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

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16) HA’OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK: THE POET OF LIGHT

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

Without keeping

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

Itzchak

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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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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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12)HA’OROT:TSHUVA/RETURN-THE LIMITLESS POWER OF THE WILL FOR GOOD-

TSHUVA/RETURN-THE LIMITLESS POWER OF THE WILL FOR GOOD 

“The whole world is pervaded by harmony…Our inner moral sense and its powerful claims represent an echo of the unitary voice in all parts of existence.” (Orot HaTshuva, 8:7)

‘The whole world pervaded by harmony.’ The scientific description of reality certainly demonstrates that in countless ways. The growth  of human understanding has been the unfolding  realizationt hat we are all part of a precisely created unified unity. ‘It all fits together’.

With a few exceptions. War, disease, suffering, poverty are all strong experiences of the dis-harmonious. The physical world may be created perfectly, but we, human beings,  are experiencing major imperfections in much of our experience.

The harmony that pervades all existence is not widely experienced in the human realm. The trees, animals and most other living  things are all living in perfect harmony with the unfolding of existence. We are decidedly not.

Rav Kook TZ’L explains the reason for that:

“Every moral severance in thought or deed, in character or disposition, creates many wounds that inflict many inner pains in all aspects of the soul. The basis of these spiritual pains is the disturbing force of withdrawing the light of life emanating from the general order of existence from the life channels of sinning soul”. (Ibid)

Our actions cause us to either be in connection with the harmonious force in existence or to separate and distance ourselves from it.

The pain of this separation serves as the fuel to our return to the harmonious:

“Sins are the essence of melancholy. When the soul undergoes cleansing, it experiences the very essence of its wrongdoings and the the melancholy of tshuva asserts itself. A fire of anguish, remorse, shame and a terrifying fear burns inside it. But in this very process it is purified.” (Ibid, 8:11)

That is the blessing of the Divine Goodness.The pain is the door to the liberation:

“Once our moral sense is awakened, the light of the soul becomes at once manifest, and by that light our whole self becomes subjected to probing. We see our defects. We become agitated with a deep sense of anxiety because of our low state of perfection and how grave deterioration.

It is, however, precisely then for us to consider that this awareness and the anxiety that comes with it are the best signs pointing to full liberation through the perfection of the self.” (Ibid, 8:16)

‘The perfection of the self’.Is such a level of being accomplishable?

Rav Kook teaches that it is and that we have a powerful inner force that can help us reach that pinnacle:

“When the light of tshuva is constantly active, the important principle -that the goodness of the will is basic and all the inclinations in the world are only its implementation-becomes clear. The quality of will ennobled by holiness…asserts itself increasingly within us. We then come to recognize the true value of genuine success that depends only on the person and is independent of external conditions–and this is a will for the good.” (Ibid,9:1)

Our inner commitment to expressing our will for the good is our secret tool for personal and planetary transformation:

“For a good will that always abides in the soul transforms all life and all existence towards the good. By looking at the basic nature of existence with an eye for the good, one exerts an influence on existence and on the complicated processes of life so that they emerge from their deficiencies. All things then bloom and live in a happy state, as a result of the spiritual riches and the abundance that is contained in the good will.” (Ibid)

‘A good will…transforms all life and all existence toward the good.’ Through manifesting our will for the good we are instantly aligned with the Divine Will. Extraordinary power then rests within each human being:

“The mighty will…becomes a living force that engenders great and lofty things for good and for blessing…Morality, the impulse for equity and good, represents the central direction of the will of existence…As the tshuva process is deepened…the deeper becomes the attachment of our good side to the domain of free choice. Thus the light and the spiritual riches of our life are magnified now and for all time, and we and all existence rises to greater heights. We are illuminated with a higher perception of the highest good–that a disposition for the good is the universal foundation, the beginning and the end of all existence. ‘The Holy One is good to all and God’s mercies are over all His creations (Psalms 145:9)” (Ibid 16:2)

Our inner return/fusion with the universal will for good is transformative:

“We thus become a new being, we release with a resolute spirit the vibrations of a new way of life on all who are around us. We bring to our generation and to future generations the glad tidings of the joy of integrity, the joy of song out of our confidence of liberation, with celebration and jubilation.” (Ibid, 16:7)

There is no limit to our possibilities once we harness the power of the good.

