OROT – CHAPTER ONE – ERETZ YISRAEL
HARAV AVRAHAM YITZHAK HACOHEN KOOK
Commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman
[The first chapter of Rabbi Kook’s classic treatise on the Redemption of Israel in our time deals with Eretz Yisrael – the foundation of Israelite Nationhood. The chapter is divided into eight short essays. First, the English translations of the essays are presented followed by the full commentary and footnotes.]
Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter, an external acquisition of the nation; it is not merely a means toward the goal of the general coalescing of the nation, nor of strengthening its material existence, nor even its spiritual.
Eretz Yisrael is an independent unit, bound with a living attachment with the nation, bound with inner Segulot with the nation’s existence.
As a result, it is impossible to comprehend the essence of the inner Segula of the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, and to reveal the depths of its love, through any form of human conceptualization; but only through the Spirit of Hashem which acts on the nation as a whole.
This Ruach Hashem on the nation, the natural spiritual formulation of Israel’s soul, sends its rays in natural colors in all paths of sensitivity. It shines its exalted rays in direct accordance with the exalted Ruach HaKodesh which fills with life and exalted joy the hearts of the holy thinkers and those who are involved in the deep contemplations of Israel.
The thought regarding Eretz Yisrael that it has merely a peripheral value to facilitate the subsistence of the unified nation; even when it comes to fortify the concept of Judaism in the Diaspora, in order to preserve its form, and to strengthen the belief and fear of Hashem, and to strengthen the performance of the commandments in a proper fashion – this orientation toward Eretz Yisrael is not worthy of lasting fruition, for its foundation is rickety in light of the towering, unshakable Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.
The concept of Judaism in the Diaspora will only find true strength through the depth of its involvement in Eretz Yisrael. Only through its longing for Eretz Yisrael will Diaspora Judaism consistently receive its inherent qualities. The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina; whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself.
By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion. By alienating oneself from the secrets of G-d, the highest Segulot of the deep Divine life become extraneous, secondary matters which do not enter the depths of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual’s and the nation’s soul will be missing, and the exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord. For to someone who only comprehends the superficial level, nothing basic will be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, the Jewish Kingdom, and all of the facets of the nation in its built form.
For him, the foundation of the yearning for Salvation is like a side branch that cannot be united with the deep understanding of Judaism, and this itself testifies to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective. We are not rejecting any form or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but only rejecting the specific aspect of this perspective which seeks to negate the secrets of Torah and their great influence on the spirit of the nation — for this is a tragedy which we are obligated to fight against with counsel and wisdom, with holiness and with valor.
A uniquely Israeli creation, in thought, and in the full force of life and deed, is impossible for the Jewish people except in Eretz Yisrael. Additionally, everything which is done by the people of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, its universal form becomes subordinate to its special inherent Israeli form, and this brings about great benefit to Israel and to the world.
The sins which cause exile, they are the same sins which cause the pollution of our inner spring. As a result, this source begins to emanate defiled issues, “He succeeded in defiling the Sanctuary of G-d.” And when this special, essentially Israeli source is destroyed, the basic originality takes one step upwards to the contracted portion above, which the Jewish people share with the general Segulot of all mankind. And this is drawn up specifically in exile. The land is desolate and destroyed, and its destruction atones for it. The source stops issuing, and it refines itself, slowly, slowly. And the revelation of thought and life emanate through the general channel which is distributed through the entire world, “Like the four winds of the heavens I have scattered you,” until the individualized defiled issues cease, and the force of the source returns to its purity.
Then the exile is totally detested, because it is utterly unnecessary. And the general light returns to emanate from the self-contained spring, which is particularized with all of its force. And the light of Mashiach, who gathers the outcasts, begins to appear. And the voice of the bitterly crying Rachel, who is crying over her children, is sweetened by an influx of consolation, “Refrain your voice from crying, and your eyes from tears. For thy work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they will return again from the enemy land; and there is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children will return again to their borders.”
And the creation of the special (Israeli) life with all of its lights and unique formulations is drenched in the general, rich dew of, “The man who is great among the giants.” The blessing of Avraham reappears precisely in consequence of this return to the source. “And you shall be a blessing – with you shall they seal.”
It is impossible for a Jew to be devoted and faithful to his contemplations, logical reasonings, conceptualizations, and imaginations, when he is outside the Land of Israel, compared to the quality of their faithfulness in Eretz Yisrael.
Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael according to their value; while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and Klipot. However, according to the magnitude of an individual’s yearning for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, his contemplations become clear, due to the foundation of “the air of Eretz Yisrael” which hovers over everyone who desires to see her. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”
The imagination in the Land of Israel is lucid and clear, clean and pure, and ready for the revelation of Divine truth, and for the embodiment of the high, uplifted will of the idealistic trend which is found in the higher echelons of holiness. It is prepared for the explanation of prophecy and its lights, for the enlightenment of Ruach HaKodesh and its illumination.
And the imagination which is found in the land of the nations is murky, clouded in darkness, in shadows of defilement and pollution. It cannot rise to the heights of Kedusha, and it cannot afford a basis for the influx of Divine light that rises above all of the baseness of the worlds and their oppressive straits.
Because the intellect and the imagination are bound up together, and act and interact one upon the other, the intellect which is outside the Land of Israel is also incapable of being illuminated with the light which exists in the Land of Israel. “The air of Eretz Yisrael causes wisdom.”
The activity of the Ruach HaKodesh that is received in the Land of Israel is constant – even if a person should happen to leave for Chutz L’Aretz, through a mistake, or because of some compelling reason. Behold, even prophecy which has begun to appear in Eretz Yisrael does not cease outside of the land. “The word of the Lord is/was to Ezekiel in the land of Kasdim – it is because it already was.”
The influx of Kedusha that began in the Land of Israel gathers in all of the elucidations of holiness which are found in Chutz L’Aretz, in all of their ranges, and draws them up with its gravitational pull.
The more one is incapable of tolerating the air outside the land of Israel; the more one feels the impure spirit of the defiled land – this is a sign of a more interior absorption of the Kedusha of the Land of Israel, of the sublime kindness which will never abandon the person who has merited to take refuge in the clear umbrage of the land of life, even in his distant journeys, even in his exile, and in the land of his wanderings.
The strangeness that one feels outside of the Land of Israel causes a greater bond with the inner spiritual desire for Eretz Yisrael and its Kedusha. The yearning to see the land increases, and the vision of the concrete, holy image of the land which the eyes of G-d are always upon from the beginning of the year until the end2 becomes deeper and deeper. And the depth of the holy yearning of the love of Zion, of remembering the land to which all the good things of life are bound – when this valorously increases in the soul, even in one individual – behold, it acts like an overflowing spring to all of the Clal, to the myriads of souls which are bound up with him, and the voice of the shofar of the ingathering of the outcasts awakens; and great mercy increases; and the hope of life for Israel sparkles; and the planting of G-d develops and blooms; and the light of Salvation and Redemption spreads out and out like the dawn which stretches over the mountains.
The soul is filled with letters which are infused with the light of life, full of knowledge and will, full of spiritual seeking, and full existence.1 From the rays of these living letters, all of the other levels of life’s building are filled with the light of life – all of the aspects of the will, of knowledge, and of deed, of the spirit, and of the soul, in all of their values.
Upon approaching a mitzvah, the mitzvah is always full of the light of life of all of the worlds – every mitzvah is filled with letters, big, incredible letters from among all of the 613 precepts which are, in turn, interdependent on each individual precept – from all of the life of the worlds which is in the secret of faith.
The light of the G-d of life, the light of the life of the world, lives in complete harmony in the glory of every mitzvah. As soon as we approach a commandment’s performance, all of the living letters which constitute our essence expand – we grow bigger, and become stronger and more forceful in the light of life and sublime existence which is resplendent and rich with the wealth of universal holiness and with the light of Torah and of wisdom.
These same letters of the source of Torah stream toward us, and parallel to them, the letters of life which are filled with the glowing inner light of our essence rise up to them, and a stirring which gives births to worlds transpires. The power of a pleasant tranquility, holy valor, and gentle joy exists in our inner spirits, and all of the universe is renewed with light and life. The judgment of the world turns meritorious because of our deeds; light and truth, good will and inward satisfaction grace every face.
In Eretz Yisrael, the letters of our souls grow bigger; there they reveal shining light; they are nurtured with independent life from the light of life of Knesset Yisrael; they are directly influenced from the secret of their original creation.
The air of the Land of Israel stimulates the invigorating growth of these living letters with a splendorous glow, an intimate pleasantness, and with a joyous, valorous thunder that is full of an influx of Kedusha – “Everyone in Jerusalem who is written to life.”2
The yearning to see the glory of the cherished land; the inner longing for the Land of Israel, increases the letters of holiness, the letters of independent Israeli life that are at the depth of our essence and being; it increases their inner spiritual growth. “One who is born in it, and one who yearns to see it,” “And to Zion it shall be said, a man, and a man who is born in it, and He will establish it in exaltation, the Lord will count in the writing of the nations, this one has been born there, Selah.”
Judgment – the middle pillar upon which the entire palace rests, “A parable to a lady who is walking, and the hem of her dress is on this side and that, the laws and the center of Torah,” these are the essence of existence; “The judgment of the Children of Israel” the essence of the desire which is infused in the soul of Mashiach, the spirit of our lives, who will be called, Hashem Who Justifies Our Being, who with exalted valor will reveal in the land, the light of the judgment of G-d which condemns all war and killing.
The judgment of the Children of Israel upon the heart of Aharon – the extract of the letters of the soul of all Israel, lights up on the Urim and Tumim, “Either sticking out or joining together.”
Within the inner heart, in its pure and holy chambers, the Israeli flame increases, demanding the strong, brave, constant connection of life to all of the mitzvot of G-d; to pour the spirit of G-d, the full, all-encompassing spirit of Israel that fills all of the vaults of the soul, into all of its many unique vessels, to express the full Israeli expression in its complete practical and idealized form.
The sparks flash more brightly in the hearts of the Tzaddikim, the burning of holy fire blazes and rises up; and in the heart of all of the nation, it continues to burn from the days of yore, “A fire will constantly be burnt upon the altar – it shall not be extinguished.”1
And in the hearts of all of the empty ones, and in the hearts of all of the sinners of Israel, the fire burns and blazes in the most inward depths; and in the nation in its entirety, all of the desire for freedom, and all of the yearning for life, all of the yearning for the life of the Clal and the individual, all of the hope for Redemption, only from the source of this inner spring of life do they flow in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation.
This is the yearning for the Land of Israel, the land of Kedusha, the land of Hashem, where all of the mitzvot are realized and expressed in their finished form.
And this yearning to reveal the special quality of the spirit of G-d, of raising one’s head in the spirit of G-d in its absolute greatness, this is what activates everyone’s hearts, and all wish to unite with it, to taste the pleasantness of its life; “Therefore I loved your commandments more than gold and refined gold.”
The bravery in the heart which demonstrated to the entire world the valor of the nation in preserving its character, its name and its values, its faith and the uplifting of its soul, is included in the yearning for the life of truth, and for the life of all of the mitzvot which will be enveloped by the light of the Torah in all of its completeness and goodness.
If it be a wonder in the eyes of all those who stand at a distance, `how is it possible that there will beat the spirit of life with its inner force in all of the spirits which are apparently even far from possessing faith – not only to a general closeness to G-d, but to the true life of Israel, to the framework of the mitzvot in form and idea, in song and in action?’ – it will not be wondrous in the eyes of all those who are attached in the depths of their spirit to the depths of Knesset Yisrael and who know of its wondrous Segulot.
This is the secret of the valor, the uplifting of life which will never cease. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, that a man shall do and live by them; I am the Lord.” – “To walk before the Lord in the land of life, this is Eretz Yisrael.”
LIGHTS ON OROT – ERETZ YISRAEL
by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman
The book, OROT, explores the deepest understandings of the nation of Israel, and Israel’s role in world redemption. In compiling the essays which make up the book, Rabbi Kook’s son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, זצ”ל, chose to begin with selections of his father’s writings on Eretz Yisrael. This choice is, in itself, a great innovation. Rabbi Kook explains that a proper understanding of the nation of Israel can only be obtained after one first recognizes the significance of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people.1 To understand who we are as a nation, and to actualize our role in the world, we first have to understand the special relationship between the Divinely-chosen people and the Divinely-chosen land.
The first essay of OROT is not only a study of our connection to the Land of Israel, it is also an introduction to the Segula of the nation, one of the main themes of Rabbi Kook’s writings. This Segula, a Divine inner attachment to G-d unique to the Jewish people is the key to understanding the unity of the nation of Israel, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and G-d.2
To comprehend the depths of Rabbi Kook’s writing, we first must recognize that the world has both a physical and spiritual dimension. A world perspective encompassing the physical and spiritual worlds does not come easily. Much work is needed to activate our inner natures, and to cultivate our spiritual powers. This is our task as Jews and a holy nation – to link the physical world with the Divine. As Rabbi Kook makes clear, Eretz Yisrael is the G-d given place ideally suited for this task.
Upon a superficial examination, one might think that our attachment to Eretz Yisrael is based merely on a historical relationship, or on the need for a homeland to bring our oppressed and scattered people together. Rabbi Kook rejects this understanding outright. He calls upon us to probe beyond surface explanations toward a much deeper contemplation. Our connection to the Land of Israel, like the connection of the soul to the body, transcends rational explanations. The connection is a deep spiritual bond. Rabbi Kook tells us that Eretz Yisrael is an intrinsic and inseparable part of the nation, a deep inner root of the nation’s existence – and not merely a branch.
How are we to understand this? In his commentary to the Siddur, Rabbi Kook explains that, “The holy connection between the nation of Israel and its holy land does not resemble connections which exist in the natural world.”3
For instance, our connection to Eretz Yisrael is not dependent on history. Eretz Yisrael was given to Avraham Avinu without previous historical connection. The bond between Avraham and the land was not based on any external reason. The Brit between Avraham and the land was Divine. Only in the Holy Land can the national life of the Chosen People be totally uplifted to G-d. The prophecy exclusive to the Land of Israel, the mitzvot unique to the land, and the Beit Hamikdash are all manifestations of this Divine connection. It is an attachment based on Ruach Hakodesh, beyond scientific inquiry and rational explanation. This first essay of OROT introduces us to this higher vision and to the need to perceive Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael in a deeper, more poignant light.
אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינֶנָּה דָּבָר חִיצוֹנִי.
“Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter.”
The Hebrew word חִיצוֹנִי in this important first sentence has the meaning of external, superficial, peripheral, secondary; a side matter lacking central importance – something which is not integrally vital to existence. Before explaining what the land of Israel is in positive terms, Rabbi Kook tells us what the land of Israel is not. He first rejects the mistaken understanding which views Eretz Yisrael as a means to a goal, and not as a goal in itself. He wants to negate the opinion which maintains that while the Land of Israel has historical and even strategic importance, it is not something vital to Jewish existence.
A few simple examples will help us understand the difference between an external matter and the central matter itself. When a person wakes up in the morning, he dresses and begins his daily routines. The clothes he chooses to wear are an important part of his day, but they are not the person himself. While there is a popular expression, “The clothes make the man,” one readily recognizes the superficiality of this phrase. Though a person may feel more attractive wearing a blue shirt than a black one, his choice of attire does not represent his essential self. Joseph Cohen remains Joseph Cohen whatever suit of clothes he wears.
Similarly, a person may feel different riding to work in a Cadillac than in a Chevrolet, but the car remains an external appurtenance and not the man himself. A man’s identity is much more than his profession, his clothes, his car, his job, or his residence. All are external elements which influence his life, but they do not constitute his inner self.
One can readily understand these examples. In the case of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, however, the relationship is not an external one. The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is not a peripheral matter. On the contrary, the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel are inseparably united. As Rabbi Kook will explain, the Land of Israel is an absolute foundation of the Jewish nation. The Jewish people without the Land of Israel are not the essential Jewish people, but rather a mere shadow of their inner potential.4
The thought that Eretz Yisrael is an accessory to Judaism, and not a central pillar in itself, is a tragic distortion which was caused by the nearly 2000 year exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. After years of wandering in foreign countries, scattered among the gentiles, and separated from our homeland, our orientation to the Land of Israel became distorted and confused. Instead of being a day-to-day reality integral to our lives, Eretz Yisrael became a faraway dream. In our Diaspora existence, the most important aspects of Judaism were the matters which affected our daily lives – Torah study, prayer, the Sabbath, Kashrut, and the mitzvot which we were still able to perform. Eretz Yisrael became something of secondary importance – a place to which we would one day return, but not an essential part of the Jewish experience.
This misconception results when we misunderstand the true culture of the Jewish people. The foundation of our culture is not just the holidays and the performance of precepts, but in our being the nation which brings the word and blessing of G-d to the world.5 As we will learn, our national attachment to G-d can be achieved exclusively through the Land of Israel.
To help us remember the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Judaism and to the nation of Israel, let us reflect on a few teachings of our Sages regarding the special qualities of the land of Israel.
The Zohar calls the Land of Israel, the heart of all lands.6
The word of G-d goes forth to the world only from the land of Israel, as the prophet says, “From Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”7
The Midrash tells us that the goodness which G-d grants to the Jewish people emanates from Zion: “All of the blessings and consolations, all of the good which the Holy One, Blessed Be He, brings to the Jewish people, all of them come from Zion.”8
Additionally, all of the blessings which G-d sends to the world flow out of Eretz Yisrael: “All of the vitality of all of this world, and all of the blessings and Divine Influence to all – they all come down initially to Zion, and from there, they are proportioned to everyone on earth.”9
Furthermore, we will learn in Essay Three of OROT, “Eretz Yisrael,” that this blessing comes to the world in all of its fullness only when the Jewish nation is situated in its homeland. Concurrently, as Jewish sovereignty spreads over all parts of the Land of Israel, greater and greater Divine blessing flows into the world.10
Hashem divided the world between nations and gave each nation a land suited to it. He fashioned and formed the nation of Israel and set it in the center of His world blueprint, in the land particularly suited to its holiness.11 Eretz Yisrael enjoys a special relationship with the Almighty. It is the meeting place, the point of intersection between the Divine and the physical world. For example, when the Divine seeks written expression in the world, the result is Torah. When Hashem seeks a national, earthly expression, the result is Am Yisrael. So too, the manifestation of Kedusha in geographic terms appears only in Eretz Yisrael. “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place; here I will dwell.”12 These Divinely designed receptacles of holiness, the Torah, Am Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael, are united in their essence. “G-d, Israel and Torah are one.”13
A special Divine Providence graces Eretz Yisrael to the exclusion of all other lands. It is “The land where the eyes of the Lord our G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year till the end.”14
Certainly, G-d reigns the world over. From our point of view, however, there is a great difference in our ability to receive the Divine content. Our Sages teach us that G-d has placed angelic forces to rule over all other lands. Only in the land of Israel is G-d’s Providence direct, without any intermediary angels.15 Only in Israel is the worship of G-d pure without any barriers or impurities. This is how the Ramban explains the Gemara’s startling declaration that “All who live in Eretz Yisrael resemble someone who has a G-d, and all who live outside the land of Israel resemble someone who has no G-d.”16 In Chutz L’Aretz, the worship of G-d only reaches the level of the celestial angels, whereas in Eretz Yisrael, Divine service is direct to G-d Himself, with no interference whatsoever.17
This unique, life connection between Hashem and the Jewish people in Israel has very real quantitative and qualitative advantages. For instance, Eretz Yisrael is the land where the Shekhina appears,18 and where prophecy is transmitted to the Jewish people.19
Eretz Yisrael is the only place on earth where the Torah can be observed in all of its fullness.20 The commandments themselves were only given to be performed in Israel.21 Our Sages teach that the commandments which we perform in the Diaspora are only reminders until we can return to Israel to observe them properly.22 The true value of the mitzvot is only in Eretz Yisrael.21 Outside the land, the precepts have an educational value, but the Torah repeatedly tells us that Eretz Yisrael is the place for their performance.23 Accordingly, our Rabbis have told us that dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah.24
In the Land of Israel, we are a living people. In the Diaspora, we are like bodies lacking spirit – the physical shell of a people without inner life.25
This seems preposterous. After all, the Jewish people survived in Galut for nearly 2000 years. Many of our greatest Torah scholars lived in Galut. Profound Talmudic works were written there. Orthodox communities thrived all over the world. How can this vast Jewish achievement be considered a mere physical shell?
