Busy all through the day with Rabbinical duties concerning the Chief Rabbinate, and busy all evening with his daily learning, Rabbi Kook found time at night to answer the constant inquiries he received from Jews around the world.


Taken with permission from the biography, “An Angel Among Men” by Simcha Raz. Translated by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman. For more of Rabbi LIchtman’s writings and books, see his website:


A treasure house of halachah and aggadah, revealed and esoteric Torah, philosophy and

poetry, can be found in Iggrot HaRe’iyah, a four-volume collection of over 1,300 letters

written by Rav Kook. Possibly nowhere else in Jewish literature can one find a collection of

letters so rich and significant, one in which the image of the author is reflected so faithfully.

In these letters, the Rav’s multi-faceted personality is revealed in all of its magnitude: as

a father, son, brother, colleague, rabbi, leader, educator, aesthete (in his letter to the Betzalel

Institute), and more.

These letters have another, unique advantage over all of Rav Kook’s other writings. His

only son, R. Tzvi Yehudah, put it as follows:

A letter – like a person’s features, the way he moves, his manner of speech, his handwriting and

writing style – expresses, through its content and style, the essential nature of its author, shedding

light upon his intent and character. A letter’s primary quality is that it [gives us a glimpse] into

the inner workings of [the author’s] “private domain,” through its simple, natural, soulful

expression, from one person to another.

The following are just a few examples of Rav Kook’s letters, addressing a wide range of

topics dealing with specific issues and broad principles, individual concerns and communal

affairs, the Rav’s world-view and his educational philosophy, and the destiny of the Jewish



A Father’s Concerns

Baruch HaShem (The holy city of Jaffa, Cheshvan 5666 [1905])

My dear son, shlita (may you live a good, long life), 1

You have gladdened me with your pleasant and precious words; may your strength

continue to grow.

I wanted very much to write to you at length about a number of details, in particular

concerning issues of [personal] conduct. But you know how busy I am, besides the fact that I

have been slowed down by health concerns. May God, blessed be He, give us strength and

courage to learn His Torah and serve Him.

I was very glad to see from your letter that you have decided to settle down, for now, in

the holy city of Jerusalem (may it be built and established). Be strong and of good courage!

Exert yourself, my dear son, [to acquire] good character traits, to fear and love God, and to

learn Torah diligently. Learn Torah in breadth and in depth, and review it well, so that you

may be very familiar with its words and proficient in [its laws]. Try to achieve, to the best of

your ability, all types of perfection, virtues, and knowledge, [for these things] constitute a


1 R. Tzvi Yehudah was only fourteen years old when he received this letter.



person’s glory. Do not view even the smallest virtue as being too trivial to strive to attain.

Similarly, do not view even the smallest defect in your ways of conduct and character traits as

being too trivial to rectify and perfect. Always be filled with good will, and incline yourself

towards happiness and goodheartedness. Associate with God-fearing individuals and great

Torah scholars, whose thoughts and ideas are pure and clean. Also learn from their

conversations and ways of conduct, on occasion, after you apply your own clear thought and

intellect (which you possess, thank God).

Please write us, my dear son, about all the details of your conduct – really, the minutest

details. You cannot imagine how much we are interested in all of your affairs: literally, in

your “sitting down and getting up.” [We want to know] what time you eat breakfast and what

you eat, when you eat lunch and supper, when you go to sleep, whether or not you recite the

bedtime Shema as you should, when you rise in the morning, what sort of room you regularly

sleep in, and if you [sleep] far from the window, since the air in Jerusalem is cold at times.

I conclude with a blessing, my beloved son, and wishes for abundant peace, in

accordance with your beautiful soul. Your father embraces and kisses you.

Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


Professional Advice

Baruch HaShem Jerusalem, 15 Tevet, 5680 (1920)

My dear son, shlita (may you live a good, long life),

Blessed be God, we were glad [to receive] your precious letters. Thank God, our health

is as usual. May God, in His compassion and great kindness, establish all of our endeavors

for a blessing.

I am waiting to hear from you, in detail, about how you are coming along: whether you

have begun teaching, and if you find satisfaction in your work. Let us put our trust in

HaShem’s kindness that everything will work out properly. And let us entreat the Holy One

to strengthen us with clarity of mind, true enlightenment, and a life of (physical) alacrity for

the sake of His name, His people, and His [territorial] inheritance.

Strengthen yourself, my dear son, with firmness of spirit, broadmindedness, and

confidence, in the order of Talmud study. Keep in mind what we spoke about when we

parted (may HaShem graciously grant us the privilege to see each other again, with a joyous

heart and divine pleasantness). You should learn every Talmudic passage with the proper

measure of precision. First learn it with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot, followed by

the Rosh and the Rif (and the commentaries written on his work). After that, see what the

poskim (halachic authorities) have to say on the matter at hand: i.e., the Rambam and the

Shulchan Aruch, along with the commentaries written on their works. When learning with



young students, make sure to mention, as much as possible, the varying opinions [on each

issue], as well as the major ramifications that result from them. In addition, it would be very

beneficial to study the relevant passages in the Vilna Gaon’s gloss on the Shulchan Aruch. It

would also be a good idea to get into the habit of writing a summary of the Talmudic

discussion, along with its varying interpretations, even without any novel insights. And if you

do come up with such insights (as I hope you will, with God’s help), you should certainly

write them down. If your students are advanced enough, you should certainly familiarize

them with expositions on lofty concepts and [endow them with] a refined sense of holiness, a

love for spiritual knowledge in the light of the Torah, and a holy mindfulness.

