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.
“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.
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.
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
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
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.
“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
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
“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