First, it must be made clear that the lack of life and spirit referred to is not on the individual level, but in reference to our national life as Clal Yisrael. A proper understanding of Clal Yisrael, of the Jewish people as a whole, is vital to an encompassing understanding of Torah, and to the writings of Rabbi Kook. To understand the life-giving connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, we first have to comprehend who we are as a Clal.26 The normal definition of a Clal is a collective, a gathering of individuals for the purpose of furthering a common goal. In a partnership, when the goals have been achieved, the partners can split up and go their own way. The partnership or collective never takes on a life of its own, but rather only exists to serve the needs of its members. This is not the case with the Jewish people. Clal Yisrael is not just the sum total of the Jewish people at any one time. It is the eternal soul of the nation, past, present, and future. It is a Divine creation, above time and physical space, which was formed before the world came into existence.27 The soul of the Jewish people, the Torah, and Eretz Yisrael are one.28 Their roots exist in transcendental unity in the most exalted realms of the Divine.
Our true life is as a Clal, and not as a collection of individual Jews. In the Diaspora, Jewish nationhood is shattered. We lack the Divine spirit which fills Clal Yisrael when the nation is living its full sovereign life in Israel. The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is a picture of the Jewish people in Galut.29 Outside the Land of Israel we are like corpses without spirit. Only with the ingathering of the exiles to Israel do our dry bones come to life:
“Thus says the Lord G-d; Behold O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the Land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves, O My people, and have brought you up out of your graves, and I shall put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land…”30
Eretz Yisrael is the land Divinely created for Clal Yisrael.31 By Divine fiat, the Jewish people cannot be a nation in Germany, Uganda, America, or in any other land.32 Only in Eretz Yisrael can we be a sovereign people with our own government, language, and army. Everywhere else on the globe, we are citizens of foreign countries, alienated from our own true national framework and land. Thus, because Jewish nationhood is a foundation of Torah, the most complete Judaism is the Judaism practiced by the Jewish people when they are sovereign in their own land. As Rabbi Kook tells us at the end of this essay, true Jewish life is being Jewish in Israel.
In the light of this introduction, we can take a more meaningful look at Rabbi Kook’s first sentence.
אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינֶנָּה דָּבָר חִיצוֹנִי, קִנְיָן חִיצוֹנִי לָאֻמָּה, רַק בְּתוֹר אֶמְצָעִי לְמַטָּרָה שֶׁל הַהִתְאַגְּדוּת הַכְּלָלִית וְהַחְזָקַת קִיּוּמָהּ הַחָמְרִי אוֹ אֲפִלּוּ הָרוּחָנִי.
“Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter, an external acquisition of the nation; it is not merely a means toward the goal of the general coalescing of the nation, nor of strengthening its material existence, nor even its spiritual.”
Generally, people believe that the reason a nation needs a land is to insure its physical existence. Obviously, a place to live is a foundation of any nation. According to this world view, the land only provides a physical shelter. The culture of the nation evolves from the society which the people establish, and not from the land, which possesses only external importance.
Rabbi Kook begins his essay on Eretz Yisrael by rejecting this way of thinking. He tells us that Eretz Yisrael is not merely a means towards a goal, lacking value in itself. A means is something which you can live without if you have a suitable replacement. This is the world view which led Theodore Herzl to look toward Uganda as a possible site for the reestablishment of the Jewish nation. To his way of thinking, the land was merely the means toward the goal of creating a national homeland. Of course, the Land of Israel had historical significance, but Uganda or Argentina could do just as well. Herzl and other early Zionists also understood that a Jewish homeland was needed for cultural reasons – to prevent assimilation and shelter the nation from the dangers of foreign ideologies, but the land itself, its location, climate, features, and history were not the deciding factors. The goal was the physical coalescing of the nation – the land was merely a vehicle to help achieve this end.
Obviously, the plan for Uganda never materialized. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of G-d is what stands.”33 Among the laws of the universe which G-d created is that the Jewish people belong in Israel. Jews can live as scattered individuals throughout the world, from Yemen to Brooklyn to Paris, but they can only live as a sovereign NATION in Israel.34
Rabbi Kook writes that Eretz Yisrael is not merely a place of physical refuge for downtrodden Jews. Nor is it even a place to attain spiritual heights or to do extra mitzvot. How then are we to relate to the Land of Israel? Once we are freed from erroneous understandings, we can attempt to discover a deeper, more encompassing vision.
אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל הִיא חֲטִיבָה עַצְמוּתִית קְשׁוּרָה בְּקֶשֶׁר_חַיִּים עִם הָאֻמָּה חֲבוּקָה בִּסְגֻלּוֹת פְּנִימִיּוֹת עִם מְצִיאוּתָהּ.
“Eretz Yisrael is an independent unit, bound with a living attachment with the nation, bound with inner Segulot with the nation’s existence.”
What is the meaning of this difficult sentence? Firstly, the Land of Israel is not merely a means, but a value and goal in itself. It is connected by a living bond which is inseparable from the nation. The land and the nation cannot attain their full life and expression, one without the other. They are complementary, united, with an active spiritual and physical union. Without the Jewish people in Israel, the land is doomed to lie in desolation,35 as it had throughout nearly 2000 years of exile. Similarly, just as the land is desolate when Jews are not in it, the Jewish people are desolate when they are not in the land.36 Outside the land of Israel, the Jewish people are wanderers without their own country, waiting to rise to resurrection and rebirth. True, Jews can be successful and make outstanding contributions to world civilization, but only on an individual level. Without our own land, we exist as individuals, stripped of our national foundation and splendor.
Rabbi Kook tells us that at the core of the bond between the land and the nation is an inner Segula, a unique spiritual holiness granted by G-d which the land and the nation share in common. The concept of Segula is usually translated into English as “a special treasure.” The Torah tells us that the Jewish people is to be G-d’s Segula among the nations. “You shall be My own Segula from among all of the peoples.”37 This Segula is expressed in Israel’s Divine chosenness, in being G-d’s special treasure amongst the other nations of the world. Our distinction as G-d’s chosen people is manifest in our Kedusha, our eternity, and in our prophetic potential. We are the bearers of the word of G-d in the world.38
The inner Segula of Clal Yisrael is also shared by Eretz Yisrael. A special Divine chosenness unites the two in an inseparable holy bond. For instance, in our daily morning prayers, in the section of Pesukei D’Zimrah, we say, “For the Lord chose Zion, He desired it for His habitation,”39 and in almost the same breath, we continue, “For the Lord chose Yaacov as His own, Israel as His Segula.”40 Both the land and the nation of Israel are chosen. “For Hashem will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His heritage.”41 G-d’s heritage is the Land of Israel, as we learn from the verse, “Then He established it for Yaacov as a statute, for Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, `To you I shall give the land of Canaan, the lot of your heritage.'”42 The nation and the land are eternally intertwined in G-d’s plan for creation. Even their names are the same. Yisrael refers to both the land and the nation.
Thus, Eretz Yisrael is much more than a means. It is of supreme value in itself. The Kedusha of the land does not evolve from the mitzvot performed there. Rather, the unique mitzvot of the land stem from the inherent holiness of the land. This is why they are called “the mitzvot that depend on the land.” The land is Kodesh by itself.43
How is the inner specialty of the Land of Israel manifested in our physical world? In the essay’s next sentence, Rabbi Kook will tell us that Israel’s inner Segula is a spiritual concept beyond rational, intellectual understanding. Thus we can only hint at a few of the unique characteristics which distinguish Eretz Yisrael from every other location on earth.
We have already mentioned that the Land of Israel lay in barren destruction during the nearly 2000 years which the Jewish people were in exile. Conqueror after conqueror tried to cultivate its once fertile soil, but all of them failed. The land’s unwillingness to nurture foreign rulers is an example of the special connection between Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. Even in the land’s waste and destruction, its faithfulness to the Jewish people remains steadfast, as the Ramban makes clear:
“And that which is stated here, `And your enemies will rule over the desolate land,’ is a blessing which guarantees that through all of the ages, our land will not receive our enemies, and this is a great proof and promise for us. For you can not find in the entire world a land which is good and bountiful, that was once settled, and is now as desolate as is Israel. For since we left her, she never received any other nation.”44
Only with the return of her children in our time did the land of Israel return to life. In a miraculously short time, the desert land became a major world exporter of fruits and flowers. The meeting between the Land of Israel and the people of Israel gives life and strength to both. The Holocaust decimated Jewish life like no other nightmare of history, yet upon our return to Israel, we transformed almost magically into a dynamic world power. This supernatural connection is pointed to by the verse from Isaiah, “He grants breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them who walk therein.”45 With our return to Jerusalem, to the valleys of the Jordan River, and to the shores of the Kinneret, our dry bones come to life.
Rabbi Kook tells us that the specialness of the land and of the nation is something above the general, rational understanding of man. For instance, one of the most outstanding aspects of the Segula of the land is prophecy. Just as the Jewish people are the people of prophecy,46 the Land of Israel is the place of prophecy on earth. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, in his book, the Kuzari, explains how prophecy distinguishes Israel from all other lands.47 In the same way that one country may have an abundance of oil, and another vast resources of gold, Eretz Yisrael holds the monopoly on prophecy. It occurs only in the Land of Israel, or pertaining to the Land of Israel.
Prophecy is one way in which the Land of Israel facilitates the culmination and adulthood of the Jewish people. Only by living in Israel can the Jewish people attain their true and maximum potential, and be a kingdom of prophets as in the days of King Saul when prophets roamed the land.48
Similarly, if the Jewish people are in any other land, our prophetic channel is closed – unless the prophecy already began in the Land of Israel, as in the case of Ezekiel,49 or unless it specifically concerns the Land of Israel, as with prophetic calls for Aliyah.50 For Divine truth to be revealed in the world, the Jewish people need to be in Israel.
וּמִתּוֹךְ כָּךְ אִי_אֶפְשָׁר לַעֲמֹד עַל הַתֹּכֶן שֶׁל סְגֻלַּת קְדֻשַּׁת אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּלְהוֹצִיא לַפֹּעַל אֶת עֹמֶק חִבָּתָהּ, בְּשׁוּם הַשְׂכָּלָה רַצְיוֹנָלִית אֱנוֹשִׁית כִּי_אִם בְּרוּחַ ד’ אֲשֶׁר עַל הָאֻמָּה בִּכְלָלָהּ, בַּהַטְבָּעָה הַטִּבְעִית הָרוּחָנִית אֲשֶׁר בְּנִשְׁמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁהִיא שֶׁשּׁוֹלַחַת אֶת קַוֶּיהָ בִּצְבָעִים טִבְעִיִּים בְּכָל הָאֳרָחוֹת שֶׁל הַהַרְגָּשָׁה הַבְּרִיאָה, וּמַזְרַחַת הִיא אֶת זְרִיחָתָהּ הָעֶלְיוֹנָה עַל_פִּי אוֹתָהּ הַמִּדָּה שֶׁל רוּחַ הַקְּדֻשָּׁה הָעֶלְיוֹנָה, הַמְמַלֵּאת חַיִּים וְנֹעַם עֶלְיוֹן אֶת לְבַב קְדוֹשֵׁי הָרַעְיוֹן וַעֲמֻקֵּי הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה הַיִּשְׂרָאֵלִית.
“As a result, it is impossible to comprehend the essence of the inner Segula of the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, and to reach a deep love for it, through any form of human conceptualization; but only through the Spirit of Hashem which acts on the nation as a whole. This Ruach Hashem on the nation, the natural spiritual formation of Israel’s soul, sends its rays in natural colors in paths of sensitivity. It shines its exalted rays in direct accordance with the exalted Ruach HaKodesh which fills with life and exalted joy the hearts of the holy thinkers and those who are involved in the deep contemplations of Israel.”
As a result of our inner connection to Eretz Yisrael, it is impossible to totally comprehend the exalted essence of the land through any intellectual means, because this inner spiritual Segula is above the realm of man’s cognitive capabilities. By definition, the Jewish people should have a Kingdom in Israel. Like the orbits of the planets in the heavens, and the vitalness of air on earth, Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is a Divine necessity of Creation.51 When this occurs, the world is healthy. Its heart is in place, channeling Divine life and blessing to all of existence. But when Israel is uprooted and scattered all over the globe, the Divine connection is shattered, and the world recedes to a dark, chaotic, disordered condition, alienated from its Creator.52
Thus, the only language we have to express the connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael is through Ruach HaKodesh, the Divine Inspiration which resides in the Divine national soul of Clal Yisrael. Without Ruach HaKodesh, the Land of Israel will seem like any other land. What then are we, ordinary people, to do? How can we hope to grasp this intangible bond? How are we to understand these secret matters? Through the exalted rays of Divine Inspiration transmitted to us through the deep and holy thinkers of Israel. These are the great Rabbis who delve into the deepest understandings of Torah, and who are most deeply connected to the life of the Clal. They are our conduits for receiving the exalted spiritual content which is otherwise beyond our intellectual grasp.53
If we are not yet prophets, our forefathers were, and our descendants shall be. A general Divine Inspiration exists within the Jewish people, attached to our national soul.54
“And as for Me, this is My covenant with them, says Hashem. My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have placed in your mouth (prophecy) will not be withdrawn from your mouth, nor from your children’s mouth, nor from the mouth of your children’s children, says Hashem, from this moment and forever.”55
The deeper understandings which Rabbi Kook refers to are the more esoteric formulations of Am Yisrael. The system of logic which can express the special Segula of Eretz Yisrael and its living bond with the nation is not a rational formula, but rather the logic of Kabbalah. The word, Kabbalah, means to receive. It is the deeply rooted spiritual blueprint which is implanted in the Jewish people from Above. It is not a system of philosophy or science which we invented on our own. It is a system of wisdom which Moses and the Jewish people received directly from G-d at Mount Sinai. Therefore, if a person wants to discover the depth of the connection between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael, the proper dimension for his search is not to be found in the realm of human reasoning – he has to delve into the depths of Kabbalah and the esoteric teachings of Israel. It is here, in this transcendental world, where we encounter the essential oneness of Clal Yisrael, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and G-d.28
The inner understandings which Rabbi Kook brings to light in his writings deal with the influence of the Spirit of G-d on Clal Yisrael. Not every individual Jew is cognizant of these influences, just as not every person is aware of his subconscious being and the underlying influences affecting his life. Sometimes very good psychologists can discern that an individual is being motivated by factors hidden from view. So too with the nation of Israel. For instance, as we will learn in Essay Eight, a national movement like Zionism, which may seem completely secular in nature, stems from the awakening of deep spiritual yearnings in Clal Yisrael. This is the inner vision granted to the deep, holy thinkers of Israel. These masters of the secrets of Torah are to be our guides, illuminating our connection to Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Kook writes that a proper orientation and connection to Eretz Yisrael affects the psychological and spiritual health of the nation, and enlightens the individual according to the level of Ruach Hakodesh which he has achieved.56 Of course, Ruach Hakodesh is not easy to acquire. There are books, among them Mesillat Yesharim, and Shaare Kedusha, which outline the intricate and demanding steps on the path toward Ruach Hakodesh. Only those who have achieved it, who have steeped themselves in the encompassing depths of Jewish knowledge, practice, and Kedusha, can lead us toward the enlightenment which we would surely fail to attain on our own.
הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה עַל_דְּבַר אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁהִיא רַק עֶרֶךְ חִיצוֹנִי כְּדֵי הַעֲמָדַת אֲגֻדַּת הָאֻמָּה, אֲפִלּוּ כְּשֶׁהִיא בָּאָה כְּדֵי לְבַצֵּר עַל_ יָדָהּ אֶת הָרַעְיוֹן הַיַּהֲדוּתִי בַּגּוֹלָה, כְּדֵי לִשְׁמֹר אֶת צִבְיוֹנוֹ וּלְאַמֵּץ אֶת הָאֱמוּנָה וְהַיִּרְאָה וְהַחִזּוּק שֶׁל הַמִּצְווֹת הַמַּעֲשִׂיּוֹת בְּצוּרָה הֲגוּנָה, אֵין לָהּ הַפְּרִי הָרָאוּי לְקִיּוּם, כִּי הַיְסוֹד הַזֶּה הוּא רָעוּעַ בְּעֶרֶךְ אֵיתָן הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁל א”י.
“The thought regarding Eretz Yisrael that it has merely a peripheral value to facilitate the subsistence of the unified nation; even when it comes to fortify the concept of Judaism of the Diaspora, in order to preserve its form, and to strengthen the belief and fear of Hashem, and to strengthen the performance of the commandments in a proper fashion – this orientation toward Eretz Yisrael is not worthy of lasting fruition, for its foundation is rickety in light of the towering, unshakable Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.”
Here, Rabbi Kook returns to re-emphasize his original teaching that the Land of Israel is not something secondary to Judaism and to the Jewish nation. He is addressing an erroneous belief that the Jewish people can live without Eretz Yisrael. This viewpoint asserts that the Judaism of the Diaspora is an end in itself, and that Jewish life in the Galut is a positive goal. In Rabbi Kook’s eyes, this philosophy lacks foundation when compared to the towering Kedusha of Jewish existence in Eretz Yisrael. Like the exile itself, this weltanschauung of Galut lacks lasting value and the fruitfulness to insure its continued existence.
We mentioned that Herzl and other secular Zionists saw Eretz Yisrael as merely a means to unite the countryless Jews and thus preserve the physical nation. They failed to understand the vital connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael because they did not realize that the nation of Israel was essentially different from the nations of the world. They did not understand our true identity and our true national ideal which reaches culmination with the building of the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem and the export of Divine blessing from Zion to the rest of the world.
Rabbi Kook writes that this short-sightedness is not limited to secular Zionists, but can be found in religious circles as well. Sometimes it takes the form of an outright rejection of the land of Israel. Proponents of this view claim that Jews can live a full and even better Jewish life in the Galut than in Eretz Yisrael. Others, less extreme in their rejection of Israel, agree that Eretz Yisrael is the ideal Jewish homeland, but at some later date, with the advent of Mashiach.57
As a general rule, Diaspora leaders focus on strengthening their Diaspora communities, and not on bringing their communities to Eretz Yisrael. This Diaspora outlook on Judaism downplays the centrality of Jewish nationhood in order to strengthen Jewish life in Galut. If Eretz Yisrael is made out to be no longer important, the building of Torah in exile is seen to be the highest and ultimate goal. For instance, many books have been written on Judaism which do not even mention Eretz Yisrael. Until very recently, even the writings of Rabbi Kook which have been translated into English have neglected his writings on the Land of Israel. By concentrating on “the four cubits of Halacha”58 in Galut, and minimizing the value of Israeli nationhood, Diaspora existence is given added importance.
In this philosophy, Eretz Yisrael is seen only as a means to an end.59 The mission of Judaism is to unfold in the Diaspora.60 The Torah is no longer to go forth from Zion, but rather from Berlin and New York. The Jews, it is maintained, can be a more influential light to the nations when they are scattered amongst the gentiles. Eretz Yisrael is reduced to being a faraway, metaphysical, future ideal. More important than the place of Torah worship is the feeling in the heart. This distortion can transform Galut communities into bastions of Judaism in much the same way as some Jews in Babylon erroneously believed they had discovered a new Jerusalem outside of Eretz Yisrael.61
Moreover, the material and physical demands of a homeland are seen as dangers interfering with Torah, mitzvot, and the service of G-d.62 This view relegates the Gemara in Tractate Ketubot to Aggadic legend. The Gemara states: “Always a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are idol worshippers, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews.”63
This is also the Halachic decision of the Rambam64 and the Shulchan Aruch regarding a married man who wants to move to Eretz Yisrael even though his wife refuses.65 So important is the mitzvah of living in Israel that the man is permitted to divorce his wife, without any Ketubah payment whatsoever.