…I conclude with a blessing, while anticipating salvation. Wishing you success and

everything good, forever.

Your father, who is always bound to you with love,

Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


A Loving Father and Grandfather

Baruch HaShem 7 Menachem-Av, 5694 (1934)

My son-in-law, dear to me as a son, the brilliant R. Shalom-Natan; and my daughter, dear

to my heart and soul, Batya Miriam; and little Tzipporah Rachel, mischievous but precious:

peace and abundant blessings, with great love.

Thank you so much for your precious words. Continue to write us regularly, to gladden

us with your lovely letters. And may we soon be privileged to see your happy faces, amidst

joy, good health, and true enlightenment, with the help of God, blessed be He…

What is going on, Tzipporkale, in terms of eating? You must eat in order to have

strength to be a good girl; to go [to school] and learn all day; to say Modah Ani, Shema

Yisrael, and blessings; and in order to play nicely with your big ball. I hope that you will be a

good girl and listen to your father and mother, and also to your Zeidela (grandfather) and

Bubela (grandmother).


Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


A Yeshiva’s Responsibility

Baruch HaShem Rechovot, 4 Menachem-Av, 5668 (1908)

During this period of mourning [between the 17 th of Tammuz and the 9 th of Av], may He

Who illuminates the earth and its inhabitants raise the horn of salvation. To the great and

brilliant rabbi, the glorious tower of strength, our honorable and holy master, R. Yitzchak

Isaac HaLevi [Herzog], shlita…



…I am not saying that every yeshiva student must be well versed in every subject. That

is impossible. Exceptional individuals may be born with the ability to grasp all areas [of

knowledge], but the majority will specialize each in his own discipline. After all, “A person

learns only what his heart desires” (Avodah Zarah 19a). In general, however, the yeshiva has

an obligation to provide the Jewish nation with all that it lacks. And since literature and

poetry are among the things that currently draw people’s hearts and have a great impact on

their lives, we must see to it that we, too, have representation in these areas. It should no

longer be a fait accompli that every talented writer and famous poet must automatically be a

heretic and a sinner. We must demolish this “tower of deception” and show the entire world

the poetic splendor and literary pleasantness that will blossom when these [disciplines] are

watered from the source of our nation’s natural and faithful existence, [from] the life-giving

spring of HaShem…


The Revival of the Arts

Baruch HaShem The holy city of Jaffa, 5668 (1908)

To the heads of the honorable society for Hebrew arts, the Betzalel Association:


…One of the clearest signs of [the current Jewish] revival is the honorable activity that is

about to emerge from your distinguished association: “the revival of Hebrew art and

aesthetics in the Land of Israel.” It is heartwarming and wonderful to see our very talented

brethren, masters of aesthetics and arts, finding a respectable place in the upper echelons of

society. A heavenly spirit has brought them to Jerusalem, to adorn our holy city, which is like

a seal upon our hearts, with their lovely blossoms, to be a source of honor and glory in its

midst, as well as a source of blessing and benefit.

Everyone should rejoice over such a good sign, young and old alike, even the most

coldhearted individuals and those preoccupied with the very serious question of [physical]


[I will explain with a parable]: A sweet and lovely girl, a beloved daughter, has suffered

a long and protracted – even hopeless – illness. Her face has been white as plaster, her lips

bluish green; she has had a burning fever that caused her to convulse and tremble. Then, all

of a sudden, she opens her eyes and relaxes her tightly sealed lips. Her little hands begin to

move and show signs of life. Her thin, fine fingers wander to and fro, seeking to fulfill their

purpose. Her lips, already returning to their natural color, murmur painfully, “Mommy,

Mommy, give me my doll, my beloved doll that I haven’t seen for so long.”

Sounds of joy and gladness [fill the room]. Everyone rejoices: father and mother,

brothers and sisters, even grandfather and grandmother, who have long since forgotten the

games of youth (even those of their children). “Little Shoshana wants her doll!” Thank God,



a sign for the good… The doctor, a friend of the family who has been called in to share their

joy (after having shared their suffering), also agrees: “This is a good sign.” The crisis has

ended peacefully. Now there is hope that Shoshana will live. She will grow up and become

beautiful; she will be a woman among women.

Indeed, her first question was about the doll, but she will ask many more questions. Her

spirit and body will grow stronger and stronger. She will ask for medicine, soup, meat, bread,

clothing, jewelry, a teacher, a pen, a book, work, and much more. At the sight of such things

everyone exults. Grandfather and grandmother are delighted. Father and mother’s eyes flow

with tears of joy. The young brothers and sisters clap and dance in high spirits. They all

exclaim to one another, “Little Shoshana, so beautiful and lovely, is asking for her doll!”

[Our] beloved Jerusalem, this “lily (shoshana) of the valleys” (Shir HaShirim 2:1), this

precious daughter of Zion… is afflicted with the disease of the bitter, cursed, and drawn-out

exile. Her children have forgotten her. Many of them, weak at heart, have lost hope in her

future. But now a stream of life gently shakes her depressed and sickly bones; she demands

beauty, art, and skilled work.

