In honor of Rav Kook TZL’s 80th Yaartzeit Year, Bet Avi Chai and Beit HaRav Kook are sponsoring an evening of HA’OROT- A Musical Journey Into The Light and Vision of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak
HaCohen Kook TZ’L.
יא בתמוז–ראשון — 20:00
In honor of Rav Kook TZL’s 80th Yaartzeit Year, Bet Avi Chai and Beit HaRav Kook are sponsoring an evening of HA’OROT- A Musical Journey Into The Light and Vision of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak
HaCohen Kook TZ’L.
ירושלים, ונקודת ציון ביחוד, תורה על שיבת המין האנושי למרומי מצבו ביחש להעמים שכבר נתפלגו, שישובו לחטיבה טובה וטהורה
Yerushalayim, and Zion in particular, is a teaching about the return of humankind to its highest status -to the point that all the nations who divided into many streams in the past will return to form one pure and good unit”. -Rav Kook, TZ”L
Rav Kook wrote this in 1904, soon after he arrived in Israel to be the Chief Rabbi of Yaffo and the new settlements.
He knew about Yerushalayim. In 1888, at the age of 23, his mentor, the Chafetz Chayim, directed him to learn the laws related to the the Temple Mount and its service. “The Temple may not be rebuilt in my lifetime, but hopefully it will be in yours. We Cohanim will have to know what to do” the elder sage of Europe told him. This was the seed for the unfolding Temple Mount movement.
From the moment he stepped foot in the Land of Israel on the 28th of Iyar, 5664 (May 13, 1904) his entire being was dedicated to the rebuilding and rededication of Yerushalayim. His family continued to celebrate the 28th of Iyar as the day that the Kook family returned to Israel.
We now celebrate it as Yom Yerushalayim.
For it was on the 28th of Iyar in 1967-the third day of the Six Day War-that the Israeli Defence Forces recaptured the Temple Mount and its environs. Appropriately, the first people brought to the Kotel on June 7, 1967 were Rav Kook’s son-Rav Tzvi Yehuda, TZ’L, Rav Kook’s primary student HaRav David Cohen-HaRav HaNazir TZ’L and HaRav HaNazir’s son-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, TZ’L.
“A righteous one decrees and the Holy One fulfills.”(Talmud) Rav Kook was the Kohen Gadol-High Priest of the return to and the rededication of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
Soon after his arrival, he wrote:
כשאנו באים לדבר על ירושלים… פה גאון ישראל עומד בכל הדר גאותו…..נשמת אלהים חיים ההולכת ומתגברת בתוכנו ומקיצה אותנו לתחיה. מבשרת ציון העומדת על הר גבוה. האומרת לערי יהודה: הנה אלהיכם.
וזהו העד היותר נאמן על שלמות נשמת אלהים חיים המפעמת במסתרים בתוך תנועת התחיה שלנו…כי אם דבר ד’ הוא וזרם אור אל אלהי ישראל הוא המתגלה בכל תנועותינו הקטנות עם הגדולות….והנה היא עומדת לפנינו… ואומר גדול בפיה : “לעשות את ירושלים תהלה בארץ,לבנות את ירושלים
“When we come to speak of Jerusalem…here the genius of Israel stands in all its splendor…the Soul of the Living Elokim is unfolding and growing within us-awakening us to renewal. The ‘announcer of Tzion’ standing on the high mountain. Speaking to the cities of Yehuda-here is your Elokim. [based on Isaiah 40:9) This is the most faithful witness to the wholeness of the Living God Soul mysteriously inspiring our movement of national return…The word of God and the stream of Light of the God of Israel is revealed in all our movements, large and small…Behold it is standing before us…proclaiming loudly: “Make Jerusalem splendrous in the land, build Jerusalem!” (Maamarei HaRayah:Yerushalayim-p.298)
Rav Kook gives free reign to his prophetic capacity as he heralds:
התור הגיע, מאורעות הימים כולם קוראים לנו בקול גדול: ישראל, בנה את עיר קדשך..
“The turtledove has arrived, the events of the days are calling out to us loudly-Build your holy city…” (Maamarei HaRayah-Chibat Yerushalayim-p. 329)
And building, we have been. I sometimes walk around Yerushalayim and Israel and imagine how Rav Kook would see it. It is clear to me that he would see his vision confirmed and unfolding. Challenges and all.
And his vision went even further. In the continuation of the opening quote describing the role of Jerusalem and Zion in bringing the world together, he continues:
אמנם גדול ממנה הוא גן עדן, שישוב המין האנושי לגבה מעלתו בפרטיו, עד שלא יהיה צריך שום לימוד והדרכה, ולא עזרת קיבוץ, כי אם לחיות בגן עדן, לעבדה ולשמרה, בתור טיול ועונג מורחב הממלא את החומר והרוח עדנים.”
Even greater than this is Gan Eden-the Garden of Eden/Delight in which all parts of the human race will return to their highest and there will be no need for learning, guidance and help from the group. We will be living in the Garden of Eden/Delight, cultivating and safe-keeping, as a delightful expanded journey that will fill the material and the spiritual realms with delights.” (Pinkas HaDapim Bet:8)
The process of building Yerushalayim as a model of the possibilities for planetary human unification will lead us to the reality of the Garden of Eden. The Torah is explicit that this is the goal of history and that the Creator’s loving desire for good to be manifested is the most powerful force in existence.
“We will be living in the Garden of Eden/Delight..as a delightful expanded journey that will fill the material and the spiritual realms with delights.”
במהרב בימינו-Speedily in our days.
יום ירושלים שמח- A joyous Jerusalem Day to all.
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
This blog is kindly sponsored by Kef International-http://www.kefintl.com/
Kef International Ltd. is an international relocations company based in Jerusalem, Israel. We specialize in Aliyah Shipping, Shipping to Israel,Shipping from Israeland Corporate Relocations. Call us toll free: 1-866-425-5224
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 5775th time.
The book of Breishit/Genesis. For at least the 2000th time.
It was just my birthday. Again.
And in Jerusalem at Rav Kook’s house, we are celebrating the election of Rabbi Aryeh Stern, Shlita to be the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. It has been some time since the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem has been so deeply linked to the Torah of Rav Kook who was the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem from 1919 till his passing in 1935. This is a new beginning.
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
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“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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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.’
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.
HA’OROT-THE ILLUMINATIONS OF RAV KOOK
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HA’OROT: THE ILLUMINATIONS OF RAV KOOK TZ’L
10) HA’OROT- THE TORAH OF EDEN: IN HONOR OF RAV KOOK TZ’L’S 79th YARTZEIT
“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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