Placing the Diaspora in the center of Jewish life negates the inner Segula of Eretz Yisrael to the nation. Eretz Yisrael is seen as something external to the spirituality of Torah, without any spiritual content of its own. Only the Torah remains.66
Torah, however, is more than a spiritual ideal. As we will learn in Essay Three, Judaism is G-d’s plan for uplifting all of the world to the service of G-d, the physical side of life as well as the spiritual; the national as well as the individual. This exalted goal can only be achieved by the example of a nation – when Israel lives its complete Torah life in Eretz Yisrael. We are to be a light to the world, not just as righteous individuals scattered throughout the four corners of the globe, but as a Divine holy nation with an army of Torah scholars, as well as a army of tanks; a justice system founded on Torah; Divinely-ordained agricultural laws; and with the Temple at the center of national life. This is the call of Sinai which Moshe brings to the nation, in his very first teaching in the book of Devarim: “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn away and take up your journey… go in and possess the land.”67
The Torah was not given to be lived in the wilderness of Sinai, but in the hills and valleys of Eretz Yisrael. In desiring to keep the spiritual side of Torah alone, and not its holy, earthly component, the Spies brought about the death of their entire generation.68 The lack of faith they displayed in rebellion against the commandment to settle in the promised land reverberates through the annals of Jewish history.69
Of course, if our nation has been scattered in exile due to its sins, making it physically impossible to return to our land, we are not punished for not fulfilling the mitzvah of living in Israel. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would compare this to a situation which frequently occurred in Russian communities when Jews were unable to procure an etrog during the holiday of Sukkot. In a case like this, a Jew has no recourse, and he cannot perform the mitzvah. But the mitzvah of taking an etrog on Sukkot does not disappear. So too with the mitzvah of living in Israel – the moment the mitzvah returns to our hands, it is our sacred obligation to fulfill it.70
Thus, Rabbi Kook writes that if we look upon Eretz Yisrael as a sidelight to Judaism, our connection to Judaism will fail to bear fruit. As generations pass, Judaism will fail to survive in our children because Judaism’s foundations in the Diaspora are weak in comparison with the towering Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, relegating Eretz Yisrael to a secondary role in the life of the Jewish nation is to be rejected even when it comes for the seemingly positive purpose of strengthening the Judaism in the Galut. Ultimately, any Jewish outlook which undermines our connection to Eretz Yisrael is destined to fail, because the Judaism of Galut is, by its very nature, temporary,71 a punishment and a curse.72
Thus the Land of Israel is not something external to Jewish life – it is an inner, existential necessity.
הָאִמּוּץ הָאֲמִתִּי שֶׁל רַעְיוֹן הַיַּהֲדוּת בַּגּוֹלָה בֹּא יָבֹא רַק מִצַּד עֹמֶק שִׁקּוּעוֹ בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמִתִּקְוַת אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל יְקַבֵּל תָּמִיד אֶת כָּל תְּכוּנוֹתָיו הָעַצְמִיּוֹת. צִפִּיַּת_יְשׁוּעָה הִיא כֹּחַ_ הַמַּעֲמִיד שֶׁל הַיַּהֲדוּת הַגָּלוּתִית, וְהַיַּהֲדוּת שֶׁל אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל הִיא הַיְשׁוּעָה עַצְמָהּ.
“The concept of Judaism in the Diaspora will only find true strength through the depth of its involvement in Eretz Yisrael. Only through its longing for Eretz Yisrael will Diaspora Judaism constantly receive its inherent qualities. The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina; whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself.”
Here, we find a very illuminating insight. If one wants to truly strengthen Judaism in the Diaspora, the only lasting way is to strengthen its connection to Eretz Yisrael. This means that there is no essential independent essence to the Diaspora.73 It has meaning only in its relation to Israel. Galut is a passing phenomenon. A blemish which will heal. A punishment which is destined to come to an end. No matter how pleasant certain exiles may seem, Jewish life outside of Israel is an abnormal situation, an unhealthy Judaism,74 a destruction of our national format, and a curse.75 In Galut, we are ill with a lingering sickness. Our body is shattered and spiritually diseased.76 We continue to partly function, but, as Rabbi Kook will explain in Essay Three, our existence in Galut is not our healthy ideal. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves and build a structure which is destined to collapse.
The strengthening of Torah learning and practice in exile will not come by minimizing the need to be in Eretz Yisrael, and by making Galut a valid Jewish option in itself, but by linking Diaspora Judaism to the source of Divine Jewish life and holiness in Eretz Yisrael.
In reality, the Diaspora is the means, and Eretz Yisrael is the goal. The exile is merely a way station, a detention center, a transitory stop until we return to our true life in Israel.77 For this reason, the Halacha forbids us to build houses of stone in the Diaspora,78 because stone is a symbol of permanence, while we are always to long to return home to Zion.
Thus we learn that Eretz Yisrael is the true goal of the Torah, and not the Galut. In reality, it is Diaspora existence which is peripheral, external, secondary to Judaism. In this light, we can understand Rashi’s commentary concerning the commandment of Tefillin which reappears in the second paragraph of the Shema. On the verse, “And you shall put these words of Mine on your heart,”79 Rashi explains that the commandment of Tefillin is reiterated after the warning of exile to teach that we are to perform the mitzvot even after we are exiled from Eretz Yisrael so they will not be new to us when we return – for the true place of Judaism and the mitzvot is in the Land of Israel.
A Jew’s true relation to Judaism comes not when he asks what Israel can do for him, but when he asks what he can do for Israel. The complete Judaism is the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael. This, Rabbi Kook teaches, is the Salvation itself:
“The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina; whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself.”
In emphasizing the yearning for Salvation, Rabbi Kook is referring to a Gemara which relates that when a person dies and reaches the Heavenly court, he is asked several questions: “Did you deal honestly in business? Did you set aside fixed times for the study of Torah? Did you yearn for Salvation?”80
What does it mean to “yearn for Salvation”? The commentary of the Ran explains this as a yearning for the fulfillment of the words of the Prophets in one’s lifetime?81 A Jew has to have one eye on the Tanach, and one eye on the daily headlines to see how the prophecies of Redemption are being materialized in his lifetime. Many great Sages, including the Ramban, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the Gaon of Vilna, and Rav Kook himself, interpreted this yearning to mean packing up one’s books and going to live in Israel. This is the Salvation itself – the return to our national Torah life in Israel.
What affords the Jewish people stamina through our long years of exile? The yearning for Salvation. This means salvation from the Diaspora. Our daily prayers for the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Eretz Yisrael grant us the fortitude to survive.82 The Psalm, “If I forget you O Jerusalem,”83 is the bond which holds us together and which gives Diaspora Jewry its meaning and form.
A Diaspora can be in Paris, in Crown Heights, or in a very lovely suburb of Johannesburg. It can be a very comfortable exile, but it represents a destruction of our national wholeness which we are commanded to mourn nonetheless. The book, Mesillat Yesharim, explains that the mourning over the exile, and the yearning for Israel’s Salvation are essential foundations in the righteous Jew’s service of G-d:
“Every Sage in Israel who possesses the words of Torah according to their true understanding, and grieves over the honor of the Holy One Blessed Be He, and for the honor of Israel all of his days, and yearns and feels pain for the honor of Jerusalem and for the Temple, and for the swift flowering of Salvation, and the ingathering of the exiles, he merits Divine Inspiration in his words… A Hasid of this kind, aside from the Divine service he performs in carrying out the precepts with this motivation, must certainly feel constant and actual pain over the exile, and over the destruction of Jerusalem, because of their tendency to minimize the honor of the Blessed One. And he will long for the Redemption, so that the honor of the Blessed One may be raised.”84
The Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is to be our true goal. Jerusalem is to be the center of Torah and Jewish life. This is the Salvation which every heart should long for. Our Sages teach us that the Geula unfolds a little at a time, קמעא קמעא, like the awakening of dawn.85 Today, we are in the middle of the process, witnessing the gradual, inevitable cessation of Galut, and the equally gradual upbuilding of the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael. Slowly, increasingly, the yearning for Salvation is giving way to the Salvation itself – the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.
THE SECRETS OF TORAH
In the first essay of the book, OROT, we learned that Eretz Yisrael is not a secondary, external acquisition of the nation, but rather an essential, life-giving foundation of Clal Yisrael. We further learned that the bond between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people is something above human logic. It is based on the Divine Spirit which rests on the land and on the nation. This understanding is channeled to us through the great Rabbis who are uniquely connected to the life of the Clal through their profound penetration into the depths of the Torah. Finally, Rabbi Kook emphasized that the future of the Jewish people depends not on strengthening the Diaspora, but rather on strengthening our connection to Eretz Yisrael.
In this second essay, Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth how an alienation from the secrets of Torah causes a distortion in our comprehension of Judaism and a crisis in Jewish life.
עַל_יְדֵי הִתְרַחֲקוּת מֵהַכָּרַת הָרָזִים בָּאָה הַהַכָּרָה שֶׁל קְדֻשַּׁת אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּצוּרָה מְטֻשְׁטֶשֶׁת.
“By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion.”
We mentioned that the secrets of Torah which Rabbi Kook refers to are the deep Kabbalistic understandings which chart the inner spiritual blueprint of the Jewish nation. We are not speaking here about the Tree of Kabbalah which can be found illustrated in popular books on the subject. While this metaphor for the Sefirot, or differing levels of G-d’s manifestation in the world, is a central understanding of Kabbalah, many other secrets of Torah appear throughout the Aggadah, and the Midrashim of our Sages. Works of wisdom such as the Zohar are the esoteric understandings of these writings. Rabbi Kook’s great genius was in applying this tradition of knowledge toward understanding the development of the Jewish people in our times. His writings illuminate the inner workings of the national Israeli soul as it awakens to Redemption and physical expression in the rebuilding of the nation in Eretz Yisrael. The book, OROT, is in effect a deep esoteric study of these themes.
This deeper understanding is necessary in recognizing the vital importance of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people. When we speak about Kabbalah, however, we are faced with an immediate dilemma. By its very nature, something secret is beyond our immediate awareness. Inner essences are hidden from mere superficial inspection. If a person is not educated to search for deeper levels, in Torah or any other field, he surely will not find them; he will not miss them; he will not even be aware that an inner dimension exists.
Not everything in life can be rationally explained. For example, the love between two people is something much more than a list of common attractions. A marriage partner or friend may be kind, smart, trustworthy, funny, and the like, but the attraction between two people is based on intangible reasons as well.
In light of all of the technical and scientific advances of modern times, the world recognizes the existence of forces which the human eye cannot detect. Microscopes, lasers, satellites, and telescopes have opened up worlds we never knew existed. The molecules, atoms, and genetic codes which were once hidden from our eyes are now recognized as the real building blocks of the physical world around us. Similarly, disciplines like psychology and sociology have led us to discover inner blueprints for both individual man and mankind. Only after a period of intensive probing can we uncover the inner secrets which rule a large part of our lives.
This invisible foundation of life is especially true in regard to the spiritual world. For example, G-d is invisible to the biological eye, yet He exists all the same. We recognize His presence either through a deep contemplation on the majesty of Creation; through faith in the traditions passed down from our forefathers; or through a profound personal experience in which G-d enters our lives. Yet we can never describe exactly His essence for, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, says the Lord. For My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”1
The Torah is comprised of levels, from the revealed surface understanding called, Pshat; to a more inner contemplation called, Remez; to explanations called Drash; and to esoteric secrets known as Sod. The compilation of the inner, transcendental level of Torah is called Kabbalah. Only through its knowledge can we grasp the exalted specialties of the Jewish nation, and understand the inherent symbiosis between the Jewish people, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. In fact, our Sages have told us that it is precisely the study of this deeper aspect of Torah which will pave the way to Israel’s Redemption.2
Beside the difficult path of learning and character refinement which a person must follow in acquiring the secrets of Torah,3 there is another reason why this branch of knowledge has remained the exclusive possession of a small number of elite Tzaddikim. Throughout the history of Galut, the focus of Torah learning was on the revealed, practical side of Torah alone. Gemara and Halacha were the primary topics of study. With our exile from Israel and the destruction of our national framework, the focus on the national perspective of Torah and on the Clal was displaced by a preoccupation with the individual Jew and the personal mitzvot he was commanded to perform. In the Diaspora, the private, ritual precepts were all that we had.4 The deeper, philosophical level of Torah was largely ignored. To be sure, a select line of Sages5 continued to learn Kabbalah, but their knowledge was not shared by the masses.
The one-dimensional level of learning which sometimes characterized the Diaspora world gave way to a truncated observance of Judaism, an “orthopractice” which lacked a deep base. Jews dutifully observed the precepts, but often “the depths of Divine life” were missing. The outer shell of Torah was left without the heart. The Tikuney Zohar explains that people who do not delve into the secrets of Torah make Torah observance into a dry, routine, handed-down Judaism lacking genuine depth.6 Without the inner formulas of Torah, a person only recognizes external realities. In effect, he sees only the upper part of the iceberg. His life revolves around his own private circle, and not around the life of the Clal. In consequence, he fails to recognize the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael and to understand its absolute value and importance to the nation.
עַל_יְדֵי הַהִתְנַכְּרוּת אֶל סוֹד ד’ נַעֲשׂוֹת הַסְּגֻלּוֹת הָעֶלְיוֹנוֹת שֶׁל עֹמֶק הַחַיִּים הָאֱלֹהִיִּים לִדְבָרִים טְפֵלִים שֶׁאֵינָם נִכְנָסִים בְּעֹמֶק הַנְּשָׁמָה, וּמִמֵּילָא יֶחְסַר הַכֹּחַ הַיּוֹתֵר אַדִּיר בְּנִשְׁמַת הָאֻמָּה וְהַיָּחִיד, וְהַגָּלוּת מוֹצֵאת הִיא חֵן מִצַּד עַצְמוּתָהּ; כִּי לַמַּשִּׂיג רַק אֶת הַשֶּׁטַח הַגָּלוּי לֹא יֶחְסַר שׁוּם דָּבָר יְסוֹדִי בְּחֶסְרוֹן הָאָרֶץ וְהַמַּמְלָכָה וְכָל תָּכְנֵי הָאֻמָּה בְּבִנְיָנָהּ.
“By alienating oneself from the secrets of G-d, the highest Segulot of the deep Divine life become extraneous, secondary matters which do not enter the depths of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual’s and of the nation’s soul will be missing; and the exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord. For to someone who only understands the superficial level, nothing basic will be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, the Jewish Kingdom, and all of the facets of the nation in its built form.”
An alienation from the secrets of Torah creates an alienation from the highest realms of Divine existence. It causes a barrier, blocking a person from being in tune with the most vibrant powers of his soul, and with the soul of the nation. When these aspects of Torah are missing, one can have a good life, a productive and meaningful life, but not a life of the Clal; not a life imbued with the spirit of G-d which infuses our national soul. This higher Divine life is only possible when one is deeply connected to the secrets of Torah and to Eretz Yisrael.
It is important to note that even an outstanding Torah scholar can develop a distorted understanding regarding Eretz Yisrael if he is not steeped in the esoteric teachings of our nation.7 In the Diaspora, with its emphasis on the individual, someone who only studies the revealed side of Torah can become alienated from the nation’s inner yearnings and goals. A Talmid Chacham can be learned in Halacha, but distant from the deep philosophical reaches of Judaism.8 The Spies in the Wilderness were the Torah leaders of the tribes, yet they failed to recognize the necessity of living in Israel.9 The Gaon of Vilna teaches that this same sin haunts the Jewish people in every generation.10 When one puts a personal focus over the life of the Clal, the yearning for a national homeland can become weakened and confused. This tragedy arises when the Torah is not learned in all of its fullness.
It must be noted that an alienation from the secrets of Torah is not caused by intellectual shortcomings, but rather by a lack of identification with these concepts. Even an expert in Kabbalah can be estranged from the realm of inner Segulot if he approaches his studies in the spirit of intellectual endeavor alone. Only by sublimating one’s entire existence to the Divine esoteric ideals can an honest and passionate love be developed for this branch of knowledge.
What are the exalted Segulot which Rabbi Kook refers to? We mentioned in the first essay that the concept of Segula is not something which can be defined by rational terminology. The usual English translation, “treasure,” refers to something special, something of great value, something hidden. In this light, the Segula of Israel can be understood as the highest specialty of the Jewish people, as its inner uniqueness, the trait most exclusive to the Jewish people which only the nation of Israel possesses. Certainly Israel’s Divine election is unique to the Jewish people alone. Israel, and only Israel, is the nation chosen by G-d to reveal His Kingship in the world.11
Furthermore, we are to be a Divine Clal, and not simply an amalgamation of Jews.12 We are a holy NATION and not merely individual Tzaddikim. This is a pivotal understanding. Among the gentiles, individuals can achieve levels of saintliness according to their deeds.13 But in Am Yisrael, THE WHOLE NATION IS HOLY, possessed with a Divine national soul.14
When we understand our Segulah in being a holy nation, we can readily understand our need for a holy land. But, by being alienated from the deep Kabbalistic formulas which express the inner workings and foundations of Jewish life, the individual Jew and the Jewish people as a whole will be estranged from this understanding, and from the highest and most precious aspects of G-d in the life of the nation. These highest Segulot are expressed by our connection to Am Yisrael, to Eretz Yisrael, to the Torah in all of its depth, to the Kingdom of Israel, and to the yearning for Salvation, for the Temple, the Sanhedrin, for prophecy, and for “all of the aspects of the nation in its rebuilt form.” Our identification with these national foundations is what infuses the Jewish soul with its most potent force and expression. Thus the most outstanding heroes of Judaism are those Tzaddikim who have the greatest love for Clal Yisrael, and who most fervently yearn for Jerusalem and the nation’s upbuilding.15
In contrast, someone who understands only the superficial level of Judaism will feel nothing lacking if he lives far away from the Land of Israel, in a foreign country, in a gentile land, under a gentile government. He is estranged from the deeper levels of Judaism and the more lofty aspirations of the Clal. He is satisfied with the individual obligations which he feels he can perform just as well in Chutz L’Aretz, and thus the exile finds favor in his eyes. He does not feel a need for his own Jewish land and government, nor for a Jewish army, nor for any of the other foundations of national Israeli life. His focus is on Shabbat, Kashrut, and Tefillin. To perform them, he does not need Eretz Yisrael. He may go to shul every morning, and learn a page of Gemara each day, but he does not miss living in Israel. The opposite is true – he enjoys the Galut. He enjoys his work, his community, the education he can give to his children, and the opportunity he has to experience the best of both worlds – his Judaism and the gentile world around him. If there is an inner, esoteric need to live in Israel, he does not feel it. To his way of thinking, the concept of nationhood has nothing to do with Judaism, or with being “Frum.”
Even great Torah leaders can fall prey to this compromise with Galut. An example of this can be seen in Yaacov Avinu’s descent to Mitzrayim. At first, he journeyed to Egypt to merely sojourn there, and not to settle down. “And he went down to Mitzrayim and sojourned there.”16 The Sifre comments that Yaacov did not intend to settle down permanently, but rather to live there temporarily, until the years of famine in Canaan passed.17 With time, however, his family’s orientation to the land of Egypt began to change, as it says, “And Yisrael settled in the land of Mitzrayim, in the land of Goshen, and they took possession of it, and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.”18
The commentary “Kli Yakar” writes: “This verse is a condemnation of the children of Israel, for Hashem decreed to Avraham that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, while they desired to be settlers and property holders in a land not their own. And they settled down so permanently that they did not want to leave Egypt until Hashem was compelled to take them out with a mighty hand, and those who did not want to leave died in the three days of darkness.”19
Interestingly the word ויאחזו in the verse, “And they took possession of it,” has the passive-tense meaning of, “And they were possessed by it.” The Midrash explains that the land took possession of them.20 While Yaacov merely intended to sojourn in the land, his descendants let themselves be gripped by the land. Yaacov himself foresaw this danger and made his son Yosef swear to bury him in the Land of Israel, in order to make clear that Eretz Yisrael, and not Egypt, was their one and only true homeland.21
Similarly, today, after generations of Diaspora existence, many Jews identify themselves with the place in which they live, whether it be England, France, or Brazil. Israel is often considered a faraway dream, a nice place for a visit, but not a place vital to a Jew’s day-to-day life.
Rabbi Kook tells us that when we are not immersed in the inner depths of Torah, we become vulnerable to the influences around us. After years of exile, the impure gentile cultures begin to seep into our national psyches.22 Our pure Jewish thinking becomes polluted. Slowly, we wander away from our own inner sources and strengths. We become alienated from our inner Segulot, from Clal Yisrael, from the Divine sensitivities which separate the Jew from the gentile, until finally we assimilate into the culture of yet another foreign land.
When we allow ourselves to become estranged from our deepest roots, we lose our longing for the exalted attachment to G-d which can only be achieved through our attachment to His nation. Without this deep connection, the yearning for Salvation from Galut becomes a side issue, an extraneous matter, a song about Mashiach which does not enter the depths of the soul.
יְסוֹד צִפִּיַּת הַיְשׁוּעָה הוּא אֶצְלוֹ כְּמוֹ עָנָף צְדָדִי שֶׁאֵינֶנּוּ יָכוֹל לְהִתְקַשֵּׁר עִם עֹמֶק הַכָּרַת הַיַּהֲדוּת, וְזֶה בְּעַצְמוֹ הוּא הַדָּבָר הַמֵּעִיד עַל חֶסְרוֹן_הַהֲבָנָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּשִׁיטָה מְעַטַּת_הַלְּשַׁד כָּזֹאת.