Perhaps the time is not right, the pragmatists will say. There are other, more pressing,

needs that come first. Perhaps this is so. There are other needs, but the desire [for art] that

comes from the heart of [Jerusalem’s] children, from the spirit that she showered upon them,

this desire is itself a sign of life, a sign of hope for salvation and consolation…


[At this point in the letter, the Rav informs the heads of Betzalel, in a very tactful and respectful

manner, of the sole halachic restriction relating specifically to works of art: creating a three

dimensional image of a human face. He then concludes:]


Therefore it is appropriate, and our holy obligation, [to see to it] that no such statues be

found in the national art treasury in the Holy City of our God. And in general, it would be

very commendable if your association would openly proclaim to the entire enlightened world

– Jews and non-Jews alike – that all of its activities that come together in the narrow path

where the nation’s sensitivities, religion, and art converge, will be performed… according to

the instructions of the Torah sages, the brilliant scholars of Eretz Yisrael, who are renowned

throughout the nation…


Acquiring Holy Land

Baruch HaShem Rechovot, 25 Menachem-Av, 5669 (1909)

To my dear, beloved, wise, precious, and virtuous brother, R. Shmuel HaKohen, shlita,

and your entire family: peace and abundant salvation.



…My dear brother, please be good enough to try and find R. Moshe Bernstein of Jericho.

He is currently staying in Me’ah She’arim (he prays in the synagogue there because he is a

mourner and is careful to pray with a congregation, which he cannot find in Jericho). Some

time ago, he spoke to me about acquiring the Plain of Jordan, and I just received a serious

letter from an important organization in Bialystok regarding this matter. A certain Mr. Saks

here [in Rechovot] is very enthusiastic about the idea, and we agreed that [R. Bernstein]

should come here as soon as possible and give us a first-hand report. Afterwards, of course,

we will have to prepare ourselves for a more concrete, creative [plan of action]. But it is

worthwhile to do anything to restore a lovely plain of the Holy Land to Jewish ownership.

My dear brother, do as much as you can on this matter.

Signed with all of a brother’s love and with faithful blessing. Your brother,

Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook

PS Of course, this matter must be kept very secret.


Constructive Criticism

Baruch HaShem The holy city of Jaffa, 8 Adar, 5670 (1910)

Peace and blessings to my good friend, the brilliant, sharp, and erudite rabbi, a treasure

trove of Torah and piety, our master, R. Baruch Myers, av beit din of the holy city of Haifa.

…What can I say to you, my good friend? How great are the wounds of my heart caused

by the general situation. There is no one left to raise up high the banner of HaShem and His

Torah in the Holy Land. The more I immerse myself in these thoughts, the more my heart

murmurs and rages, and I cannot find the right way to begin taking action. It is very difficult

for me to come to terms with most of the Torah leaders of our time (may God protect them).

They insist on following the old path and keeping their distance from every vitalizing faculty

or movement, which, in my mind, goes clearly and absolutely against the [true] way of God.

By doing this, they assist the oppressors and give strength to evildoers. Woe to us because of

the humility of these people, although their intentions are good.

I believe that there is no other way but to support the educational system that values

worldly knowledge and guides the children in a spirit of joy of life, with strength and courage,

cleanliness and proper grace. When all of these [factors] combine with the Torah’s guidance

and true fear of Heaven, they adorn and strengthen the Torah; and in the end the evil angel

will answer, “Amen” [i.e., concede to the truth], against his will. What can I do if this path,

which I have no doubt is the only one we must take, places me in the thick of battle, attacked

from both right and left? I hope that HaShem (may He be blessed) will give me strength to

raise the banner of truth up high, so that holiness will prevail.

Know, my friend, that all great matters are interdependent. Since most Torah students,

even the greatest scholars of our time, do not strive to achieve greatness in the “laws” of

yir’at Shamayim (fearing God) – with the great breadth that befits leaders of the generation –

they lack the strength to venture out upon new paths that are appropriate for the generation

and to direct [theses paths] towards holiness. These scholars believe that they must adhere



strictly to the old style, taking nothing good from the new ways with which to improve the

[spiritual] state of the generation. They would never admit that they have overlooked an

essential area of study that encompasses all of the Torah and our entire faith. Nor would they

admit that this is why we grope in midday like a blind man gropes through the dark.

Therefore, the masses continue to go astray and abandon the Torah, but they are not to blame

at all. Since no one shows them the straight path, the way to combine the holiness of Torah

and faith with life, they continue to cast off the yoke of Torah. Nevertheless, these people

still possess some sparks of goodness and a certain fineness of spirit. Many of them desire

Israel’s salvation and the renaissance of our Holy Land with all of their hearts. No matter

how low their understanding of this may be, their intentions rest on a holy foundation, for

Israel’s salvation truly encompasses all aspects of holiness in the world. The more we look

for ways to judge even the greatest sinners favorably – as long as they do not want to separate

themselves from the Jewish nation and join our enemies – and the more we incorporate all

types of valuable disciplines into our curricula, in addition to Torah study, and teach our

children the subjects that provide a person with a livelihood and respect, the stronger the

Torah’s foundation will grow.