“From the moment the mighty stream for the universal will for life turns toward the good, many forces within the whole of existence are stirred to disclose the good and to bestow good to all…Tshuva is inspired by yearning of all existence to be better, purer, more vigourous and on a higher plane that it is. Within this yearning is a hidden life-force for overcoming every factor that limits and weakens existence.” (Ibid, 6:1)

May we truly be agents for this life-force.

Bee’mehera be’yamenu-speedily in our days.’

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Translations of Rav Kook are based on Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser’s masterful presentations of selection of Torat HaRav Kook. I have sometimes taken the liberty to change the translation from third person to first person.

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HA’OROT-THE ILLUMINATIONS OF RAV KOOK

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11)HA’OROT-OROT HA’TSHUVA:THE LIGHTS OF RETURN

11) HA’OROT-OROT HATSHUVA: THE LIGHTS OF RETURNOROT HATSHUVA orginal cover

“When one forgets the essence of one’s own soul, when one distracts their mind from attending to the substantive content of their own inner life, everything becomes confused and uncertain. The primary role of of tshuva…is for the person to return to their true selves, to the root of their soul.” (Orot HaTshuva 15:10)

Tshuva can be translated as ‘return, penitence, repentance’.

The Torah’s calendar now takes us into a profound time in which tshuva is central to the experience.

We recently began Elul, the sixth month of the year which precedes Tishrei,the seventh month. This is important preparation for the High Holy Days -Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and the  joyous Festival of Succot.

This month is equivalent to the sixth day of the week in which we prepare for the blissful immersion into  Shabbat. Similarly now, we are encouraged to use this month as a cleansing process so that we can be our fullest selves in the presence of the Divine (and each other) during Tishrei (and always).

Elul was of particular significance in Rav Kook’s life and practice. He was born on the 16th of Elul in 1865. He  arrived in Jerusalem on the 3rd of Elul in 1919 to begin serving as the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He passed away exactly 16 years later on the 3rd of Elul in 1935.

One of the main foundations of his life and thought is the reality and importance of tshuva for our personal, national and universal being. In 1925  his most well known book- Orot HaTshuva/The Lights of Return was published.

He explained in the introduction:

“I feel prodded by a mighty force to speak about tshuva and all my thoughts are focused on this theme alone.”

The book is a 17 chapter tour de force in spiritual literature.

It has been widely read and continues to be in the ‘religious Zionist’ movement which Rav Kook, his son and students birthed in Israel. Many religious IDF soldiers carry a pocket size copy of it with them at all times. Rav Kook himself reviewed it closely every Elul as part of his preparation and tshuva process.

It is thus most appropriate at this time to read some excerpts from this masterpiece. I will continue to use the word tshuva rather than the less adequate English translations.

“Physical tshuva is related to all transgressions against the laws of nature, and those laws of morality and Torah that are linked to the laws of nature. Every act of wrongdoing must in the end engender illness and pain, and the individual as well  as society is exposed to much suffering as a result of this.

After it becomes clear that the  person, as a result of misbehavior, is responsible for their distress, they begin to give thought to correcting their condition, to return to the laws of life and observe the laws of nature, morality and the Torah.” (Chapter 1)

It seems planetarily we are paying for our transgressions against the physical laws of life and nature.

Rav Kook continues to explain the different levels of tshuva:

“The higher expression of tshuva comes about as a flash of illumination of the all-good, the divine, the light of the One who abides in eternity. The universal soul, the spiritual essence is revealed to us in all its majesty and holiness, to the extent that the human heart can absorb it.

Indeed, is not all of existence so good and so noble, and is not the good and the nobility within ourselves but an expression of our relatedness to the all? How can we allow ourselves to become severed from the all, a strange fragment, detached like tiny grains of sand that are of no value?” (Chapter 2)

Here Rav Kook places tshuva in a cosmic context.