“For him, the foundation of the yearning for Salvation is like a side branch that cannot be united with the deep understanding of Judaism, and this itself testifies to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective.”
We mentioned in Chapter One that one of the questions a person is asked when he reaches his Heavenly rest is, “Did you yearn for Salvation?”23 If a Jew is not longing for the Redemption, for Salvation from the Galut, then something is wrong. If he his happy in the Diaspora, then his Judaism is out of focus, and he is out of touch with his soul’s deepest yearnings. As the Kuzari poignantly declares, his prayers for Jerusalem and Zion are like the chatterings of a nightingale, melodious but empty of meaning.24 Because he does not feel his soul’s most inner desires, he does not feel the need to be saved. From what? From whom? Three times a day, he recites the words in the prayer book, “We yearn for Your Salvation all day long,”25 but when the davening is finished, he forgets. The prayers are talking about someone else, about some other time, about some other Galut. Because he is removed from the loftiest goals of Judaism, he may not even experience a sense of exile at all.
Elsewhere in OROT, Rabbi Kook writes: “A man of Israel who wants to merit the true light of life must be willing to immerse himself in Knesset Yisrael with all of his heart, with all of his senses, with all of his physical and spiritual strength. He must make the goal of his life the acquisition, to the extent that he can, of the proper Israeli attributes and the knowledge unique to the Jewish people, of which the foremost is Torah in all of its breath and multifarious aspects, and with this, all that relates to the deep wisdom of Israel . . .”26
How is one to achieve this immersion in the life of Clal Yisrael? Rabbi Kook continues: “The more a person increases Torah study and the performance of mitzvot, he is more connected to Knesset Yisrael, and he inwardly feels the soul of all of the Clal, in its most exalted essence; and he feels in all of his being the pain of Knesset Yisrael’s disgraced fallen state, and he takes pleasure in the future cosmic joy which awaits her.”27
Rabbi Kook calls for a more holistic approach to Torah, for a learning which encompasses all of the Torah, the hidden and the revealed, rather than dividing it into seemingly separate pieces. His son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, would emphasize this point again and again. On the verse in Tehillim, “The Torah of Hashem is perfect; it restores the soul,”28 Rav Tzvi Yehuda would explain that the Torah is complete only when it is learned in all of its encompassing perfection.29
This can be compared to a doctor. If he studies only about diseases without acquiring a deeper knowledge of human anatomy as a whole, he can only prescribe temporary remedies, which may alleviate the surface irritation, but which ignore the internal cause. Only by understanding the complex chain of reactions which occur throughout the body can he effectively cure the inner pathology.
The more a person connects himself to the depths of a matter, the more he unites with the thing itself. The more you know a loved one, the more you become united.
Similarly, the more a scientist delves into the mysteries of life, instead of discovering a world of separate forces, substances, and species, he finds of world of unity comprised of the same fundamental molecules, atoms, genetic material and codes. Instead of particularization, he discovers harmony.
So too, the more a person delves into the inner realms of existence, he becomes more connected to the unifying oneness, to the universal aspect of Creation, because the inner soul of all Creation shares the same Divine spark.
Conversely, the more a person is externally oriented, the more importance he will place on the material world around him – his clothes, his car, his status among colleagues and peers. Instead of a world of unity, he lives in a world of division and competition.
The Zohar teaches that the nation of Israel and the Torah are one.30 When a Jew is connected to the secrets of Torah, he is connected to his inner soul, and thus to the inner soul of all of the nation. There, in the highest realms of the nation’s Divine Segulot, he unites with the inner soul of Eretz Yisrael which is inherently bonded with the life and soul of the Clal. He yearns for a healthy national life in all of its facets. He comes to understand that the highest worship and sanctification of G-d’s Name comes through the life of the nation of Israel, and not through the deeds of the individual Jew.31 Instead of living a private life, he raises himself up to identify with the eternal life of the Clal.
This deeper attachment to Torah, to Clal Yisrael, and to the yearning for a full national life in Israel is the Torah ideal. This is the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, the complete Torah; as our Sages tell us: “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.”32
Thus, when a person is cut off from the secrets of Torah, he does not feel anything lacking in being a part of a foreign country and land. He sees no difference between the mountains and valleys of Israel, and the mountains and valleys of Italy or Vermont. His spiritual radar is broken. His recognition of Kedusha is lost. He is unable to feel anguish over the exile of the nation, because he does not feel a connection to the nation as a whole.
Zionism, whether religious or secular, isn’t for him. He feels content where he is.
This alienation to the deepest yearnings of the nation is “testimony to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective,” which emphasizes only the revealed side of Torah. A Judaism which negates the esoteric realms of Torah is a dry, lifeless Judaism, divorced from the Divine Spirit which rests on the nation. This is the Judaism which leads to the dry bones of Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is a Judaism content with Galut, cut off from the nation’s constant yearning for Redemption.
A great tragedy results when we make Jewish life in the exile the goal of Jewish existence. In the introduction to the Siddur, Beit Yaacov, Rabbi Yaacov Emden writes: “When it seems to us in our present peaceful existence outside of the land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the greatest, deepest, most obvious, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”33 Whether the destruction comes through pogroms, a holocaust, or day-to-day assimilation, the tragedy is the same.
לֹא שׁוֹלְלִים אֲנַחְנוּ כָּל מִין צִיּוּר וַהֲבָנָה הַמְיֻסָּד עַל יַשְׁרוּת וְרִגְשֵׁי דֵּעָה וְיִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם בְּאֵיזוֹ צוּרָה שֶׁהִיא , רַק אֶת אוֹתוֹ הַצַּד שֶׁשִּׁיטָה כָּזֹאת תַּחְפֹּץ לִשְׁלֹל אֶת הָרָזִים וְאֶת הַשְׁפָּעָתָם הַגְּדוֹלָה עַל רוּחַ הָאֻמָּה, כִּי זֶהוּ אָסוֹן שֶׁאָנוּ חַיָּבִים לִלְחֹם אִתּוֹ, בְּעֵצָה וּבִתְבוּנָה, בִּקְדֻשָּׁה וּבִגְבוּרָה.
“We are not rejecting any form or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but rejecting only the specific aspect of this perspective which seeks to negate the secrets of Torah and their great influence on the spirit of the nation – for this is a tragedy which we are obligated to fight against with counsel and wisdom, with holiness and with valor.”
When a Jew does not yearn for Salvation, a foundation of Torah is lost. This results from the superficial perspective of Judaism which Rabbi Kook decries. He is careful to add that all other Jewish outlooks based on true Divine service have their rightful place. When they stem from a pure fear of Heaven, all disciplines of Torah – Mussar, philosophy, Hasidut, pilpul, literature, prayer, and the like, all contribute positively to the whole. It is only the specific outlook which denies the secrets of Torah and their influence on our lives which he condemns. A simple, faithful service of G-d is proper, but it is not all that there is. The Torah includes not only the revealed understandings, but the hidden understandings as well.34 If a philosophy negates the esoteric teachings of Torah, and regards those who learn them as if they possess no Torah at all, this is a distortion of Judaism which must be combatted. It must be battled with counsel, with wisdom, with Kedusha and valor. Rabbi Kook raises up the banner of Redemption with the call for a deeper, more valiant illumination of Torah which will vanquish the darkness of exile by adding a holier light.
THE BLESSING OF AVRAHAM
In Rabbi Kook’s first essay in the book, OROT, we learned that Eretz Yisrael is inseparably connected to the nation of Israel. The understanding of this inner unity is beyond superficial explanations. Only through the Ruach HaKodesh which rests on the nation, and which comes to us through the Rabbis steeped in the secrets of Torah, can we fathom this deep inner bond.
In Essay Two, we learned that an alienation from the secrets of Torah leads to an estrangement from the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, and from the exalted Divine life of the Clal. A person who ignores the inner depths of Torah will not feel anything missing in his Diaspora existence, and he will view the exile in a favorable light. The yearning for Salvation, a cornerstone of Jewish faith, will be an extraneous issue for him, a side branch not integral to his life.
In Essay Three, Rabbi Kook presents a deep, esoteric explanation of the exile. In contrast to perspectives which emphasize the building of Jewish life in Galut, this essay explains how the exile is not a primary goal of the Jewish people, but rather the cessation of the unique blessing which Israel brings to the world, and only a phase in the reestablishment of the nation in Israel – in its ideal international form.
Rabbi Kook’s understanding is based on an historic overview of the developmental process of the Jewish people, from our initial nationhood in Israel, through our long Galut, to our return to national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael. Once again, Rabbi Kook is coming to clarify distorted misunderstandings which arise from a negation of the esoteric knowledge of Torah. These outlooks depict Israel’s exile in a positive light, maintaining that it is precisely in Galut that Israel is a light to the world through the dissemination of its moral and spiritual values amongst the nations.1
A deeper exploration reveals that the prime purpose of the exile is not only for the Jewish people to influence the world when we are scattered amongst the nations, but for the Jewish people to undergo the transformation it needs to rebuild its life in Israel. The value of the exile is not to be found in the exile, but in what we take from the exile experience to enrich and rejuvenate our life when we return to our national homeland.
Certainly, during our exile from our land, we contribute greatly to world culture and history, but our truest, most enlightening influence on the world comes not in our scattered, sovereignless state in Galut, but when we return to our Divine national status in Israel – “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.”2 One can wonder, what can the Jewish people contribute more than we already have in every sphere of endeavor? However, when the rebuilt nation of Israel reaches its zenith with Mashiach, the renewal of prophecy, and the Beit HaMikdash returned to Har HaBayit, the whole world will enter a new phase of existence – a world of international harmony and peace, material abundance, and a holiness which will pervade all aspects of life.3
In light of the essay’s many esoteric themes, a great deal of explanation is needed. A superficial reading alone will fail to reveal the depths of Rabbi Kook’s thought. New and difficult concepts, expressed in Rabbi Kook’s often abstract and poetic style, can frustrate a newcomer to Rabbi Kook’s world. Therefore to help forge a path of understanding, we will first present a capsule overview of the essay, and then attempt to examine its themes in greater depth.
Rabbi Kook writes that Israel’s unique creativity – the ability to infuse all aspects of life with Kedusha4 – is only possible in Eretz Yisrael. However, when the sins of the nation bring Galut upon us, the spring of Israeli creativity becomes polluted. Our special inspiration of national holiness ceases. Instead, in our descent to Galut, we share in the more general Divine inspiration which influences all of the world. Throughout the generations of exile, the Land of Israel lays desolate, and its destruction atones for it. In the meantime, the scattered Jewish people absorb the best elements of world culture. As the cycle of atonement is completed, the unique Israeli spring becomes purified. The exile no longer has a purpose, and the outcast nation can return to its original talents, now possessing a more international aspect, which facilitates our task of being a light to all of the nations of the world.5
Rabbi Kook begins by asserting that Israel’s unique world talent and culture can only come to expression in Eretz Yisrael.
יְצִירָה עַצְמִית יִשְׁרָאֵלִית, בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה וּבְתֹקֶף הַחַיִּים וְהַמִּפְעָל, אִי_אֶפְשָׁר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל.
“A uniquely Israeli creation, in thought, and in the full force of life and deed, is impossible for the Jewish people except in Eretz Yisrael.”
Because of the deep, inherent bond between the soul of the nation of Israel, and the soul of the Land of Israel, a uniquely Israeli creation in thought and deed is only possible in Eretz Yisrael. This means that only the Land of Israel can afford the proper environment for the development of Israeli culture. When we use the term Israeli, we are referring to Clal Yisrael as a whole. Rabbi Kook tells us that a Jew can only live the true life of Clal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.
What is this unique Israeli culture? A life which unites thought with the full force of deed. This is a life which unites the spiritual (thought) and the physical (deed) in perfect earthly harmony. This combination of spiritual and material holiness in the life of the nation is a uniquely Israeli creation.6 We are the only holy nation on earth.7 The Shekhina dwells only in Israel.8 The unification of the Divine Ideal and earthly existence is a uniquely Israeli product. Our Kedusha is not an abstract philosophy, nor the individual holiness of this saint or that. Our Kedusha is a national Kedusha, a national holiness which sanctifies every aspect of life, from the wisdom of our holy writings, to our agricultural laws, to the piloting of an Israeli Air-Force jet. Instead of relegating G-d to being an abstract, heavenly being, we reveal His Divine rule on earth. “For what nation is there so great, that has G-d so near to them, as the Lord our G-d is in all things that we call upon Him for?”9
Elsewhere in OROT, Rabbi Kook writes: “The revelation of the unity between the ethical, spiritual, and intellectual world, and the material, practical, technological, and sociological world is expressed in the world by the nation of Israel. And the Segula of Eretz Yisrael is that it brings about this unity in the world….”10
This unique Israeli creation, the sanctification of all earthly existence, is a lesson which comes out of the Land of Israel alone. Interestingly, as we have seen, outlooks exist which maintain precisely the opposite. They point to the famous communities and ghettos of Europe, where the Jews lived a hermetically sealed Jewish life with a thriving Jewish culture. Because these perspectives overlook the inner depths of Torah, they mistake Galut existence for true Israeli life. They mistake a Judaism centered on the individual for the much broader contribution and blessing of the Clal. They mistake Jewish newspapers and bakeries for authentic Israeli culture which unfolds not in a ghetto, but in a holy landscape of mountains, valleys, deserts, and lakes. When we are living in the place we belong, Hebrew is spoken, and not English, French, or even Yiddish. At the center of Israeli culture stands Jerusalem, the city of G-d. The government is Jewish, the calendar is Jewish, the soldiers are Jewish too. Even the national psychology is totally different. In Israel, a Jew can feel pride. He can feel strong. If an enemy threatens, he has a means of defense. In Israel, the stereotype Jew of Galut is transformed into a pioneer building the Promised Land.
לְעֻמַּת זֶה, כָּל הַנַּעֲשֶׂה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְבַּטֶּלֶת הַצּוּרָה הַכְּלָלִית שֶׁבּוֹ לְגַבֵּי הַצּוּרָה הָעַצְמִית הַמְיֻחָדָה שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְזֶהוּ אֹשֶׁר גָּדוֹל לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְלָעוֹלָם.
“Additionally, everything which is done by the people of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, its universal form becomes subordinate to its special inherent Israeli form, and this brings about great benefit to Israel and to the world.”
Rabbi Kook is giving us a look at the deep inner workings of the Jewish people which is both difficult to fathom and to explain. The Jewish people share a general, universal form, or “humanness” with the rest of the world. All of mankind shares this “Likeness of G-d” or Tzelem Elokim.11 In the Land of Israel, however, the universal aspect which we share with the gentiles is subordinated to our specific Israeli nature and form. In Israel, we are most truly ourselves; the Children of Israel, Bnei Yisrael.
Thus there are two aspects to the Jewish nation. There is the aspect of Am Yisrael, the side of our chosenness, our Kedusha, our Divine Segula, which is uniquely Israeli, and which distinguishes us from the rest of the world. And there is a side to the Jewish nation which has a more general, universal dimension shared by all of mankind.
In Eretz Yisrael, our general human form of Yaacov takes on the holy, national character of Yisrael.12 We are, “A kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation.”13 All of the nation’s life, both the material and the spiritual is infused with this Divine holiness. Through our national example in Israel, the world learns that holiness is to infuse all aspects of existence. Even today, at the beginning of our Redemption, when our material life in Israel seems largely secular in nature, at its core is the holy mitzvah of settling the land, which is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah.14 Furthermore, our miraculous return to statehood in Israel, in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, is an unparalleled sanctification of G-d’s Name,15 which testifies to His rule in both the spiritual and physical worlds.
Severed from Eretz Yisrael, the Jew loses his holy connection to the material world. A crass, capitalistic materialism takes the place of our natural Kedusha. Judaism becomes an abstract, spiritual force without an earthly component. The unity between the spiritual and the material is lost. The Shekhina is cut off from the world. The G-d we are supposed to reveal becomes hidden in exile.
With the loss of our nationhood, Judaism becomes just a religion,16 rather than a holy national constitution and national way of life. And because our holy national fabric is missing, and our special Israeli inspiration has been lost, Jews must either seek refuge in the purely spiritual, or aggressively pursue the material, with no healthy connection between the two. Thus in Galut, we become either the stereotype of the religious Jew, or the secular overachiever who strives to emulate the gentiles in their styles and manners. The Diaspora Jew lives submerged in a gentile culture, surrounded by foreign values and lifestyles – in the books he reads, the television he watches, the sports heroes he cheers, and the candidates he votes for. If he is religious, Shabbos and Kashrus provide a wall of separation, but come Motzei Shabbos, the cultural bombardment continues.
One can ask, if this connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael is so magical and holy, why isn’t everyone in Israel a Tzaddik? Why does Dizengoff Center try so hard to imitate Beverly Hills? Why is there a big Yerida?
In returning to Israel after nearly 2000 years, we have to recover from the spiritual and physical trauma we suffered in Galut. The unhealthy influences of the gentile cultures which surrounded us in foreign lands sullied our holy purity. This pollution seeped into every facet of our Diaspora existence, including the most stalwart Torah communities.17 While the nations of the world can contribute valuable cultural, scientific, and technical advances to mankind, their spiritual worlds are spurious and unclean, tainted with idol worship and immoral doctrines.18 While there is much good in the universal image of man, there is also much bad. Neither ghetto walls, nor the strictest adherence to Torah could protect against this ubiquitous pollution. Recovering from Galut is a process of rehabilitation, a process of deep spiritual cleansing which can take several generations to cure. Only at the end of the healing is our body and soul ready to return to our ideal healthy life. This is the slow spiritual cleansing which the prophet Ezekiel describes:
“For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all of the countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all of your uncleannesses, and from all of your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart I will also give you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh….”19
Only after this long spiritual recuperation are we ready to resume our unique holy life, as the prophecy continues:
“And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your G_d.”20
Today in Israel, though we have not yet recognized our true national calling, the process of education and healing has begun. The time will come when the champions of our secular and material building will hear a more spiritual call; and concurrently, when all of the religious will come to see the great Kedusha in the physical upbuilding of the nation. With this holy union, a great blessing and healing will come to the world.
הַחֲטָאִים שֶׁגּוֹרְמִים גָּלוּת הֵם הֵם שֶׁמַּדְלִיחִים אֶת הַמַּעְיָן הָעַצְמִי, וְהַמָּקוֹר מַזִּיל הַזָּלוֹת טְמֵאוֹת, “אֶת מִשְׁכַּן ד’ טִמֵּא”.
“The sins which cause exile, they are the same sins which cause the pollution of our inner spring. As a result, this source begins to emanate defiled issues, `He succeeded in defiling the Sanctuary of G-d.'”
Rabbi Kook now begins to describe the inner esoteric workings of the developmental process which brings the nation of Israel to exile and then back to Redemption. He describes in metaphorical fashion what happens when the Jewish people commit sins which can only be atoned through Galut. The Gemara tells us that the First Temple was destroyed because of three sins: idol worship, murder, and adultery. The Second Temple was destroyed by Lashon Hara and senseless hatred between Jews.21 When these sins pollute our inner spring of Divine Inspiration and holiness, the spring begins to issue impure emanations.
The Book of Lamentations compares this defilement to the impurity of a Niddah.22 Only when the woman’s menstrual flow ceases, does the process begin to restore her to her natural purity. This cycle is shared by the unique Israeli spring of Rabbi Kook’s essay. This spring is the fountain of pure Israeli creation, in thought, in life, and in deed. When the Jewish people fall into transgressions deserving of exile, the Divine Inspiration continues to flow, but instead of inspiring the Jewish people with a holy inspiration which infuses Kedusha into every aspect of our life, it begins to influence us in a negative fashion which makes us capable of defiling even our holiest treasure, the Sanctuary of G-d.
וּכְשֶׁהַמָּקוֹר הָעַצְמִי הַמְיֻחָד נִשְׁחָת, מִתְעַלָּה הַמְּקוֹרִיּוּת הַיְסוֹדִית לְאוֹתוֹ הַחֵלֶק הָעֶלְיוֹן הַתַּמְצִיתִי, שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בִּסְגֻלַּת הָאָדָם, וְזֶה נִשְׁאָב דַּוְקָא בַּגָּלוּת.