But with whom can I speak? Who will agree with me? Who will be willing to sacrifice

his honor for the honor of God, His Torah, and the sanctity of His beloved Land? Let us hope

that the Blessed One will act for His own sake and inspire all the Torah sages to recognize the

pure way of HaShem. And may Israel and Judah be redeemed speedily.

…Wishing you well, with much love, in anticipation of HaShem’s salvation,

The insignificant Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


A Statement of Principles

Rav Kook wrote the following letter to the brilliant Ridbaz of Safed (R. Ya’akov David

Willowsky), his greatest “opponent” on the heter mechirah issue. 2 It is known as Iggeret

Takanah (“Letter of Amelioration”) because it is the 555th letter in Iggrot HaRe’iyah, a

number corresponding to the numerical value of the Hebrew word takanah, meaning

amelioration or improvement. But besides this random coincidence, the letter depicts so

beautifully the Rav’s view on how to relate to non-observant Jews and how to bring them

back to the fold. In effect, it comprises Rav Kook’s statement of principles; we therefore

quote it here at length:


Baruch HaShem The holy city of Jaffa, 24 Sivan, 5673 (1913)

To my beloved friend, the truly brilliant rabbi, glory of the generation, our master and

teacher, R. Ya’akov David ben Ze’ev (the Ridbaz), shlita.

2 See p. ???.




I received Your Honor’s letter on time, and since I feel no animosity towards you, thank

God, I can respond without delay and address the points you raised.

I am astounded that my words have wounded your pure heart. What has led you to

believe that I want to uproot the [laws of] Shemittah from the Land of Israel, God forbid? Did

I not state repeatedly that my ruling is only a temporary one, issued only out of great

necessity? Far be it [from me] to abrogate such a great, sweeping, and holy mitzvah like

Shemittah, unless a very pressing, life-and-death issue is at hand; [and our situation] literally

involves life and death. [I only want] to prevent many people from starving to death (God

forbid) due to lack of work and food, and to ensure that the foundation of the holy Yishuv

does not collapse just when it is beginning to blossom…

I was also very surprised at what Your Brilliant Honor wrote that when we were young

you learned from me mussar (ethics), [noble] character traits, and fear of God. I do not know

what you ever found to learn from me, but if, in your humility, you thought so highly of me

that you learned something positive from me in my youth, when I lived in Chutz LaAretz,

then how can you entertain the thought that now, when HaShem has given me the privilege to

nestle in the sanctity of the Holy Land, my strength should diminish, God forbid? Why do

you not judge me favorably [and assume] that I act not out of concern for my own honor (God

forbid), or any other ulterior motive, but out of love for HaShem, our holy Torah, the Jewish

people, and the Holy Land. I toiled very, very hard, until the Holy One Blessed be He

enlightened my spirit and prepared my heart to follow this holy path innocently: to sanctify

God’s name, to endear the Torah and its students upon others, to bring many Jews closer to

Torah, and to add strength and fortitude to the settlement of God’s people on His holy soil.

With God’s help, I am sure that Your Brilliant Honor will lose nothing if you apply to me [the

dictum] “Fortunate is the generation whose great ones listen to its small ones” (Rosh HaShanah

25b) and find something to learn from my ways and deeds at this time, no less than before.

Fortunately, God recognizes the purity of my heart and [the extent to which] my soul pines

for His great name and yearns to serve Him.

You [originally] wrote that you were astonished that I embrace everyone, even the

sinners of Israel, in order to bring them back to the ways of the Torah. I replied with my

reasoning, alluding that a person capable of studying the innermost secrets of the Torah is

more imbued with the light of kindness emanating from the Torah of kindness, and he must

strive to rectify the fallen and bring the distant closer [to God]. (In the language of the

Kabbalists, this is referred to as “gathering the holy sparks from the husks.”) But you felt that

this contradicts the blessing in which we beseech [God] to uproot and crush the heretics.



Please pay attention to my words, honorable gaon, and I will explain the matter to you in

simple terms, not in the language of the secrets of the Torah, which you are convinced that

you do not know…

Your Honor should know that there are two essential concepts that, together, build the

holiness of Israel and God’s connection to the Jewish people. The first is segulah – the holy

nature within the soul of a Jew, [passed on] as an inheritance from the Patriarchs… Segulah

is an inner, holy force that rests within the nature of the soul, at God’s will. It is like the

nature of everything else in existence, which cannot change at all… The second concept is

free will, which depends on good deeds and Torah study…

In our generation, there are many souls who are very deficient in the area of free will.

Therefore, they are infected with many evil deeds and extremely evil beliefs, may God protect

  1. Nevertheless, the light of segulah shines within them. Therefore, they deeply cherish

Klal Yisrael (the Jewish collective) and desire Eretz Yisrael. They also excel in a number of

good and precious character traits, which are ingrained in their souls from the segulah of


I had written that I do not feel degraded, God forbid, by the fact that sinners praise me,

since [the Torah] says the same of Avraham Avinu: All the nations of the earth shall bless

themselves by him (BeReishit 18:18). You criticized me for this, saying that the nations of the

world never considered Avraham Avinu to be like them (God forbid). Believe me, honored

gaon: most of the non-believers who favor me know and recognize that I am not like them

and their masses, God forbid, and that my thoughts and ways are as far from theirs as east is

from west. They acknowledge this explicitly, yet they are forced to admit the truth, that

(thank God) I think straight, my heart and lips are free of deceit, and my entire being is filled

with the love of Israel (thank God). Blessed is HaShem Who gave me this soul, not because

of my wisdom or righteousness, but because of His abundant and infinite compassion and

kindness. To this He looks: to the poor and broken-spirited, to one who trembles at His word

(cf. Yeshayah 66:2).