It is the return of the human to living in harmony with the cosmic principles and realities. The integration of the personal and the cosmic is a foundation of his (and the Torah’s) perspective. We see this highlighted in the following pieces:

The individual and the collective soul, the world soul, the soul of all realms of being cries out like a fierce lioness in anguish for total perfection, for an ideal form of existence, and we feel the pain and it purges us.” (4:1)

“The highest sensibility in the soul of the people of Israel is the quest for universality. The people aspire for this by the very essence of its being, and this affects all existence. The desire for tshuva in its highest form is rooted in this hidden longing.” (5:6)

“The soul of the people of Israel expresses itself in the striving for absolute justice, which, to be effectuated must include the realization of all moral virtues.” (5:7)

The ultimate goal of the impulse of tshuva is to bring about a world of ‘absolute justice…the realization of all moral virtues.’ Nothing less. It is the full manifestation of our highest ideals in reality.

It is an expression of the highest freedom:

“Tshuva is the aspiration for the true original freedom, which is the divine freedom, wherein there is no enslavement of any kind.” (5:5)

This is a powerful force in action:

“The desire for tshuva is related to the universal will, to its highest source. From the moment the mighty stream for the universal will for life turns toward the good, many forces within the whole of existence are stirred to disclose the good and to bestow good to all…

Tshuva is inspired by the yearning all existence to be better, purer, more vigorous and on a higher plane than it is. Within this yearning is a hidden life-force for overcoming every factor that limits and weakens existence.” (6:1)

Rav Kook places tshuva in the context of the expulsion and return to the Garden of Eden:

“At the inception of creation it was intended that the tree have the same taste as the fruit. (Genesis Rabbah:5:9)

All the supportive actions that sustain any general worthwhile spiritual goal should by right be experienced in the soul with the same feeling of elation and thought as the goal itself is experienced…But earthly existence, the instability of life, the weariness of the spirit when confined in a corporate frame, brought it about that only the fruition of the final step, which embodies the primary ideal, is experienced in its pleasure and splendor. The trees that bear the fruit, with all their necessity for the growth of the fruit have become coarse matter and have lost their taste. This is the failing of the ‘earth’ because of which it was cursed when Adam was also cursed for his sin.

But every defect is destined to be mended. Thus we are assured that they day will come when creation will return to its original state, when the taste of the tree will be the same as the taste of the fruit.” (6:7)

‘The day will come when the taste of the tree will be the same as the taste of the fruit.’ No more separation between means and ends. We will be living back in the Garden of Eden experience.

What does mean for each of us individually?

In Chapter 15 of Orot HaTshuva we find this remarkable passage:

“When one forgets the essence of one’s own soul, when distracts their mind from attending to the substantive content of their own inner life, everything becomes confused and uncertain. The primary role of tshuva…is for the person to return to to their true selves,  to the root of their soul. Then we will at once return to G-d, to the Soul of all souls.

Then we will progress continually, higher and higher, in holiness and in purity. This is true whether we consider the individual, a whole people, or the whole of humanity or whether we consider the mending of all existence, which always becomes damaged when it forgets itself.

If one should envision that they sought to return to G-d without setting themselves in order, this would be a deceptive tshuva, through which G-d’s name will be taken in vain.

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.” (15:10)

The primary role of tshuva is for each of us to return to our true selves. For the creation to reach its fulfillment and for each of us to achieve our own fulfillment it is necessary to be who we truly are. What a blessing and gift, an indication of the love of the Creator for the created.

Each one of us is a unique spark of Divine Light.

In being our true selves, in harmony with our inner and outer beings, we are illuminating the Divine within us and shining it forth into the world.

May all humankind shine brightly.

Blessings from Jerusalem

Itzchak

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Translations adapted from Ben Zion Bokser’s wonderful translation of selections of Rav Kook in ‘Abraham Isaac Kook’ -Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press.

http://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Isaac-Kook-Principles-Spirituality/dp/080912159X

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