“And when this special, essentially Israeli source is destroyed, the basic originality takes one step upwards to the contracted portion above, which the Jewish people share with the general Segulot of all mankind. And this is drawn up specifically in exile.”
The source of Israeli inspiration has a self-contained safety valve. When the polluted emanations reach a life-threatening level, and the Israeli spring is destroyed, the valve is automatically turned off and its flow ceases. When this crisis occurs, and the nation is exiled from the land, the uniquely Israeli specialness of Clal Yisrael, which distinguishes us from the rest of the world, loses form. The Divine Inspiration which was characterizing the nation now rises up and emanates its streams to the universal sphere which influences all of mankind. Israel loses its unique creativity and takes part in the general inspiration that animates all of the world. While we will learn in Essay Six that Ruach HaKodesh still appears,23 even in Galut, amongst Tzaddikim who possess a passionate yearning for Eretz Yisrael, the overall Ruach HaKodesh which embraces the nation in Israel is lost. In Galut, the holy unity between thought and deed, between the spiritual and the physical world is shattered, and we join the general “likeness of G-d” of all of humanity. Our identity as a Divine Clal becomes forgotten in mankind’s obsession with the individual.
With the loss of Eretz Yisrael, we lose our earthly connection. Our holy nationhood no longer exists. The Torah becomes merely a religious code for the Jewish people to live by. Certainly it still contains universally moral truths, but its content becomes an abstraction without a worldly base, like other ethical philosophies. The Divine Idea in the world becomes something spiritual, without the concrete material expression which our holy nationhood in Israel provides. It is as if G-d and the Shekhina have ascended to heaven, abandoning mankind,24 and allowing false religions tainted with idol worship to take Israel’s place on the stage of world history.
What actually happens when the fountain of inspiration rises up from the Israeli spring to “the contracted portion above”? In exile, the unique creativity of Clal Yisrael is subordinated to the general motivational forces of all humankind. Instead of the Divine knowledge which mankind receives when Am Yisrael is in Israel, it now receives eclectic inspiration from many random directions. Inspiration no longer has the unique Israeli character of the sanctification of life, both the spiritual and the material. Instead, a general creative impulse takes its place, appearing around the globe at different times and different places throughout history. It can fall to earth in France and produce a Picasso painting, or in Russia and produce a Tolstoy novel. In England, it can motivate a Shakespeare, and in America, a flight to the moon. The inspiration which is ideally intended to reveal the knowledge of G-d in the world is disconnected from its holy transmitter and shunted to other channels. If it hits George Washington, the American Constitution will appear. If it hits Karl Marx, communism will take over Russia. The creative inspirations, political movements, and social upheavals throughout world history emanate from the displaced flow of the Israeli spring when Clal Yisrael is in exile.
The displacement of inspiration from the prophetic channel of Israel to unsanctified wavelengths has profound spiritual implications as well. When Am Yisrael is in Galut, G-d hides Himself, and His light ceases to appear in full force. The Shekhina which shines on Jerusalem withdraws from the world and goes into exile. Israel and Judaism are disgraced.25 Other religions rise to steal Israel’s glory.26 The false doctrines they spread imprison Israel’s true light in darkness. The prophet Ezekiel describes the horrible Chillul Hashem which results:
“And when they came to the nations, into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name, in that men said of them, These are the people of the Lord, and they have gone out of His land.”27
When the Jews are in exile, Judaism and Torah are scorned. The “Chosen People” become persecuted, downcast victims, despised by all of the nations. G-d’s Name is desecrated. In the eyes of the gentiles, the once mighty G-d of Israel lacks the strength to safeguard His people in His land.28
The great light of G-d which shines forth from Zion when the Kingdom of Israel reigns in its land, living its full Torah life, is temporarily extinguished with the exile of the nation. The mitzvot which give Divine life to the nation in Israel, now have educational value alone – the outer form without the inner content.29 The great light of Torah grows dim, subordinate to the moral code of the gentiles. Instead of accepting the Torah as the one Divine truth, the world views Judaism as a primitive, obsolete code, restricted to the lowly Jews and their subversive anti-culture.
When sins contaminate our national spring, the nation must be dismantled, and we are cast away from the land until the spring can be purified. During this 2000 year process, true Israeli creation ceases; prophecy and the Word of G-d are silenced, relegated to history, and sealed up in books. We meet up with the universal Segula of man and intermix with the nations, gathering up the most positive elements, the fractured sparks of Divine Inspiration scattered all over the world.30 The best of these inspirations, whether they be creative excellence in literature, medicine, science, politics, business, or war, are “drawn up” and incorporated into our national treasury. We file them away into our socio_political-cultural memory until we can escape from Galut to rebuild our own nation in our own land.
In the meantime, Eretz Yisrael lies in destruction, in atonement for the sins which polluted the land. Because of the deep, inherent oneness between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people, as the land finds atonement, the Israeli spring is slowly purified too. This purification facilitates the return of the Divine Inspiration from its international retreat, back to its rightful place with the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael.
וְהָאָרֶץ מִתְחָרֶבֶת וּמִשְׁתּוֹמֶמֶת וְחֻרְבָּנָהּ מְכַפֵּר עָלֶיהָ. הַמַּעְיָן פּוֹסֵק מִלְּהַזִּיל וְהוּא מִסְתַּנֵּן קִמְעָא קִמְעָא, וְהַהוֹפָעוֹת שֶׁל הַחַיִּים וְהַמַּחֲשָׁבָה יוֹצְאוֹת דֶּרֶךְ הַצִּנּוֹר הַכְּלָלִי, שֶׁהוּא פָּזוּר בְּכָל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ, “כְּאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם פָּרַשְׂתִּי אֶתְכֶם”, עַד אֲשֶׁר הַהַזָּלוֹת הַטְּמֵאוֹת הַפְּרָטִיּוֹת מִתְפַּסְּקוֹת וְחוֹזֵר כֹּחַ הַמָּקוֹר לְטָהֳרָתוֹ.
“The land is desolate and destroyed, and its destruction atones for it. The source stops issuing, and it refines itself, slowly, slowly. And the revelation of thought and life emanate through the general channel which is distributed through the entire world, `Like the four winds of the heavens I have scattered you,’31 until the individualized defiled issues cease, and the force of the source returns to its purity.”
Before the Jewish people can return to Israel, the land must be purified from the sins which caused the exile. It lies desolate and fallow. Conquering nations come and go, but no one can successfully cultivate the once fertile soil. No other nation is able to live here. The land lies barren, defying development, refusing to reveal its bounty to strangers. Hidden in the curse on the land is a blessing to her children. She is guarding her treasures for the future, when her loved ones will return.32 Finally, after a nearly 2000 year hibernation, desert and swamp blossom to life with the Aliyah of the Jews.
Rabbi Kook describes the long atonement process with the very same words the Jerusalem Talmud uses to describe the Redemption of Israel, קמעא קמעא, slowly, slowly, like the gradual awakening of dawn.33 The exile is not meant to be an end in itself, but rather a long corrective process to facilitate an inner rebuilding. Once the Israeli spring is purified, the need for the exile no longer exists. Slowly, as the yearning for Israel increases, Divine Inspiration returns to the Jewish people. One need only read the letter which the Gaon of Vilna wrote to his family as he left them to set off for the Holy Land to feel the intensity of his love for Eretz Yisrael:
“I am bequesting you not to be saddened in the least, nor to worry, for behold, there are people who travel for several years to earn their livelihood, leaving their wives behind, and they also wander about without any means, while I, thanks to the Lord, am journeying to the Holy Land, which everyone yearns to see, the joy of all Israel, and the joy of Hashem, may He be praised,…. and I am setting off in peace, though you know I am leaving my beloved children behind, and my dearly loved books….”34
When such an outstanding Tzaddik as the Gaon, the “foundation of the world,”35 sends his students to settle in the Promised Land, the whole Diaspora world is affected. Rabbis Guttmacher and Mohilever follow, and their movement of religious Zionism, Chovevei Tzion, raises a banner which the secular Zionists are later to adopt. As healthy feelings of nationalism awaken throughout the nation, the Galut becomes despised. A homeland awaits us. There is no longer a need for the exile.
וְאָז נִמְאֶסֶת הַגָּלוּת לְגַמְרֵי וַהֲרֵי הִיא מְיֻתֶּרֶת, וְהָאוֹרָה הַכְּלָלִית חוֹזֶרֶת הִיא לִהְיוֹת נוֹבַעַת מֵהַמַּעְיָן הָעַצְמִי הַפְּרָטִי בְּכָל חֵילוֹ, וְאוֹרוֹ שֶׁל מָשִׁיחַ הַמְקַבֵּץ נִדָּחִים מַתְחִיל לְהוֹפִיעַ, וְקוֹל בְּכִי תַּמְרוּרִים שֶׁל רָחֵל הַמְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ מִתְמַתֵּק עַל_יְדֵי שִׁפְעַת תַּנְחוּמִים, שֶׁל “מִנְעִי קוֹלֵךְ מִבֶּכִי וְעֵינַיִךְ מִדִּמְעָה, כִּי יֵשׁ שָׂכָר לִפְעֻלָּתֵךְ, נְאֻם ד’, וְשָׁבוּ מֵאֶרֶץ אוֹיֵב, וְיֵשׁ תִּקְוָה לְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ, נְאֻם ד’ וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם”.
“Then the exile is totally detested, because it is utterly unnecessary. And the general light returns to emanate from the self-contained spring, which is particularized with all of its force. And the light of Mashiach, who gathers the outcasts, begins to appear. And the voice of the bitterly crying Rachel, who is crying over her children, is sweetened by an influx of consolation, `Refrain your voice from crying, and your eyes from tears. For thy work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they will return again from the enemy land; and there is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children will return again to their borders.'”
The process of Redemption from the Galut, and the return of the scattered exiles to Eretz Yisrael, parallels the atonement of the land. It comes about slowly, in a natural, historical manner, encompassing both the spiritual and the material world, in order to return mankind to the recognition that G-d is the prime mover of history, Master of both heaven and earth. A Redemption which evolves without obvious miracles, in a gradual, step-by-step way, through a panorama of wars, revolutions, economic depressions, holocausts, political movements, and the bravery and self-sacrifice of Israeli soldiers, all of this comes to teach that the G-d of Israel rules not only over the spiritual world, but over the physical world as well.
Naturally, we do not feel ready to return home all at once. Souls awaken gradually to the yearning, but as our polluted spring returns to health, our exiled inspiration begins to return home with it. Gradually, Jews in Galut seek a greater Judaism. Like a magnet, an awakening Clal Yisrael begins to draw in her wandering souls. Jews begin to long for a national life beyond the walls of the ghetto. Some assimilate among the nations, but others, hearing a deeper yearning, long for a Jewish land of their own. The Zionism which first awakened in the holy, valorous hearts of great Rabbis, now begins to spread through the nation. The fact that the Jewish people are once again able to think of Israel, and settle in Israel, and understand the inherent need for a Jewish State, this is because the dynamic inspirational force is no longer emanating in an amorphous international fashion. The Jewish people have awakened. They come to experience a driving need to seek their own unique channel. This is the deep motivating force behind the Zionist movement. At its roots lies a deep spiritual yearning for our unique Israeli spring, for Clal Yisrael, for a connection to the G-d of Israel – for a complete return to our Source.36 Rabbis involved in the secrets of Torah are aware of the true roots of this yearning. Beneath the surface of Zionism is a profoundly spiritual base. This is the case, whether the secular Zionists know it or not. Though they turn towards Israel for outwardly external reasons, it is the deep spiritual yearnings which are coming to life in the collective soul of the nation that are motivating their actions as well.
Slowly, the Jewish people begin to feel that the exile is something foreign, and obsolete. We have gathered up all that we needed in our wanderings. Valiant Jewish souls, inspired by a national fervor, proclaim that we can survive as an independent nation on our own. A spirit of bravery and sacrifice for the nation appears. We demand our own land. A Jewish settlement arises in Israel. We become fighters. Slowly, we strip off the helpless passivity which paralyzes our life in Galut. Miraculously, after nearly 2000 years of destruction, the land begins to yield up her fruits. The time of Redemption has come. “And the light of Mashiach, who gathers the outcasts, begins to appear.”37
In the Gemara,38 there is a discussion of Israel’s Redemption. The surest sign that the time has arrived is learned from a verse in the book of Ezekiel: “But you O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruits to My people Israel, for they will soon be coming.”39
Rashi explains: “When Eretz Yisrael gives forth her fruits in abundance, the End of the exile is near, and there is no surer sign of the Final End than this.”40
The same two phenomena which the Gemara describes, the renaissance of the land, and the ingathering of the exiles, are things which we have witnessed in our century. These signs of Redemption herald the time of the Mashiach, which is a gradual developing process. The resettlement of Israel in our time is an integral part of this Messianic period which begins even before his arrival.41 Rabbi Kook refers to this stage as “the light of Mashiach.” It signals not only the time of Redemption, but also the end of Galut.
The end of the exile finds expression in Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding Rachel’s weeping: “They will return again from the enemy land; and there is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children will return again to their borders.”42
All of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people were buried in Hevron, excluding Rachel. The Torah describes how she dies upon Yaacov’s return to Eretz Yisrael, and how he buries her on the road to Efrat, in Beit-Lechem.43 Rashi explains that Yaacov buried her there, on the way to Hevron, in response to a Divine command.44 There, on the roadside, Rachel could come to the aid of her children when Nebuchadnezzar’s chief general, Nebuzaradan, would lead the Jews into captivity. As the Jews passed by her tomb, Rachel wept, begging for mercy from G-d. All through the exile, Rachel continues praying that G-d return the Jews to their borders.
וִיצִירַת הַחַיִּים הַמְיֻחָדִים בְּכָל מְאוֹרָם וַחֲטִיבִיּוּתָם הַמְיֻחָדָה, רְווּיָה בְּטַל הָעֹשֶׁר הַכְּלָלִי שֶׁל הָאָדָם הַגָּדוֹל בָּעֲנָקִים, בִּרְכַּת אַבְרָהָם, חוֹזֶרֶת הִיא דַּוְקָא ע”י שִׁיבָה זוֹ לְהִתְגַּלּוֹת. “וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה – בְּךָ חוֹתְמִים”.
“And the creation of the special (Israeli) life with all of its lights and unique formulations is drenched in the general, rich dew of, `The man who is great among the giants.’ The blessing of Avraham reappears precisely in consequence of this return to the source. `And you shall be a blessing – with you shall they seal.'”
Who is the man who is “great among the giants”? Rabbi Kook is referring to a verse in the book of Joshua which is speaking about Avraham Avinu.45 Avraham Avinu, the first of our forefathers, represents the international aspect of Judaism. He journeyed from Ur Kasdim, to Haran, to Israel, to Egypt, and back throughout the Land of Israel, proclaiming the Kingship of G-d. His original name, Avram, was changed into Avraham, which means, “Father of a multitude of nations,”46 in line with his international role. When a gentile wishes to convert to Judaism, Avraham becomes his godfather.47 Among the Patriarchs, he is the most universal, representing a Judaism which is to spread light to all of the world.
In referring to “the dew of Avraham,” Rabbi Kook is metaphorically speaking about the international character which graces the Jewish people upon our return to Israel. This is the dew, the gathered sparks, the exiled Kedusha which we have “drawn up” in our contact with the world. In our return to Israel, our uniquely national Israeli inspiration now includes the best elements of the world’s inspiration. Equipped with new powers, we are now ready to sanctify everything on earth by revealing that Hashem is the Master of all. The spirit of Avraham, the father of Clal Yisrael, “the great one among the giants,”45 returns to make Israel an international light.
Having gathered up the Divine Inspiration scattered around the world, we return to our purified spring with an additional treasure, very much like the wealth which the Children of Israel took from the Egyptians on the eve of the exodus from Mitzrayim.48 What are these treasures? What is this new international aspect? We come back to Israel with an encyclopedia of knowledge. The Diaspora has been a long university, a school of hard knocks; yet along with the refining blows, we arrive home with degrees in all of the world’s disciplines. We are writers and artists, doctors and lawyers, scientists and engineers. We are socialists and communists, capitalists and democrats. Some of us know how to run governments, while others have experience in bringing them down. We have been advisors to presidents and kings. We are masters of banking and the world’s financial exchange. Foreign armies have trained us in warfare, and we are inventors of nuclear bombs. Our knowledge of every language and every culture prepares us to be the world’s true international center. We come back to Israel more complete, ready to transform our tiny country into an inspiration to all of mankind. Our Divine blessing is now magnified, illuminating all aspects of our life.
There is to be a big change in our spiritual nature as well. Torah is no longer the “four cubits of Halacha” as in Galut.49 Upon our return to Israel, we bring a new Divine light to everything: to agriculture, economy, science, government, international relations, and war. The nation of Israel returns to its land, and “A new light on Zion”50 emerges.
Some people believe that to protect its holiness, Israel should live a separatist existence, isolated from other nations. They cite the Torah verse, “It is a people who shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”51 This does not mean that Israel is to live cut off from the brotherhood of nations. On the contrary, the Kuzari teaches that Israel is the heart of the nations.52 While our unique Jewish culture must be guarded from foreign pollution, we are international in nature.53 Like the heart in man, we have our distinct place, yet we are not isolated from the other organs of the body. Divine energy flows through us to all of the world. “And all of the nations of the world shall be blessed in you.”54 When we are in Israel living our pure Israeli life of prophecy, and when the Beit HaMikdash sends forth rays of Divine blessing from Jerusalem to all of the earth, the Word of G-d heralds forth from Zion, and the universe comes to recognize its King.
But when our national framework is shattered, and we are scattered in Galut, the Divine flow from Israel ceases, and the world is powered by a far dimmer light. The Word of G-d ceases. The well of life-giving blessing dries up. The knowledge of G-d and His Oneness is replaced by a historical parade of false prophets and religions, cultural impurity, tyranny, and material might. Only when the heart is healthy, functioning in its place, does the body receive its ideal, life-giving flow. Only in Israel, on a national scale, can the Jewish people be a true light to the nations, projecting a beam of Divine illumination throughout all of the world. When the Jewish people return to their true place in Israel, the small, isolated candles of Warsaw and Moscow, Barcelona and Brooklyn gather together in Zion to blaze forth out of Jerusalem like a sun.
Thus, the cycle of Galut is complete. Our sins caused the destruction of our Kingdom and caused exile from our land. Our unique spring of inspiration, of Kedusha, of prophecy, of Shekhina, and national Torah were lost. We wandered through the world, retrieving Divine sparks where we found them in the pool of universal inspiration which is shared by all mankind. Then, when our land found atonement, and our spring became pure, we returned to the land with a treasure of worldliness to make our light to the nations complete.
The new light does not shine all at once. First, we must rebuild the foundations, the physical vessel which will house our great beacon. First, we must return to being a regular nation, with a government, stock market, police force, and army, just like the rest of the world. After 2000 years of wandering and confusion, our true identity does not appear overnight. The popular expression testifies: “It is easier to take the Jews out of Galut than to take the Galut out of the Jews.” First, like a child playing with all his new toys, we have to try out our new acquisitions. Only after a long sifting process, do we realize that we are not to be merely socialists in Israel, nor communists, kibbutzniks, rightists, leftists, democrats, anarchists, nor separatists. We are to be what is best in them all – an enlightened, holy nation living in harmony with our original calling to be a blessing to all of the world.
As we return to Israel, we return to the blessing of Avraham: “And in thee shall all of the families of the earth be blessed.”55
Rabbi Kook closes his essay with a teaching from the Talmud regarding the first blessing of the Amidah prayer. In the beginning of the blessing, we call upon “the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak, and the G-d of Yaacov,” yet we end the blessing saying, “the G-d of Avraham” alone.56 The final seal of the blessing, its signature and stamp, belongs to Avraham, the international aspect of the nation. The history of mankind’s search for Hashem commences with Avraham and finds completion with the Redemption of the nation he began. He represents both the beginning of the world’s blessing, and its ultimate seal. Gradually, we return, all of Avraham’s children, to “Lech lecha,” our nation’s founding command.57
THE LAND OF PROPHECY
In the third essay of OROT, Rabbi Kook wrote about the unique creativity and culture of the Israeli nation as a whole, and how it finds its true expression in the Land of Israel alone. In Essay Four, he examines Jewish creativity as it relates to every individual Jew. He begins by telling us that a Jew cannot be faithful to his thoughts, logic, ideas, and imagination outside the Land of Israel. When we understand the reasons for this, we can more readily comprehend why Eretz Yisrael is vital to the health and wholeness of every Jew.