Thank God, I protest strongly against sacrilege whenever necessary, but I speak orderly

and gently, as the wise King [Solomon] advised and commanded us to do [see Kohelet 9:1].

There is no doubt that if Your Honor and other great leaders of our time (may they live)

would support me, join me, and act as I do – as much as possible according to their

capabilities – God’s name would be sanctified, great peace and blessing would flow upon the

Jewish people and the Land of Israel, very many [Jews] would repent wholeheartedly, and the

pride of salvation would truly and speedily spring up, with a proper revelation, for the House

of Israel. It is utterly impossible to imagine and describe how much goodness, holiness, and

universal rectification would blossom from this. I am filled with hope that this will indeed

happen, with God’s help; and, at long last, those who fear Him and know His name will



return to me and recognize the purity of my heart and the truth of my views. Then we will all

unite to do the will of HaShem and increase His light and glory upon His nation, His beloved

Land, and every corner of the earth…

Concerning your reproach that I have become a “Zionist” in my old age, sacrificing my

soul for the settlement of Jews in Eretz Yisrael: My beloved friend, if only all the Zionists

would love Eretz Yisrael and desire its settlement with the same intent and holy objective that

I have. Namely, because this is the Land of HaShem; He chose it and cherished it more than

the entire world. It has sacred qualities (segulot) that facilitate prophecy and divine

inspiration, affording one who walks on its soil [a portion in] the world-to-come. Its merit

protects even the wicked. After all, a Cana’anite maidservant who lives in Eretz Yisrael is

assured a place in the world-to-come… Even the wicked Eisav gained merit from dwelling in

Eretz Yisrael, [so much so] that Ya’akov Avinu feared that this merit might stand by Eisav [in

their imminent battle]. How much more, then, [does the Land benefit] the holy seed,

descendants of the tried ones: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov… Certainly, we can find in

every single Jew, even the lowest ones, unimaginably precious pearls of good deeds and

traits, for the Land of Israel undoubtedly helps elevate and sanctify them. And if this

[positive influence] is indiscernible in [today’s pioneers], it will come to the fore in their

children and grandchildren, as it is written, May Your work appear to Your servants, and Your

glory upon their children (Tehillim 90:16). If all the Zionists thought this way, it would

surely be a great honor for every great leader of Israel, every gaon and tzaddik, to be such a

Zionist. You too, honored gaon, need not be ashamed of such Zionism…

My gloriously brilliant master and beloved friend, you wrote that I should believe you

that you find it difficult to quench your love for me. I believe you unequivocally. After all,

As water reflects a face, [so does a man’s heart reflect another’s] (Mishley 27:19), and I feel

a holy flame of love for you in the inner recesses of my heart and the depths of my soul.

Many waters could not extinguish this love. All that has happened between us, regarding our

differences of opinion on the Shemittah issue, will not extinguish the holy fire that is rooted in

the depths of our souls as an eternal covenant. Thank God, both of our intentions are

desirable for the sake of Heaven, and the Exalted One (blessed be He) will be glorified

through both you and I. There is certainly a great spiritual bond between us, seeing that we

have cleaved to each other with such a strong, inner love. The purpose of the current situation

is merely to refine and purify [our relationship]: to enhance the true and sacred love between

us, a holy and pure love that does not depend on anything [mundane], but is dedicated solely

to HaShem, the light of His Torah, and the sacred fear and love of God.

You wrote that you find it difficult to speak harshly against me. Let your pure heart not

even entertain the thought that I mind hearing harsh words spoken against me for the sake of

Heaven. After all, he who speaks harshly for the sake of Heaven serves God, and I would



never object to a Jew fulfilling a mitzvah on my account. Even though human nature causes

us to feel some pain over this, our holy Sages have told us that “The reward is proportionate

to the pain” (Avot 5:26). We trust the Master of Reward to compensate us for our [self-

restraint], so that we may serve Him faithfully and return to Him lovingly, with all our heart

and all our soul – we and all of Israel, together, with one heart.

You wrote that it pains you greatly [to see] a man of my caliber following such a

dangerous path. The fact that you graciously paid homage to me, calling me a great man, will

not mislead me [nor prevent me] from recognizing my lowliness and meager worth, which is

as nothing. But realize, my master, that I have worked very hard on the path that I now

follow in the service of God, may His name be blessed. I put my blood, flesh, bone marrow,

and all of my strength [into discovering the proper path], until HaShem, in His mercy,

enlightened me to find it. To me, this path is not dangerous at all; I would call it a holy

path… In my inadequacy, I am unfit to be called a tzaddik; if only HaShem would grant me

the privilege to be able to say confidently that I am an average man. However, the path that I

strive to follow is undoubtedly the path of the righteous (thank God). Whoever adopts my

ways and joins me in Torah and divine service, with a willing heart and true faith in the sages,

will merit to see the light and truth of this paved, straight path, which is illuminated by the

light of supernal kindness…

You wrote that I could anticipate being cursed and disgraced [because of my position on

the Shemittah issue]. I do not know why. Everything that happened in the past was from

