.
And our words like arrows
Will hit their marks,
And to our brothers and sisters struggling
Speak of our wrongdoing.
To raise ourselves beyond the divisions,
For the greatness of the nation
To expand our consciousness
As broad as the ocean.
To shake the dust
From the lands of our exile
That are cleaving
To our sickly hearts.
To understand the principle
That is everything,
The Torah, our destiny,
The power of the Divine.
To be concerned for the soul,
The soul of our people,
That is turned over desolate,
In its exile from its home.
To awaken life,
For the renewal of the nation
On the earth and in the heavens,
As they are there.
Here is the recording of the English: http://goo.gl/9lFBhf
May we and all existence be blessed to experience the light, love and complete wholeness that Rav Kook is pointing us towards.
Blessings from Jerusalem
If anyone is interested in seeing films of the poems being performed, please go here: https://www.youtube.com/user/HAOROTRAVKOOK
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