There is a famous story concerning the Gaon of Vilna which is related by his student, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.1 Magidim, or heavenly messengers, would regularly visit the Gaon, but he repeatedly refused to listen to them. He would not even glance at their heavenly form. When one of these messengers came to reveal Torah secrets to Rabbi Chaim’s brother, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, the Vilna Gaon commanded the Torah scholar not to receive it, or even glance at its celestial radiance. Rabbi Zalman asked why not – after all, the Beit Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, had a Magid who informed him of secrets from heaven.2 The Gaon of Vilna answered that, first of all, the Beit Yosef had lived several hundred years before, and secondly, he was in Eretz Yisrael. The Gaon told him that outside of the Land of Israel, it is impossible to receive heavenly messengers without the polluted interference and Klipot of Chutz L’Aretz. Heavenly information can only be properly received in its purity in Eretz Yisrael. This is why when a Magid first appeared to Rabbi Yosef Caro in Chutz L’Aretz, he told him to go to Eretz Yisrael.2
Similarly, when Hashem first appears to Avraham, He tells him to journey to the land that He will show him3 – the land uniquely created to facilitate a special connection to G-d.4 Only in Eretz Yisrael can Avram be transformed into Avraham in order to fulfill his potential of leading mankind to a knowledge of G-d. Only in Eretz Yisrael can he produce the offspring5 who will become the foundation for a holy nation destined to bring the word of G-d to the world.
Hashem created the Jewish people and the Land of Israel for each other. He created Eretz Yisrael with the spiritual and material properties uniquely suited for the life of His holy nation.6 Put an Eskimo in Paris, and he seems out of place. Take a Jew out of Israel, and put him in Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Spain, Germany, Russia, or Brooklyn – as much as he strives to fit in, he simply does not belong.
We mentioned in our commentary on Essay One how the Ramban describes the very real differences between the spiritual environment of Eretz Yisrael and Chutz L’Aretz.7 Outside of the Land of Israel, lesser celestial forces rule over the nations. The idol worship and hedonistic cultures they breed contaminate the environment. This spiritual pollution pervades the very air. The world’s preoccupation with sex, violence, money, adultery, robbery, homosexuality, and murder all stem from the spiritual impurity found in the gentile lands. In Chutz L’Aretz, the physical world reigns supreme, cut off from the spirit. The quest for physical pleasure, fame, honor, and wealth all come to fill up the vacuum created by the distance from G-d.
Therefore, Rabbi Kook tells us that it is impossible for a Jew to be faithful to his true creative, intellectual, imaginative life when he is outside of the Land of Israel. The spiritual and cultural pollution enters his psyche and distorts his world of perception. With this introduction, we can better understand Rabbi Kook’s first sentence:
אִי_אֶפְשָׁר לָאָדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מָסוּר וְנֶאֱמָן לְמַחְשְׁבוֹתָיו, הֶגְיוֹנוֹתָיו, רַעְיוֹנוֹתָיו וְדִמְיוֹנוֹתָיו, בְּחוּץ_לָאָרֶץ, כִּתְכוּנַת הַנֶּאֱמָנוּת הַזֹּאת בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל.
“It is impossible for a Jew to be devoted and faithful to his contemplations, logical reasonings, conceptualizations, and imagina- tion, when he is outside the land of Israel, compared to the quality of their faithfulness in Eretz Yisrael.”
If, as Rabbi Kook asserts, a Jew cannot be true to his thoughts, intellect, ideas, and imagination outside of the land of Israel – how are we to explain the magnitude of Jewish creativity and achievement in the Diaspora? Jews have excelled in all fields: in literature, song, comedy, theater, filmmaking, journalism, philosophy, law, science, medicine, government, banking – and the list goes on and on. The answer is that this outstanding creativity does not represent our unique Israeli creativity, but rather, as we saw in Essay Three, part of the general world inspiration which we share with all of mankind.
What is this true Israeli creativity in thought and idea? Emunah, prophecy, and the ability to bring sanctity to both the spiritual and physical worlds. This is why Avraham had to journey to Eretz Yisrael to become a Jew. To become complete in his worship of G-d, he had to dwell in the land of prophecy and Emunah.8
Complete Jewish health and wholeness can be attained only in Eretz Yisrael. On the verse, “And Yaacov came Shalem to the city of Shechem,”9 the Gaon of Vilna explains the word Shalem in its meaning of wholeness, and says that Yaacov was not complete until he came to Eretz Yisrael.10
Rabbi Avraham Azuli was the Rabbi of Hevron some 400 years ago. In his book, Chesed L’Avraham,11 he writes that when a Jew comes to the Land of Israel, he receives a new soul. The soul of Galut leaves him, and he undergoes a spiritual transplant. The egocentric soul which characterized his individual life in the fractured world of Galut is exchanged for the exalted soul of Clal Yisrael. His Aliyah to Israel is an Aliyah of souls. He becomes attached to the Divine soul and life of the nation. In Rabbi Azuli’s terminology, Yaacov’s wholeness came only upon receiving his new soul of Clal Yisrael upon returning to the land of Israel. Only in his attachment to the Clal could he earn his new name and calling – Yisrael.
Elsewhere in OROT, Rabbi Kook writes: “The general soul of Knesset Yisrael does not rest on the individual except in Eretz Yisrael, and the moment a person comes to Eretz Yisrael, his private soul is nullified before the great light of the general soul which enters him; and its exalted content exerts its influence whether he wants and recognizes its effect, or whether he does not want it, or is not aware of its value.”12
Just by his living in Israel, a Jew attaches himself to the higher life of the Clal. The more he recognizes his new spiritual status, and the more he strives to unite with the Clal, the greater his elevation will be. As Rabbi Kook writes in Hazone HaGeula: “Whoever has a greater love for the Land of Israel, and whoever exerts himself more ardently in the settlement of the Holy Land, he is blessed first, and he is closer to perfection.”13
Certainly, a Jew can be intelligent and imaginative in Chutz L’Aretz. But only on a personal, individual level. His creativity, no matter how gifted he may be, is limited to his own personal talents. In Israel, by attaching himself to the nation, his intellectual and imaginative faculties are uplifted to the higher realm of the Clal, where the pure spring of Israeli inspiration flows freely. The unique Clal Yisrael talent which combines thoughts, logical reasonings, ideas, and imagination, is now open to him. This is prophecy, the special creative Segula of the Jewish people which we encountered in Essay One. It is the unique Israeli creativity which unites the spiritual and physical worlds by bringing the word of G-d down to earth. Only in Eretz Yisrael can the people of Israel be steeped in the Ruach HaKodesh which rests on the nation as a whole. As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi in the Kuzari makes clear, Eretz Yisrael is the unique land of prophecy, and Am Yisrael is the nation of prophets.14
Thus, when Rabbi Kook writes about Israel’s creative potential, he is not only talking about art, poetry, music, or literature. He is referring to the inner creative power of Clal Yisrael which finds its highest expression in prophecy. This is a Jew’s inheritance as a member of Clal Yisrael. Along with the genetic foundations of our bodies, we have spiritual genes as well. We are the children of prophets. The Hebrew letters which abound in our souls are our double-helixes of prophecy.15 Through his connection with Clal Yisrael, every Jew has the capability of experiencing G-d on an enhanced spiritual level – if not as a prophet, then on whatever level of Ruach HaKodesh which he or she can attain. Unlike Western cultures which exalt the individual ego and the unfettered reign of the id, a Jew is to find his life’s deepest meaning by connecting his life to the eternal life of the nation.16 Through his devotion to the higher life of his people, he attains his true individual calling. The Ruach HaKodesh which rests on the Clal opens his vistas toward the horizons of transcendental expression.
הוֹפָעוֹת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, בְּאֵיזוֹ מַדְרֵגָה שֶׁהֵן, נְקִיּוֹת הֵן בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל לְפִי הָעֵרֶךְ, וּבְחוּץ_לָאָרֶץ מְעֹרָבוֹת הֵן בְּסִיגִים וּקְלִפּוֹת מְרֻבִּים.
“Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael according to their value; while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and Klipot.”
We learned in Essay Three that there exists a general universal Kedusha outside the Land of Israel which sustains all of the world. The environment there, however, is spiritually polluted, and even Halachically impure.17 When Kedusha descends into the world in Chutz L’Aretz, it is immediately attacked by the impure Klipot and forces of evil which reign there. The Hebrew word סיגים which Rabbi Kook uses, refers to the impurity or dross that forms on the surface of molten metal. Klipot is a Kabbalistic concept, translated as shells or husks. It refers to shells of impurity and evil which surround and imprison sparks of exiled holiness. The nations of the world are the Klipot of Am Yisrael, just as Chutz L’Aretz is the Klipah of Eretz Yisrael. The lower celestial beings which Hashem has set to rule over the gentile nations create barriers to holiness. Forces of evil are given free reign, creating the impure cultures, religions, and governments which dominate world history.
For example, what is the cultural world of America? Mickey Mouse, George Washington, Billy Graham, baseball, Christmas trees, Barbie dolls, comic books, Watergate, Hollywood, Wall Street, hippies, slam dunks and marijuana. Where is there Kedusha? Where is there something Jewish?
Outside of the Land of Israel, Kedusha is mixed up with polluted forces. The result is mixed marriages, and a mixed_up orientation to Torah. The Gemara says that because a Torah scholar in Chutz L’Aretz lives in a place of darkness, he speaks dark confused words.18 In the Diaspora, one cannot be sure whether inspiration is true or false. For this reason, the Gaon of Vilna refused to receive the celestial messengers who visited him.1 Divine emanations outside the Land of Israel are polluted, not because they descend in that manner from heaven, but because they become contaminated upon contact with the dross and Klipot in the air. And even if they were to be pure, the thinking and imaginative faculties of a Jew in Chutz L’Aretz are not pure enough to receive them. Thus, Avraham Avinu is commanded to leave Haran and journey to Eretz Yisrael;19 Moshe Rabenu is commanded to bring the Jews up from Mitzrayim to the Promised Land;20 and the Magid tells the Beit Yosef to go to the Holy Land before their Divine conversation can continue.2
אָמְנָם לְפִי גֹּדֶל הַתְּשׁוּקָה וְהַקִּשּׁוּר שֶׁל הָאָדָם לְאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, הֲרֵי רַעְיוֹנוֹתָיו מִזְדַּכְּכִים מִיסוֹד אֲוִירָא דא”י הַחוֹפֵף עַל כָּל מִי שֶׁמְּצַפֶּה לִרְאוֹתָהּ.
“However, according to the magnitude of an individual’s yearning for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, his contemplations become clear due to the foundation of `the air of Eretz Yisrael’ which hovers over everyone who desires to see her.”
What is “the foundation of the `air of Eretz Yisrael’ which hovers over everyone who desires to see her”? This is a concept which Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth in Essay Six of OROT. The special “air of Eretz Yisrael” refers to a Gemara which states that “the air in Eretz Yisrael causes wisdom.”21 Not only is the Land of Israel holy – the air is holy too. The atmosphere of Israel is pure, without the polluted Klipot of the Galut. In Eretz Yisrael, the connection between the individual Jew and Hashem is direct. “The eyes of the Lord are upon it from the beginning of the year till the end.”22 The purity of this direct attachment brings wisdom. And the beginning of this wisdom is to understand that life outside of the Land of Israel is detrimental to the spiritual health of a Jew.
One might wonder – if the air in Israel grants wisdom, why are not all Israelis bursting with Torah? As we mentioned, the Redemption of the Jewish people from the political, cultural, mental, and spiritual bondage of the Galut is a slow, gradual process requiring patience and diligent work.23 We should remember that in the days of Ezra, the return of the Jews to Israel was plagued with intermarriage and spiritual decline.24 Only gradually did the returning exiles form into a flourishing Torah society. As the prophecy of Redemption in the book of Ezekiel25 implies, the spiritual cleansing from the impurities of Galut is a process of Tshuva which can take generations to complete. However, one should not underestimate the wisdom of Israel’s population, even today. Not only is Israel the Torah center of the world, every ordinary citizen comprehends that the Jewish people need their own sovereign nation. This national awareness is a great understanding. It is a wisdom which elevates a man above his private life to the recognition that he is more than his passing, individual existence. This is what leads the people of Israel to be willing to serve in the army and endanger their lives for the nation.
The wisdom which the air of Israel affords is not limited to the Jews who live in Israel, but, as Rabbi Kook tells us, it “hovers over everyone who yearns to see her.” You do not have to be in Israel to be graced by its wisdom. Every Jew who yearns to live there has a share in its secret treasures.26 By yearning to be united with her soil, a person attaches himself to the soul of Clal Yisrael, and is uplifted in its magnified light. In his attachment to the land, he is freed from all Klipot and lower celestial forces. His soul ceases to be a private Diaspora soul and is transformed into the transcending, Divine soul of the nation.
The meaning of yearning to see Eretz Yisrael is when a person truly longs to be there. If a Jew prays in the morning for the ingathering of the exiles, and does not think about Israel again until the next time he opens a prayer book, chances are that he is not really yearning.27 If, on the other hand, his desire to live in Israel is an active, constant passion that he would act on if he could, then he merits to share in the land’s special blessings.
Rabbi Kook tells us that the ability to share in the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael “hovers” over everyone who yearns to see her. The word “hovers” denotes something of a temporary nature, something which lacks permanence, something which comes and goes. A lifeline to Eretz Yisrael exists in Galut, but it is not as permanent and lasting as being in Israel itself. Once, Rabbi Kook was asked how he enjoyed learning in the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, under the tutelage of the Netziv, author of the “HaEmek Davar.” “It is like being in Eretz Yisrael,” he answered.28 It is “like” being in Eretz Yisrael because of the Rosh Yeshiva’s ardent love for the Land of Israel – but it is not the real thing.
“שִׂמְחוּ אֶת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם וְגִילוּ בָהּ כָּל אוֹהֲבֶיהָ”.
Rabbi Kook ends his essay with a verse from the prophet Isaiah: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”29 Jerusalem is the meeting point between Heaven and earth. It is the place of the Shekhina, and the eternal capital of Clal Yisrael. Not only those who reside in Jerusalem are able to experience her joy, but also all those who love her and seek her well-being with all of their hearts. The Jew who mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the nation is the one who can participate in her great joy when her banished children return.30
Thus, if a Jew longs to be closer to G-d; if he wants to be faithful to his thoughts, his talents, his creativity and full spiritual potential, the place to live is the Land of Israel, at home, ever close to Jerusalem, taking a part in the higher, Divine life of the nation.
IMAGINATION AND WISDOM
This essay expands on the theme of the previous essay by explaining how Eretz Yisrael has a positive, healthy influence, not only on the imagination, but on the intellect as well.
The human soul is comprised of several faculties which constitute human nature. Like others creatures, man eats, moves, senses, and breathes, but he has other abilities as well. The Rambam, in his study of the human personality, in his Introduction to Pirkei Avot, describes two faculties which distinguish man: his imagination and intellect.1
The faculties of imagination and intellect are interrelated. Their functions are dependent, one upon the other. Intelligence is pure knowledge, while imagination is how to apply it. For instance, through our intellect, we know of the existence of sound waves. Our imagination is what enables us to transform this knowledge into radar and radios. Imagination puts our intelligence to practical use. Because they are both rooted in man’s soul, they influence each other. Thus for the intellect to be healthy, the imagination must be healthy too.
Today, imagination is most often associated with artists, and with the talent that produces novels, music, paintings, comic books, and movies. In its original pure state, however, imagination is the faculty of man which facilitates the reception of prophecy.2 A person’s imagination is the sense which enables him to be most directly connected to G-d.
Prophetic imagination is the channel which enables man to transform exalted spiritual messages into a comprehensible, material form, whether in visions, symbols, dreams, hearing, or speech. Only Moshe Rabenu, the humblest of men, was able to receive prophecy directly from G-d without any allegorical language. Communication between G-d and all other prophets was couched in visions or dreams.3
While imagination can be a uniquely positive tool in a person’s spiritual development, it can also be the most dangerous. Our imagination can easily fool and mislead us. Because of its susceptibility to pollution from surrounding sources, imagination can be distorted and false. Consequently, something essentially evil can be imagined as something good.4
Imagination appears in many forms. It can be healthy, or sick. Imagination can be neurotic, paranoid, and grandiose. It can cause delusions, visions, hallucinations, dreams, and inspirational ideas. Prophecy is its highest level. Because imagination is free and unbounded, it affords the channel which prophecy needs. Yet, its very unboundedness is also its danger, enabling it to leap over moral borders and healthy restraints. The direction of a person’s imagination, its health or disease, depends on the person’s surroundings and his directional drives. A person with a refined, ethical sensibility and positive character traits will have a refined imagination. A person possessed of Torah and spiritual elevation will have an imaginative channel capable of Ruach HaKodesh. Conversely, a person with impure morals will have a polluted imagination given to base, impure thoughts.
The book, Mesillat Yesharim, describes the rigorous path toward Ruach HaKodesh. Only after a long course of Torah study and character refinement can a person hope to be granted Divine Inspiration from G-d. Ultimately, his success is not only dependent upon his efforts, but also upon his surroundings. A person can receive a doctorate in prophetic training; he can learn Mesillat Yesharim one_hundred times, but if he is not in Eretz Yisrael, prophecy won’t come.5
We have seen how the spiritual and cultural pollution of the Diaspora interferes with true Israeli creativity and thought. Outside of the Land of Israel, the ugly spiritual climate does not allow for a pure prophetic flow. Even if a Jew were filled with Torah and the very best character traits, the impurity of Chutz L’Aretz seals up his prophetic channel. And even if a prophecy were to occur, a person could not receive it, because of the inability to be true to one’s imagination and intellect while living in an alien land. This is the reason why the Gra refused to receive the Magidim that came to visit him in Vilna.
A reader may wonder, why all of this preoccupation with prophecy? What does prophecy have to do with the Jewish people today? The question is quite understandable. For more than 2300 years, the Jewish people have not experienced prophecy.6 For centuries, the Divine channel in the world has been silent. We have forgotten about prophecy, as if it no longer exists. For this reason, Rabbi Kook is writing to remind us who we really are. We are the people of prophecy. Our greatest profession and talent is not banking, nor medicine, nor moviemaking, but prophecy. Today, we are a mere shadow of our true potential. Even the State of Israel, with all of its tremendous rebirth, is still in diapers, still only learning to walk, far from its mature potential as the future Kingdom of Israel with a rebuilt Beit HaMikdash, the Sanhedrin, Mashiach, and myriads of prophets. In the future, the word of G-d will go forth from Jerusalem through the prophetic channel which will return to our nation.7 This is the goal toward which our history is heading.
In educating a child, one has to teach the child who he is. He has to know about his family, about his country, about his history. To be successful, education has to guide the child along his unique inner paths.8 To help him achieve his potential, a teacher has to help the child discover himself and understand what lies before him. In re-educating the reborn Jewish nation after 2000 years of Galut, Rabbi Kook helps us to understand ourselves. Many of our foundations have been forgotten and must be restored. The Creator of the world has a plan for us which we can neither ignore nor escape. Before creating the world, Hashem decreed what would be. Our identity was implanted in our souls from the start: “This NATION I have formed for Myself; THEY shall declare My praise.”9 First, we must remember that we are a nation, and not a scattered congregation of individual Jews. We must rediscover our homeland, the cradle of our nationhood, the place we belong. And we must remember that we are the nation of prophets, with the national task of transmitting the word of G-d to the world.
Just as there is a purpose to every individual life, there is a purpose to every nation. Every people and country has its own international role, its unique contribution to the world as a whole.10 Russia gives the world Tolstoy, Communism, and vodka. France contributes Sartre, perfume, and champagne. England gives Shakespeare, Churchill, and the Beatles. Japan exports advances in transistor technology. Switzerland manufactures chocolates and clocks. America fosters democracy and Hollywood dreams. And the nation of Israel brings the knowledge of Hashem to the world. Through the nation of Israel, all of the contributions of the nations are uplifted to their proper place in the Divine harmony of existence.
In light of this background, we can once again look at the words of Rabbi Kook and discover new insights within his often complex and poetic style.
הַדִּמְיוֹן שֶׁל אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא צָלוּל וּבָרוּר, נָקִי וְטָהוֹר וּמְסֻגָּל לְהוֹפָעַת הָאֱמֶת הָאֱלֹהִית, לְהַלְבָּשַׁת הַחֵפֶץ הַמְרוֹמָם וְהַנִּשְׂגָּב שֶׁל הַמְּגָמָה הָאִידִיאָלִית אֲשֶׁר בְּעֶלְיוֹנוּת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, מוּכָן לְהַסְבָּרַת נְבוּאָה וְאוֹרוֹתֶיהָ, לְהַבְהָקַת רוּחַ_הַקֹּדֶשׁ וְזָהֳרָיו.