Heaven, and I accepted [my insults] with love, thank God. And in terms of the future, we

hope that the situation of the Jewish settlement will improve in all respects, both physically

and spiritually. Then, perhaps, there will be no need whatsoever for leniencies [on the laws of

Shemittah]. May HaShem grant us the privilege to fortify the fences of Yehudah with one

heart and one mind, and may He swiftly send our righteous messiah to teach us


I believe that I have addressed all the points that Your Brilliant Honor (shlita) raised, and

I think that you will now understand my way of thinking, to some degree. Following your

example, I say: My dear friend, let us please walk arm in arm on the path of God, on the path

of truth and peace. Let us try to foster peace within Israel and bring the hearts of the Jewish

people closer to their Father in Heaven. Let us try to insure that even estranged Jews come

closer to holiness, and that brotherhood, friendship, and union of the hearts increase among all

Jews, particularly those in Eretz Yisrael…

Allow me to end my letter with the words of your brilliant and glorious self, shlita: I am

sure that Your Brilliant Honor will not ignore my words, but will delve deeply into them and

entertain the thought that perhaps (there are some details in which) your beloved Kook is

actually right.



Signed with all forms of blessing; I kiss you in my heart and mind with faithful kisses of

love, and I seek your well-being and the well-being of your Torah, with great love and


The insignificant Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


Supporting All Jews

Of special interest is a letter sent to Rav Kook in Cheshvan, 5686 (1925), by the leading

chassidic rabbis of Poland: R. Avraham Mordechai Alter of Gur (son of the “Sefat Emet,” co-

founder of Agudat Yisrael, and one of the foremost leaders of Polish Jewry at the time), R.

Meir Yechiel HaLevi of Ostrovtza (a rebbe and halachic authority to whom thousands

turned), R. Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner (Rebbe of Radzin), and R. Alter Yisrael Shimon

of Minsk. In this letter, the rabbis express their opposition to Rav Kook’s support for the

Keren Kayemet LeYisrael and Keren HaYesod organizations. It is followed by the Rav’s



BeEzrat HaShem Mar-Cheshvan, 5686, Warsaw

To our dear friend, the famous gaon, outstanding scholar etc., our glorious teacher and

master, R. Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Holy City of

Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt and established speedily in our days. Amen.

We heard that Your Brilliant Honor has denounced the fact that we do not encourage [our

followers] to support Keren Kayemet LeYisrael and Keren HaYesod, and that we actually

warn them not to contribute to these funds. We hereby wish to inform Your Honor of our

opinion [on the matter]. We believe that we have an obligation to settle Jews in our Holy

Land on the foundation of our holy Torah and religion. Now, the vast majority of people who

donate to these funds, even the freethinkers, want the sacred Yishuv in the Holy Land to rest

on the foundation of our holy Torah and the restoration of our religion. Thus, since the

money collected by these funds helps support sinners and public desecrators of our religion

(as is well known), and since God-fearing Jews do not head these organizations to make sure

that the assistance goes only to the families of observant Jews – craftsmen and laborers who

follow the Torah – we cannot support those who desecrate all that is holy to the Children of

Israel. Besides which, this is considered stealing from the public [because the money does

not reach the intended recipients].

Therefore, we ask Your Honor, as well, to stand in the breach and help repair this vital

fence. We ask you to arouse [the heads of these funds] to [accept] our words – uttered in

truth from the depths of our heart – and [convince them] to assist only the religious, Torah-

observant settlers of our Holy Land, in order to increase the glory of Heaven and the glory of

Israel. We are sure that, with God’s help, the merit of the Torah and its commandments will



stand by us, the children will return to their borders, and we will be privileged to see the

Temple in its rebuilt state and our Holy City of Jerusalem in its beauty, speedily in our days.


Avraham Mordechai Alter

The insignificant Meir Yechiel HaLevi of Ostrovtza

Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner

Alter Yisrael Shimon of Minsk


Rav Kook’s Response

Baruch HaShem The Holy City of Jerusalem, 21 Kislev, 5686

To my beloved friends, the brilliant and pious rabbis, heads of the thousands of Israel,

our holy teachers and masters, R. Avraham Mordechai Alter, R. Meir Yechiel HaLevi, R.

Yosef Elazar, and R. Alter Yisrael Shimon, shlita,

I received your holy letter in proper [time], and I wish to tell Your Holy and Brilliant

Honors (shlita) sincerely that I would never, God forbid, denounce the holy traits of the great

Torah leaders of our time, the likes of whom I hope will increase in Israel. As for me, I

believe that it is a great mitzvah for every Jew to donate to Keren HaKayemet, because

redeeming portions of the Holy Land from Gentiles and bringing them under Jewish

ownership is undoubtedly a great mitzvah, one that all Jews must support with all their

strength. And if more such funds arise, it is a mitzvah to help them all, because – due to our

numerous sins – most of our holy soil is in the hands of strangers, and our eyes languish all

day long for every cubit and handbreadth that is held captive in the hands of foreigners.

Obviously, when it comes time to settle [Jews in the Land], we must strive with all our might

to ensure that everything is done according to the ways of HaShem, in keeping with the Torah

and its commandments. But as long as we are engaged in transferring the land from foreign

hands to Jewish ones, we are obligated to help.

However, regarding Your Brilliant and Holy Honors’ request that I, too, issue a statement

inspiring others to help only those who follow the Torah and our religion: allow me to explain

briefly to Your Exalted Honors why this is a very difficult matter. Firstly, according to the

laws of our holy Torah, some of the people who fail to observe the Torah and our religion

(due to our numerous sins) are, nonetheless, far from the category of those whom we have no

obligation to sustain. They dwell in Eretz Yisrael and work hard to cultivate the soil of Israel

and prepare it for settlement. If we withhold their support, they are likely to die of starvation,

God forbid. How, then, can I say that these people should be denied support?

Secondly, [even if I were to fulfill your request], no one would listen. [Our Rabbis’]

statement “Even if a Jew sins, he is still a Jew” is so familiar to the masses who donate [to



this cause] that they would completely ignore our request to distinguish between one recipient

and another, especially when [the pioneers] are engaged in settling the Land, upon which all

Jewish eyes focus.

Furthermore, I constantly try to befriend those who are estranged from Judaism, those

whom the exile has caused to stray from the path of God (due to our numerous sins).

Through cords of love and brotherhood, many people come closer to holiness, or at least do

not become more rebellious. If I become their enemy now, depriving them of their

sustenance, they, too, will become my enemy and drift even further away, God forbid. How

can we possibly cause so many Jews to stumble (God forbid) with our own hands?

Besides this, we clearly see that the expansion of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael –

even though some places are inhabited by people who are far from perfect in our holy Torah –

has caused, and continues to cause, religious, God-fearing Jews to come and settle in the

Land, where they keep the Land-related mitzvot in holiness and purity. Moreover, [before the

pioneers came] many places were dangerous to traverse because of snakes and scorpions, and

because thieves and highway robbers hid out in desolate locations, waiting to attack

passersby. It was also dangerous to dwell in certain places because of the poisonous swamps

that evolved in the Holy Land during its years of desolation. All of this kept Jews away. But

now, thanks to the great work of the pioneers, the snakes and scorpions have been eliminated,

the malaria-infested swamps have been turned into healthy, inhabitable areas, the highway

robbers no longer have a place [to roam], and whoever travels through Eretz Yisrael does so

in safety, thank God. Thus, the efforts of these inferior people have greatly benefited proper,

Torah-observant Jews, allowing them to settle in the Land of Israel. How, then, can we arise

and oppress those who have caused, and continue to cause, so much good for the entire

Yishuv, when they are building the foundations upon which the settlement of proper, God-

fearing Jews rests?

Therefore, I tend to think that we are not permitted to discourage any Jew from engaging

in the great mitzvah of settling and building the Land of Israel. Rather, we must do much

more to encourage faithful Jews to come quickly to the Holy Land with their wealth and

possessions, to settle and build the Land. At the same time, we must treat the other settlers in

a pleasant manner and guide them with words of peace, so that they may come closer to

Torah and fear of God. This will truly increase the glory of Heaven and the glory of Israel, as

Your Holy Honors (shlita) desire with all your pure hearts and souls.

I sign with a blessing, anticipating imminent redemption and salvation, in accordance

with your exalted desire and the intense desire of your friend [myself]. Best wishes to Your

Holy Torah Personages from the holy mountain of Jerusalem,

The insignificant Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook




Protesting Sabbath Desecration

Baruch HaShem Jerusalem, 17 Adar I, 5684 (1924)


Public Protest


I hereby warn and protest against a group of officials in Beit HaKerem who are planning

on desecrating the Sabbath by conducting tours to Jericho. Whether they are clerks in the

Zionist administration, officials in Hachsarat HaYishuv, 3 or teachers, they are officers of the

entire nation and must be doubly careful not to desecrate that which is holy to us.

I hope that they will heed my words and refrain from desecrating that which is sacred. I

place the responsibility of guarding this vital matter upon the Zionist leadership and Va’ad

HaLeumi (“The National Committee”). How particularly despicable it would be if they force

a Jewish driver to desecrate the Sabbath against his will, by means of some sort of threat.

Listen, my brothers, and your souls shall live. Let us all live together with our nation and

our Land, with majesty and glory.

Respectfully and faithfully yours,

Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook


A copy of this protest has been sent to the Zionist administration, Va’ad HaLeumi, Va’ad

HaShechunah (“The Neighborhood Committee”), and the local driver (and to the newspapers

of Eretz Yisrael).



[NOTE: The following piece is not found in the Hebrew version of this book, nor is it one of Rav

Kook’s letters -rather, it is a speech he once delivered. Nonetheless, we decided to add it to

the English version because of its relevance to the English-speaking public. During the Musaf service on

Rosh HaShanah, we beseech God, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom.” The phrase “great shofar”

is borrowed from a verse in Yeshayah (27:13), also cited in Musaf of Rosh HaShanah: It shall be on that

day, a great shofar will be blown, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those cast aside in the land of

Egypt will come and bow to the Lord on the Holy Mountain in Jerusalem. On Rosh HaShanah 1933, right

after Hitler (yimach sh’mo) came to power, Rav Kook delivered a very ominous and moving sermon in

the Old City’s Churvah Synagogue. Based on the above-cited verses, he practically predicted the

Holocaust and explained the reason for it. We hereby present a translation of this sermon with the hope

that its lesson will be internalized.]