“The imagination in the Land of Israel is lucid and clear, clean and pure, and ready for the revelation of Divine truth, and for the embodiment of the high, uplifted will of the idealistic trend which is found in the higher echelons of holiness. It is prepared for the explanation of prophecy and its lights, for the enlightenment of Ruach HaKodesh and its illumination.”
What is Rabbi Kook saying? Simply, he tells us that the imaginative faculty in the Land of Israel is pure. It is capable, therefore, of conveying prophecy and transmitting the word of G-d to the world. It is capable of revealing Divine truths and embodying the ideal values which G-d desires to bestow upon all humankind.
וְהַדִּמְיוֹן אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ הָעַמִּים עָכוּר הוּא, מְעֹרָב בְּמַחְשַׁכִּים, בְּצִלְלֵי טֻמְאָה וְזִהוּם, לֹא יוּכַל לְהִתְנַשֵּׂא לִמְרוֹמֵי קֹדֶשׁ וְלֹא יוּכַל לִהְיוֹת בָּסִיס לְשִׁפְעַת הָאוֹרָה הָאֱלֹהִית הַמִּתְעַלָּה מִכָּל שִׁפְלוּת הָעוֹלָמִים וּמְצָרֵיהֶם.
“And the imagination which is found in the land of the nations is murky, clouded in darkness, in shadows of defilement and pollution. It cannot rise to the heights of Kedusha, and it cannot afford a basis for the influx of Divine light that rises above all of the baseness of the worlds and their oppressive straits.”
In contrast to the imagination of Eretz Yisrael, the imaginative faculty which exists outside of the land is clogged with pollution and unable to provide a channel for prophecy, for Kedusha, and for enlightenment from G-d.
We mentioned the Gemara11 which states that a Jew should always live in Eretz Yisrael, “For a Jew who lives in Israel is like someone who has a G-d, and a Jew who lives outside the land is like someone who has no G-d, as the Torah verse says: `To give you the land of Canaan in order to be your G-d.’12” In Israel we have a G-d. Outside of the land, barriers and spiritual pollution get in the way. The Gemara continues by asking, in a tone of wonderment, can it be that a Jew who does not live in Israel really has no G-d? It answers, “Rather it comes to teach you that a Jew who lives in Chutz L’Aretz is like someone who worships idols.” In Chutz L’Aretz, G-d is not to be found. Of course, G-d is everywhere, but there are levels of His Presence. To find him in the Diaspora, you have to tunnel through layers and layers of darkness.
In Eretz Yisrael, our imaginative faculty is capable of providing a vehicle for the Divine Inspiration which reveals the will of G-d in the world. A person tuned into this level of Kedusha can receive the Ruach HaKodesh which comes to the world through Israel. In Galut, if he is searching for contact with the Divine, there is a danger he may tune into the polluted static of mantras, I Chings, hallucinogenic mushrooms, swarmis, Zen motorcycles, Hari Krishnas, false messiahs, and Brahma cows. In the shadows and darkness of this polluted existence, these distortions and falsehoods seem to be true. People believe they are worshipping G-d, but it is all a delusion. They are worshipping their imagination alone.
The fine line between delusion and truth can also creep into Judaism. This is the illusion which can lead a Jew to call Berlin the “new Jerusalem”, or America, “the Promised Land.”13
This concept of geographical pollution is not merely a metaphysical phenomenon – it has Halachic consequences as well. As we learned, venturing beyond the borders of Eretz Yisrael is like setting off to worship idols. Halachically, a Jew is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael, except for a few specific reasons set down in Jewish law.14 When a person leaves Israel for Chutz L’Aretz, he descends to a lower world. It is a constricted existence, or in Rabbi Kook’s language, a world of oppressive spiritual enclosures and straits. This state of deprivation cannot be the foundation for the exalted light of the Divine. The Jewish people can not receive the Torah in Mitzrayim, where they are spiritually and physically oppressed. The root word of Mitzrayim means narrow straits, the same word Rabbi Kook uses to describe the Galut. Hashem’s light cannot be shrunken to fit this narrow world. Attempts to contain it lead to distorted and partial truths, to the deification of rivers, Pharoahs, crocodiles, and statues. The Divine Ideal which G-d wants for the world, the unbounded blessing and goodness and knowledge, cannot appear when the Jewish nation is scattered all over the globe. The Kingdom of G-d which Israel’s existence declares cannot be established when the Jewish people are serving other kingdoms, whether it be in a democracy or a totalitarian state. For the Sovereignty of G-d to be manifest on earth, first the sovereignty of Israel must be established in its land.15 And for the Sovereignty of G-d to be complete – in the world, and in the minds and hearts of all of mankind, all of the nation of Israel must be living in Israel, ruling over all of its land.16
After emphasizing the profound differences between the power of imagination in the Land of Israel, as compared with the rest of the world, Rabbi Kook explains why the air of Eretz Yisrael can lead to a greater wisdom than the wisdom which can be attained outside of the land.
מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁהַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַדִּמְיוֹן אֲחוּזִים זֶה בָּזֶה וּפוֹעֲלִים וְנִפְעָלִים זֶה עַל זֶה וְזֶה מִזֶּה, לָכֵן לֹא יוּכַל גַּם הַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁבְּחו”ל לִהְיוֹת מֵאִיר בְּאוֹרוֹ שֶׁבְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל. “אֲוִירָא דְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מַחְכִּים”.
“Because the intellect and the imagination are bound up together, and act and interact one upon the other, the intellect which is outside the Land of Israel is also incapable of being illuminated with the light which exists in the Land of Israel. `The air of Eretz Yisrael causes wisdom.’17”
The faculties of intelligence and imagination are intertwined. In Eretz Yisrael, where the imagination is clear, the intellect can also be clear. In contrast, outside of the land, where the imagination is clouded, the intellect is clouded too. In a purely physical, technical realm like mathematics or science, the difference is not apparent. But in the finer, higher, exalted reaches of Kedusha, the discrepancy appears. The pure interaction between the mind’s two faculties of imagination and intellect is what causes the greater wisdom of Eretz Yisrael. For this same reason, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael is a higher Torah,18 a purer Torah, a more encompassing Torah, the Torah of Clal Yisrael. Far transcending the constricted “Four cubits of Halacha”19 of Galut, Torat Eretz Yisrael is the complete Torah, the national Torah of the Kingdom of Israel which sends blessing and light to all of mankind. It is the Torah of Mashiach which brings the word of G-d to the world.
This understanding is not something which Rabbi Kook invented. On the contrary, it is based on the teachings of our Sages, handed down through generations. We will quote only a few of their insights.
“There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, and no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.”18
“If you wish to see the Shekhina in the world, learn Torah in Eretz Yisrael.”20
“Amongst the goyim, there is no Torah. From this we learn that the Torah is in Eretz Yisrael.”21
“`He has set me in dark places, as those who are long dead.’ Rav Yirmiyah said, this is the Talmud of Bavel.”22
“You have no greater Bitul Torah than the exile of Israel from its place.”23
“Those in Eretz Yisrael have a great advantage over those in Bavel, in that they are directed more to the truth since the air in Eretz Yisrael is pure from all impurity and does not add falsehood and mistaken ideas, which is not the case in Bavel.”24
In the Gemara in tractate Shabbat, Rav Yochanon’s students ask why the Torah scholars in Chutz L’Aretz dress in a distinguished, dapper style. They answer that because they are not Bnei Torah, they have to enhance their stature by presenting a distinguished appearance. But immediately, Rabbi Yochanon protests. “How can you say they are not Bnei Torah?” Rather, he concludes, they are not “Bnei Mikomam” – they are not living in their place.25
The Gemara is telling us that Chutz L’Aretz is not the natural place for Torah scholars. Certainly, they possess vast Torah learning, but they are not in the Land of Israel where they belong. The great scholars of the Babylonian Talmud achieved their great wisdom, even in the darkness of Galut, because they knew their true place was in Israel and yearned to return. Their yearning for Jerusalem kept them attached to the Clal, and to the Shekhina which shines on the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. This brings us to the theme of Rabbi Kook’s next essay, the appearance of Ruach HaKodesh, even in Galut, through the deeply felt yearning for the Land of Israel.
THE HOLY YEARNING
We have learned that Eretz Yisrael is the land of prophecy. Only in the Land of Israel can both the individual Jew and the Jewish nation be truly themselves, and truly express their unique Israeli talents. Only in the pure, holy atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael can a Jew optimize his imagination and intellectual faculties in line with G-d’s will.
In contrast, existence outside of the Land of Israel constricts the soul, pollutes a Jew’s inner potential, and weakens his connection to G-d. In light of these recognitions, how is it possible that Ruach HaKodesh, and even prophecy, can occasionally appear outside of the Land of Israel?
In this essay, Rabbi Kook answers this question and discusses a few of the underlying concepts which he touched upon in previous essays. First is the idea that once Ruach HaKodesh is properly received in Eretz Yisrael, it can continue even if the individual should leave for Chutz L’Aretz. The second concept concerns the general feeling and psychology of a Jew outside of the Land of Israel. Ironically, the worse he feels, the healthier he is. And finally, Rabbi Kook tells us that an individual’s yearning for Israel influences the Redemption of the Jewish people as a whole.
פְּעֻלַּת רוּחַ הַקְּדֻשָּׁה הַנִּקְלֶטֶת בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל פּוֹעֶלֶת הִיא תָּדִיר, גַּם אִם נִזְדַּמֵּן הַדָּבָר וְיָצָא הָאָדָם חוּצָה לָאָרֶץ עַל_יְדֵי טָעוּת אוֹ עַל_יְדֵי אֵיזוֹ סִבָּה מֻכְרַחַת. הֲרֵי גַּם הַנְּבוּאָה כְּשֶׁחָלָה כְּבָר בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינָהּ פּוֹסֶקֶת גַּם בְּחוּץ_לָאָרֶץ. “הָיֹה הָיָה דְּבַר ד’ אֶל יְחֶזְקֵאל בְּאֶרֶץ כַּשְׂדִים – הָיֹה, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה כְּבָר”.
“The activity of the Ruach HaKodesh that is received in the Land of Israel is constant even if a person should happen to leave for Chutz L’Aretz, through a mistake, or because of some compelling reason. Behold, even prophecy which has begun to appear in Eretz Yisrael does not cease outside of the land. `The word of the Lord is/was upon Ezekiel in the land of Kasdim – it is because it already was.’1”
There is an interesting story in the Gemara surrounding the death of Rav Huna in Babylon. At his funeral, Rav Abba delivers a eulogy and says: “It was fitting that the Shekhina should have rested on our master, but Babylon has prevented this from happening.”2
This means that if Rav Huna had lived in Eretz Yisrael, the Shekhina would have rested on him, but in the exile this simply cannot occur. In the middle of the funeral, one of Rav Hisda’s children, Rabbi Nachman, asks a pointed question, “How can you say that the Shekhina doesn’t appear in Chutz L’Aretz?” and he quotes the verse:
הָיֹה הָיָה דְבַר_ה’ אֶל יְחֶזְקֵאל בֶּן_בּוּזִי הַכֹּהֵן בְּאֶרֶץ כַּשְׂדִים…
“The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the Kohen, the son of Buzi, in the land of Kasdim….”1
The verse clearly indicates that Ezekiel prophesized in Chutz L’Aretz. How was this to be explained? Rav Hisda answers that the double verb, הָיֹה הָיָה, of the verse: “The word of the Lord is – was upon Ezekiel in the land of Kasdim,” means that prophecy came to Ezekiel in Chutz L’Aretz because it had already started when he was in Eretz Yisrael. The verb appears in both present and past tense. The reason Ezekiel could have prophecy outside of the Land of Israel is because he had already experienced prophecy in Eretz Yisrael.
In Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s classic book of Jewish faith, the Kuzari, he explains that prophecy occurs either in the Land of Israel, or on behalf of it.3 Rashi’s commentary on the Gemara in Moed Katan parallels this understanding.2 He indicates that Ezekiel’s prophecy in Babylon was an emergency situation, and that since his prophetic career had already begun in Israel, it was able to continue through the channel of his original inspiration.
The first Divine call which Avraham received is another illustration of this idea. G-d speaks to him outside of the Land of Israel for the express purpose of bringing him into the land. “Now the Lord said to Avram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, to the land that I will show thee.”4
Similarly, Moshe Rabenu was able to receive prophecy in the wilderness of Sinai in order to liberate the Jews and bring them to Israel. “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and their cry I have heard by reason of their taskmasters, for I know their pains; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good and large land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”5
This prophecy came when the Jewish people were in an emergency situation. Interestingly, according to the Kuzari’s view that the wilderness of Sinai is a part of Eretz Yisrael,6 Moshe’s first prophecy did occur in Israel, and thus could continue even when he returned to Egypt to liberate the Jews.
Now that we understand the principal assumption of Rabbi Kook’s essay, let us go back and see some of the details.
פְּעֻלַּת רוּחַ הַקְּדֻשָּׁה הַנִּקְלֶטֶת בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל פּוֹעֶלֶת הִיא תָּדִיר, גַּם אִם נִזְדַּמֵּן הַדָּבָר וְיָצָא הָאָדָם חוּצָה לָאָרֶץ עַל_יְדֵי טָעוּת אוֹ עַל_יְדֵי אֵיזוֹ סִבָּה מֻכְרַחַת.
“The activity of the Ruach HaKodesh that is received in the Land of Israel is constant – even if a person should happen to leave for Chutz L’Aretz, through a mistake, or because of some compelling reason.”
The Divine Spirit which operates in Eretz Yisrael is ongoing, even if someone who has it is forced to leave the land. In this sentence, Rabbi Kook is speaking about Ruach HaKodesh, of which prophecy is the highest expression.7
Though Ruach HaKodesh and prophecy are closely related, there are notable differences. While Ruach HaKodesh most closely resembles inspiration in its many differing forms, prophecy is a Divine command to a prophet, announcing some specific message or warning from G-d. Ruach HaKodesh derives from the same Divine source but its goals and functions are different. It is an uplifting of human thought, and a reception of exalted emanations, which motivates the individual toward inspired actions, understandings, and creations. The psalms of King David are its quintessential expression – outpourings of the soul, in poetry and song, which enabled him to attain a passionate cleaving to G-d.
Ruach HaKodesh can also appear in deed, in acts of great valor, self-sacrifice, and strength, as seen in the life of Samson: “And there rested upon him a Spirit of the Lord, and he rent it (the lion) as if it were a kid.”8 “And there rested upon him the Spirit of the Lord, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty men.”9 This is the source of valor which has stood by the Jewish people throughout history, from Biblical times until the great bravery and self-sacrifice of Israeli soldiers today.
In addition, new insights and illumination in Torah are said to be attained through Ruach HaKodesh. In the book, Kol HaTor, a student of the Vilna Gaon describes how the great Rabbi foresaw the frightening tragedy which was destined to befall the Jews of Russia and Europe if they failed to make Aliyah to Israel:
“Our teacher, the Gaon of Vilna, Kadosh Yisrael, with words carved in flames, advised his students to go on Aliyah to Israel and to further the ingathering of the exiles. Furthermore, he encouraged his students to hasten the Revealed End, and the fulfillment of the Redemption, through the settlement of Eretz Yisrael. Almost every day, he spoke to us with trembling and emotion, saying that in Zion and Jerusalem there would be a refuge, and that we should not delay the opportunity to go before it was too late. Who can articulate, or who can describe, the magnitude of our teacher’s worry when he spoke these words to us with his Ruach HaKodesh, and with tears in his eyes?”10
As we will learn in this essay, the Ruach HaKodesh of the Vilna Gaon stemmed from his being fervently connected to Israel. Certainly, part of Rabbi Kook’s own understandings of the very real differences between Eretz Yisrael and the lands of the gentiles is derived from his own personal experience and knowledge. At a very young age, he longed to leave Russia and journey to Eretz Yisrael. As a child, he would line his friends up in the yard and parade them around carrying sticks on their shoulders like rifles, as if he were leading them to Israel.11 Alone at night in the study hall of the Volozhin Yeshiva, he would pour out his heart before the Aron HaKodesh, praying for the opportunity to serve G-d in the Beit HaMikdash. Students in the Yeshiva remember that his prayers on the Festivals were spellbinding in his fervor for Jerusalem. On Tisha B’Av, his body would be broken with sobbing and sorrow, and his nightly lamentations over the exile were so real, they brought chills to many of the Yeshiva’s leading rabbis and students. When asked why his emotion seemed so much greater than others, Rabbi Kook modestly answered that he was a Kohen.
Rabbi Kook’s outstanding grasp of all facets of Torah made him an intimate student of the Rosh Yeshiva, the Netziv,12 from whom he received the deep Torah traditions passed down from Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and the Vilna Gaon. Rabbi Kook was in his early twenties when the Chofetz Chaim made him promise to accept the first rabbinic offer he received.13 His reknown spread throughout Russia, yet when the holy community of Yafo invited him to become their spiritual leader, he felt his dreams were beckoning. Prominent rabbis urged him to stay in Russia to strengthen the Jewish community there, but instead, Rabbi Kook’s yearning for the Holy Land gave him the inner commitment to set off for the Eretz Yisrael.
After he made Aliyah to Israel, several of his letters describe how painful it was for him to leave the land, even on missions of great importance to Am Yisrael.14 Feeling a great inner turmoil, as if he were abandoning a loved one, he agreed to travel to Europe to unite Torah leaders who were staunchly divided over the growing Zionist movement. When the First World War broke out, he was stranded in England, with no way of returning to Eretz Yisrael. Many of the writings which appear in OROT stem from this period. They testify to the Ruach HaKodesh which illuminated his creativity and thought, even when he was outside the land. What was the source of this light? His unbounded love and connection to Eretz Yisrael.
While this point may seem belabored, it is almost impossible to find a milestone work of Torah scholarship whose author or authors were not deeply connected to the Land of Israel. From the Sages of the Babylonian Talmud to the Rambam, the Ramban, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the Ramchal, the Maharal, the Gaon of Vilna, the Beit Yosef, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the Chofetz Chaim… either in their own examples of Aliyah, or in the longing for Israel which appears in their writings, all shared a deep inner bond with Zion. Like the Gaon of Vilna who set off for Israel but failed to reach her shores, Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the renowned Tanya, and the founder of Chabad, wanted to make Aliyah, but was prevented.
An interesting insight appears in the book, Em HaBanim Smaicha, by Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal. The book is a treatise on the supreme importance of Eretz Yisrael, written by a rabbi who had opposed Zionism until he was trapped in the Holocaust. He quotes a letter written by Rebbe Schneur Zalman who asserts that he was released from imprisonment in Russia through the merit of Eretz Yisrael:
“This was Hashem’s doing, to bring upon us merit, in the merit of the Holy Land and her inhabitants, for this is what stood by us, and assisted us at every moment, to free us from suffering and save us from oppression.”15
Rabbi Teichtal says that these words of the Baal HaTanya were enough to convince him of the vital importance of Eretz Yisrael, for “all of his words were spoken with Ruach HaKodesh.” Where is the Biblical source for the Baal HaTanya’s assertion? Rabbi Teichtal quotes the verse: “And I will remember My covenant with Yaacov, and even My covenant with Yitzhak, and I will remember My covenant with Avraham, and I will remember the land.”16
This means that even if the merit of Yaacov is not enough to save the Jews from hardship, and even if the merit of Yitzhak is not enough – and even if the merit of Avraham is not enough – then the merit of Eretz Yisrael will save the Jews from oppression. “For the merit of Eretz Yisrael stands above all of the merits (Zchuyot) which we have, and it is even greater than the Zchut of our forefathers, for if their merit fails to help us, the merit of the land will defend us and save us from oppression whenever we are in danger.”15
In the essay’s first sentence, Rabbi Kook describes a situation where a Jew leaves the Land of Israel due to some mistake, or for some compelling reason. Here Rabbi Kook is drawing our attention to an important foundation of Jewish faith. G-d wants the Jewish people to live in Israel.