3  A financial corporation involved in the practical aspects of building the Land.




The prophet prophesied about a great shofar of redemption, and we pray specifically for

the sounding of a great shofar, for there are various levels of the shofar of redemption.

There is a great shofar; an ordinary, medium-sized shofar; and a small shofar.

The shofar of Mashiach is compared to the regular shofar – i.e., the shofar of Rosh

HaShanah. The halachah determines three levels [of kashrut] with regard to the shofar of

Rosh HaShanah:

1) The most preferred way to perform the mitzvah is with a ram’s horn (Shulchan

Aruch, Orach Chayim 686:1).

2) Ex post facto (be’di’avad) all shofars are kosher (ibid.).

3) A shofar that comes from a non-kosher animal, or from a Gentile’s animal that was

worshipped as a god, is invalid (pasul). However, if one blows such a shofar, he discharges

his obligation [ex post facto]. Furthermore, one is permitted to blow any shofar if he cannot

obtain a kosher one, provided that he does not recite a blessing over it (see Mishnah Berurah,


These halachic categories mentioned in connection with the shofar of Rosh HaShanah

correspond to various levels of the shofar of redemption.

What exactly is the shofar of redemption? When we say “the shofar of Mashiach” we

mean an awakening and an impulse that causes the revival and redemption of the Jewish

nation. This awakening is the tekiah (shofar blast) that gathers those who are lost and cast

aside, bringing them to the Holy Mountain in Jerusalem.

At various times throughout Jewish history, there was an awakening and a desire [for

redemption] that originated in holiness. Even today, there are groups and individuals among

the Jewish people who have such a desire. [This holy awakening] is based on a strong belief

in HaShem and His Torah, [on an understanding] of the sanctity of Israel and its mission, and

on a desire to fulfill God’s will, which is: Israel’s complete redemption. This is the great

and excellent shofar – a nation’s desire to be redeemed because of its lofty desire to carry out

its grand mission, which cannot be done when it [the nation] is exiled and oppressed.

At times, however, this sacred desire deteriorates. There isn’t much enthusiasm for lofty

and sacred ideas. Nonetheless, healthy human nature – which also originates in holiness –

still exists (at least). This healthy human nature creates within the nation a simple, natural

desire to become sovereign in its land, to arise and go free, to live a simple, free life, like all

other nations. This natural desire, which stems from normal-nationalistic feelings, is the

ordinary, medium-sized shofar, which can be found anywhere. This, too, is a kosher

shofar; and even though the first type is preferable, “Ex post facto, all shofars are kosher.”

However, there is also a third category of “the shofar of Mashiach;” and it, too,

corresponds to the shofar of Rosh HaShanah. It is a small, invalid shofar, used under duress



when there is no kosher shofar to be found. If sacred enthusiasm – with its resultant, lofty

desire for redemption – has expired; and if normal, human, nationalistic feelings – a desire to

live honorably as a nation – have also expired; [that is], if it is impossible to blow a kosher

shofar for our redemption, our enemies come and blow [the shofar] of redemption in our ears.

They force us to hear the sound of the shofar. They shout and make noise in our ears,

denying us rest in the Diaspora. The shofar of an impure animal becomes the shofar of

Mashiach. Amalek, Petliura, Hitler, etc. awaken us to redemption. He who did not listen to

the sound of the first shofar, and he who did not want to listen to the sound of the second,

ordinary shofar either, because his ears were closed up, will listen to the sound of the impure,

invalid shofar. He will listen against his will.

Nonetheless, even he discharges his obligation. Even [this type of] nationalism – that of

the staff, of Jewish persecution – contains some form of redemption. However, one is not to

recite a blessing over this kind of shofar, [as the Mishnah states], “One does not recite a

blessing over anything which is a type of curse” (Berachot 6:4).

We pray that the Holy One Blessed be He 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. Then, the redemption will be




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

On Key

Related Posts

The Sanctification of Hashem – HaRav Shlomo Aviner

Just as the first part of Yechezkel’s prophecy is coming true before our eyes, i.e. the return of the Nation of Israel to its Land, so too is a new, idealistic, ethical, and spiritual spirit manifesting itself in our time.  We must not despair that the process is a slow one. It will be perfected in later stages of our Salvation, and it will lead us to complete and supreme unity with Hashem and His Torah.

TZAV – Haftorah

The intrinsic value of the State of Israel is not dependent on the number of observant Jews who live here. Of course, our aspiration is that all of our people will embrace the Torah and the mitzvot. Nonetheless, the State of Israel is a mitzvah of the Torah, whatever religious level it has.

Purim on One Leg – HaRav Eliezer Melamed

We usually feel happy about the good things in life, but because life also includes evil and pain, this joy is not complete. However, when we understand that even the bad is ultimately transformed into good, this can make us feel especially joyful.


The Zohar teaches us that no matter how good it is in Chutz LaAretz – even
from a spiritual standpoint – something is lacking, for true perfection can only be
attained in God’s special Holy Land!

Shabbat Zachor – Amalek

The goal of the Amalekites of the past, and those who have followed in their path through the generations until today, is to show everyone that Israel is like all the nations and can be fought and humiliated, and even annihilated, as Haman and Hitler tried to do, and as Hamas is trying to do now.