The commandments of the Torah form the code of life which G-d wants the Jewish people to live by. The 613 commandments are compared to the 613 organs, sinews, and muscles, of the human anatomy. Thus, when a Jew keeps all of the commandments, his spiritual and physical metabolism is functioning at an optimum, according to G-d’s plan. When a Jew eats kosher food, puts on Tefillin, observes the Shabbat, and refrains from adultery and the like, he maximizes his Jewish potential and health. Similarly, when the nation as a whole is keeping the commandments, it reaches its healthiest state. Among the commandments are several which the Rabbis have singled out for their special importance. Precepts like keeping the Sabbath and studying Torah are foundations of Jewish faith. Classified with them is the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, as our Sages stated: “The mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all of the other commandments of the Torah.”17
During most of the exile, living in Israel was largely impossible, because of the danger involved in the journey, or because we simply lacked the means. A Jewish community always existed in Israel, and brave souls continued to defy all obstacles to make Aliyah, but for the majority of Jews, Israel was a faraway dream. However, the mitzvah always remained in force, and once we had the ability to fulfill it, the obligation returned like every other precept in the Torah.18
While, this is not the place for a detailed study of the subject, it is important to remember the basic Torah law. Readers who are interested in a more comprehensive overview are encouraged to investigate the list of sources cited in the footnotes to this chapter.19 Here, we can only offer a basic introduction.
The Ramban unequivocally states that the mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael is a Torah commandment which applies at all times. He writes:
“We were commanded to take possession of the land which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov; and not to abandon it to other nations, nor to leave it desolate, as He said to them, `You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it’ and He said further, `To inherit the land which I swore to your forefathers’; behold, we are commanded with the conquest of the land in every generation.”18
Thus the Jewish people are commanded to conquer and establish Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel; to dwell in it; and to safeguard it from foreign nations. The Ramban continues:
“He said to them, `To inherit the land and to dwell there, for to you I have given the Land to possess, and you shall inherit the land which I swore to your fathers’… This is what our Sages call Milchemet Mitzvah… and don’t err and say that this precept is (only) the commandment to vanquish the seven nations… This isn’t so… This land is not to be left in their hands, nor in the hands of any other nation, in any generation whatsoever….”18
When we have the ability to live in Israel and choose not to, we are rebelling against G-d’s will for the Jewish people, as the Ramban explains:
“This is a positive commandment which applies at all times… And the proof that this is a commandment is this: the Jews were told to go up in the matter of the Spies, `Go up and conquer as Hashem has said to you. Don’t fear, and don’t be discouraged.’ And it further says: `And when Hashem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given to you,’ and when they didn’t go up, the Torah says: `And you rebelled against the word of G-d,’ and you didn’t listen to this command.”18
The Ramban’s ruling that the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael applies in every generation is also recorded in the Pitchei Tshuva commentary to the Shulchan Aruch.20
Because living in Eretz Yisrael is a Torah commandment, and because it brings the individual Jew and the nation to its true Jewish health, it is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel, except in the few special instances set forth in the Halacha. In the Mishna Torah,21 the Rambam states the law:
“In all times, a Jew is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for Chutz L’Aretz, except to study Torah, or to marry, or to rescue (Jewish property) from the gentiles, and then he must return to the land. One is also permitted to leave temporarily for business, but to dwell outside the Land of Israel is forbidden, unless there is a severe famine there….”
Therefore, in describing a Jew who leaves Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Kook uses the language, “even if a person should happen to leave for Chutz L’Aretz, through a mistake, or because of some compelling reason.” A Jew belongs in Israel. This is his natural environment. This is his healthy, G-d given place. This is where he can receive Ruach HaKodesh. This is where the nation of Israel is supposed to be built. However, if a Jew is forced to leave the Land of Israel, its unique Divine Inspiration can follow him wherever he goes.
שִׁפְעַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, שֶׁהֻתְחְלָה בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, מְלַקֶּטֶת הִיא אֶת כָּל בֵּרוּרֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ הַנִּמְצָאִים בְּחוּץ_לָאָרֶץ בְּכָל הַמַּעֲמַקִּים, וּמְקָרְבָתָם בְּכֹחָהּ הַמּוֹשֵׁךְ אֵלֶיהָ.
“The influx of Kedusha that began in the land of Israel gathers in all of the elucidations of holiness which are found in Chutz L’Aretz, in all of their ranges, and draws them up with its gravitational pull.”
Here, Rabbi Kook is referring to the Kabbalistic concept of raising up, or gathering in, the fallen sparks of Kedusha which exist throughout the world. These are the scattered fragments of the Divine influx which sustains and gives life to the physical world. The source of the sparks is the fountain of Kedusha which flows from Eretz Yisrael. This is the well of Divine Inspiration which Rabbi Kook wrote about in Essay Three. It is through our wandering in exile and our return to Israel that these scattered sparks are returned to their source.
In Kabbalistic literature, the task of mankind throughout history is the regathering of the fallen sparks, or sins, out of the depths of darkness and evil, to return them to their holy source through the process of repentance. Tshuva means to return. Through Tshuva, sins are rectified and the urges behind them are returned to their pure, original state. The “elucidations of holiness” which Rabbi Kook mentions is the work of separating good from evil. This is the sifting, refining process of Tshuva.
The process of repentance began with the very first man. Adam’s sin caused sparks of holiness to fall out of Eden into exile with him. The sparks became imbedded in the depths and darkness of the physical world. To restore mankind and the world to its original purity and connection to G-d, the exiled sparks must be retrieved.22
Adam, and the generations which followed, began this process of rectification. Subsequently, the task of perfecting the world fell to Avraham and his offspring. If the royal line of David had succeeded in maintaining a Torah Kingdom in Eretz Yisrael, the Creation would have returned to perfection.23 But when Am Yisrael sinned, the sparks they had already raised up were scattered and exiled with them to the four corners of the earth.
The ingathering of the exiles to Israel parallels the ingathering of the fallen sparks to their source. The exiled nation must liberate the Kedusha imprisoned in the impurity of gentile lands.24 The Divine Spirit which always shines in the innermost soul of the Jewish people acts as a magnet, drawing in the exiled fragments of Divine Inspiration and holiness. When the outcasts return to Israel, the sparks of Kedusha return with them. Our Sages tell us that when Israel is in exile, the Shekhina is in exile too.25 Similarly, when the Jewish people return to Israel, the Shekhina returns with them.26 In effect, the Redemption of Israel brings back G-d to the world. From out of the graveyard, Divine life and Kedusha rise up to renewal.27 Thus the yearning of the Jewish people for Eretz Yisrael catalyzes not only the Redemption of Israel, but also the penitence and perfection of all of the world.28
This concept of gathering up the sparks of Kedusha which have fallen into Galut helps us to understand the process of internationalization which Rabbi Kook described in Essay Three. In Galut, we gather up the best elements in the general Divine Inspiration which we find there. These are the international sparks of Kedusha which bring our nation to completion, and which enables us to be a light unto all of the nations of the world.29 Israel is the true “United Nations,” by sifting out the best qualities of all of the nations and raising them all up to G-d. “And in you all of the nations of the world shall be blessed.”30
What is the relationship between the fallen sparks of Kedusha and the ability to receive Ruach HaKodesh outside the land of Israel? We have learned how the impurity of Chutz L’Aretz pollutes the imagination and blocks a Jew’s prophetic channel. However, fallen sparks of Kedusha still exist in the Klipot. A man of great spiritual power who has had Divine Inspiration in Eretz Yisrael can raise up these sparks. In his descent to Chutz L’Aretz, the Ruach HaKodesh which accompanies him from Israel acts like a spiritual magnet, drawing in the sparks of holiness from his surroundings. These sparks form a channel of Kedusha through which his Ruach HaKodesh can continue to flow. This understanding helps to explain how Ezekiel could experience prophecy in Kasdim. The channel of “drawn up” sparks of Kedusha enabled his prophecy to continue even after his exile from Eretz Yisrael.
The second major concept in the essay concerns the general psychology and feeling of a Jew outside of the Land of Israel. Paradoxically, the worse he feels, the healthier he is. His inability to tolerate the impurity in foreign lands is a sign that he is deeply connected to Israel. Furthermore, his longing to return to Eretz Yisrael influences not only his own private life, but also his surroundings. His yearning advances Israel’s Redemption and the ingathering of the exiles to Zion.
כָּל מַה שֶּׁקָּשֶׁה יוֹתֵר לִסְבֹּל אֶת אֲוִיר חוּץ_לָאָרֶץ, כָּל מַה שֶּׁמַּרְגִּישִׁים יוֹתֵר אֶת רוּחַ_הַטֻּמְאָה שֶׁל אֲדָמָה טְמֵאָה, זֶהוּ סִימָן לִקְלִיטָה יוֹתֵר פְּנִימִית שֶׁל קְדֻשַּׁת אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְחֶסֶד עֶלְיוֹן, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יֵעָזֵב מִמֶּנוּ מִי שֶׁזָּכָה לְהִסְתּוֹפֵף בְּצֵלְצַח שֶׁל אֶרֶץ חַיִּים, גַּם בְּהִתְרַחְקוֹ וְנוּדוֹ, גַּם בְּגָלוּתוֹ וְאֶרֶץ נְדִידָתוֹ.
“The more one is incapable of tolerating the air outside the Land of Israel; the more one feels the impure spirit of the defiled land – this is a sign of a more interior absorption of the Kedusha of the Land of Israel, of the sublime kindness which will never abandon the person who has merited to take refuge in the clear umbrage of the land of life, even in his distant journeys, even in his exile, and in the land of his wanderings.”
How can a person know if he is deeply connected to the Land of Israel? If he is incapable of tolerating the defiled atmosphere of Chutz L’Aretz; if he physically and emotionally experiences its spiritual pollution – this is the barometer that he is internally united with the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Kook’s words are not meant in a mere metaphorical fashion. He is describing a physiological truth. A person who has forged a deep spiritual connection to Israel will feel something unnatural in Chutz L’Aretz. The sensation can be an actual physical feeling, as if there isn’t any air. What he or she is missing is the Kedusha of the Holy Land, which simply does not exist in the Diaspora.
Similarly, many religious Olim who return to Chutz L’Aretz to visit after a lengthy absorption in Eretz Yisrael, experience a feeling of foreignness when their airplane lands and they enter the terminal building. Immediately, they feel out of place, disconnected, as if they had landed on a totally different planet. The people around them seem strikingly non-Jewish; the language sounds foreign; the advertisements are unfamiliar; the policemen, the cars, the views from the highway seem detached from their lives. The scenery and architecture may be beautiful, but they are landscapes and buildings which belong to someone else.31 When the Oleh returns to his former neighborhood, he is liable to feel alien, as if he no longer belongs. The things people talk about seem suddenly unimportant. He no longer shares their priorities. Instead, he feels an urge to call someone in Israel to find out what’s going on.
The feelings of alienation, and of spiritual emptiness which are experienced in the Diaspora, are signs of the person’s inner purification. This is a healthy reaction for a Jew. It is a sign of “the sublime kindness which will never abandon the person who has merited to take refuge in the clear umbrage of the land of life, even in his distant journeys….” This sublime kindness is a blessing from G-d, a Divine shield which protects the Jew from the negative influence of Galut by reminding him that he does not belong there.
Someone who lives in the Diaspora and has never experienced an environment of Kedusha and spiritual health, may never recognize the impurity of his surroundings. He has no barometer of comparison. As we learned in the second essay of OROT, he will not miss Eretz Yisrael, and his Galut environment will seem pleasant in his eyes. Even when he visits Eretz Yisrael, he may not experience the Kedusha of the air and the land’s profound spiritual treasures, for the land only discloses her secrets to the person who truly wants to partake of them with all of his heart and might.
Rabbi Kook writes that Eretz Yisrael is the land of life.32 Only in the Land of Israel can the Jewish people have true life – the true national life of a sovereign Jewish nation. Only in Israel can a Jew be truly himself, faithful to his unique Israeli identity and talents. Interestingly, only in Eretz Yisrael, the land of life, are the dead resurrected.33 The Gemara states that a Jew who dies in Galut has to travel through painful underground tunnels in order to be resurrected in Israel.33 The Diaspora is described as a graveyard, a place of dried bones.34 The prophet Amos warns the Jews, “Thou shall die in an unclean land.”35 Someone who is deeply connected to Israel will feel this defilement when he is outside the land. He will feel the hollowness of ritual and prayer.36 He will feel the absence of Kedusha, of nationhood, of homeland, and all of the other expressions of healthy Jewish life. Even in the most religious community, a Jew who is connected to the Divine Segula of Eretz Yisrael will feel a spiritual descent – as the term Yerida implies. No matter where it may be, the air and the entire Galut environment cannot be compared to the towering Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.
הַזָּרוּת שֶׁמַּרְגִּישִׁים בְּחוּץ_לָאָרֶץ הֲרֵי הִיא מְקַשֶּׁרֶת יוֹתֵר אֶת כָּל חֵשֶׁק_הָרוּחַ הַפְּנִימִי לְאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל וּקְדֻשָּׁתָהּ, הַצִּפִּיָּה לִרְאוֹתָהּ מִתְגַּבֶּרֶת וְצִיּוּר חֲקִיקַת תַּבְנִית הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁל אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עֵינֵי ד’ בָּהּ תָּמִיד, מֵרֵאשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה עַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה, מִתְעַמֶּקֶת יוֹתֵר וְיוֹתֵר.
“The strangeness that one feels outside of the Land of Israel, causes a greater bond with the inner spiritual desire for Eretz Yisrael and its Kedusha. The yearning to see the land increases, and the vision of the concrete, holy image of the land which the eyes of G-d are always upon from the beginning of the year until the end37 becomes deeper and deeper.”
The individual who has succeeded in making an inner, life_ giving connection to Israel carries it with him even if he must travel outside the land. The foreignness he feels in Galut acts like a shield against the pollution he finds there, guarding his healthy attachment to Israel. This potential to form a living bond to Israel exists in every Jew, no matter where he lives. If he comes to purify himself, to journey inward on an honest path of self_ discovery, to peel away Klipah after Klipah, Diaspora after Diaspora, foreign culture after foreign culture, to journey generations backward through his family’s history to uncover his original homeland and roots – if he is courageous, and determined, and fortunate enough to make this connection, then, with G-d’s help, he will come to experience an estrangement from his Diaspora life and feel a fervent longing for Zion.
The awakening from Galut to a new life in Israel resembles the journey of repentance which a person experiences when he turns to a new life of Torah. At first, he feels estranged from his old way of life. He senses its impurity and longs to break away from his previous lifestyle and surroundings. He no longer identifies with the life he once lived. Many of the things he once enjoyed, now seem to possess no lasting importance. He seeks out a new community, new values, new goals and ideals.
In truth, a person who returns to a life of Torah without forging a deep bond to Eretz Yisrael has only returned part of the way. It may be that he was not exposed to the deeper teachings of Torah; it may be that the challenges and problems of moving to Israel were simply too great; whatever the reason, even though he has found a new life of Torah, he has not yet found inner wholeness. For the meaning of Tshuva is to return to the place one belongs, not only in deeds, but to the place where the deeds are meant to be performed.38 This is true for the individual and for the nation as a whole.
If a Jew is not actively yearning for Israel, then something is wrong with his spiritual life. If he identifies with being a Jew, and takes pride in his Jewishness – his contentment in Galut indicates that he is still detached from the Jewish ideal. For the truest expressions of Judaism and Jewishness are a devotion to G-d, to Torah, to Am Yisrael, and to Eretz Yisrael. None of these can be complete without the others.39
The yearning for Israel leads to a desire to be there, to live there, to walk through its Biblical valleys and hills, to gaze upon Jerusalem and touch the stones of the Kotel, to build a life in the land which G-d cares for with a special, direct, loving care. The Kuzari writes that “Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust,”40 as the verse of Tehillim states: “Thou shall arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favor her, the set time has come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace the dust thereof.”41
It is the very strangeness one feels in Galut which deepens the yearning for the land. The intensity of the feeling depends on the depth of a person’s love and connection to Eretz Yisrael. It depends on an individual’s inner attachment to the Segulot of the land. Like a lover far away from his beloved, he should feel a passionate desire to be reunited.
This is the reason that our Sages prescribed that a Jew should recite the 137th Psalm after every weekday meal.42 The Psalm is a reminder about how we should feel in the exile: “By the rives of Bavel, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion… How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.”43
The feeling of foreignness which a Jew should experience in the Diaspora is a positive feeling. All too often, however, this Psalm goes unrecited, and its message is not learned. Instead of being thankful for his feeling of alienation, the Jew longs to belong. Throughout many epochs, this was simply not feasible – the Jew was an outcast, hated wherever he fled. But in the last few hundred years, movements of national emancipation presented an opportunity to escape from the ghetto. Suddenly Jews could be citizens. Suddenly the Jews could belong to a country without being chained to their Biblical past. The Revolution in France and the Reformation in Germany not only led to widespread assimilation, but to a national disconnection from Eretz Yisrael. When the Jew stopped setting Jerusalem above his chiefest joy,43 he forgot who he was. When his parents and grandparents were all born in France, he grew up believing that he was a Frenchman too.
וְעֹמֶק תְּשׁוּקַת_הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁל חִבַּת צִיּוֹן, שֶׁל זְכִירַת הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁכָּל חֲמוּדוֹת בָּהּ קְשׁוּרוֹת, כְּשֶׁהִיא מִתְגַּבֶּרֶת בִּנְשָׁמָה, אֲפִלּוּ יְחִידִית, הֲרֵי הִיא עוֹשָׂה פְּעֻלַּת נְבִיעָה מַעְיָנִית לְכָל הַכְּלָל, לְרִבְבוֹת נְשָׁמוֹת הַקְּשׁוּרוֹת עִמָּהּ.
“And the depth of the holy yearning of the love of Zion, of remembering the land to which all the good things of life are bound – when this valorously increases in the soul, even in one individual – behold, it acts like an overflowing spring to all of the Clal, to the myriads of souls which are bound up with him….”
Here, Rabbi Kook reveals a very deep secret of the Redemption. The awakened yearning for Zion does not only influence the life of the individual who longs for the cherished land, it also influences his surroundings and the Jewish people as a whole. One person’s yearning awakens the yearning of other Jews for Zion. Because each Jewish soul is connected to every other soul of Clal Yisrael, the yearning of one soul for Redemption has a positive influence on them all. Like a stone cast into a pond, the yearning of one Jew for Israel causes waves of yearning to spread out in circles which grow bigger and bigger until they reach the shore.
Following this scenario, when a leader of a Zionist youth group in New York decides to move to Israel, the spiritual waves caused by his yearning find their way to Australia. Suddenly, a Jew sitting on a beach in Sydney discovers himself dreaming about Israel. The next day, he buys a book on modern Zionism. Little by little, he finds his thoughts more and more focused on Israel. His interest transforms into an active yearning to see the land itself, and his longing sets off spiritual waves which find their way to Russia where a family is suddenly granted a visa to Israel after a long, seven-year wait. How are we to understand this mystical chain reaction?
The book, Nefesh HaChaim, includes an in-depth study of the inner workings of Clal Yisrael. The book was written by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, founder of the Volozhin Yeshiva, where Rabbi Kook studied. There is a Kabbalistic concept found in the Zohar44 termed, אתערותא דלתתא, or “the awakening from below.” This phenomenon resembles the cycle of rain, whereby mist from the ocean rises up to the clouds, to “stir the upper waters,” which in turn, fall back to the earth as rain.
The Nefesh HaChaim explains that everything which exists in our “lower world” on earth has a spiritual counterpart in the “upper worlds.” Movement in the lower world triggers a parallel movement in the worlds above. The upper worlds react by sending down their celestial influence to the Creation below.45 Each Jewish soul on earth has an exalted counterpart in the heavenly world above. Because a person’s upper celestial soul is united in a pool with all of the souls of Clal Yisrael, his actions on earth influence all of the Clal. When a Jew does a mitzvah, all of the Clal is enhanced. Likewise, a transgression on earth blemishes all of the nation. This is illustrated in the sin of Achan whose isolated act of thievery brought punishment on the nation as a whole.46
Therefore, when a Jewish soul is filled with a longing for Eretz Yisrael, this triggers a chain reaction through all of the nation. An invisible bombardment of longing is set off in the soul-pool of Clal Yisrael, where all souls exist together, without separation, in one spiritual unity. Because of the Clal’s inner oneness, an individual’s yearning for Eretz Yisrael affects all Jews. Not every Jew will rush to purchase a ticket to Israel, but the chain reaction created by the yearning for Israel paves the way for Redemption.
A poignant example of this phenomenon can be seen in the life of Rabbi Kook. Before the outbreak of World War One, Rabbi Kook journeyed to Europe to address a congress of Torah leaders who were opposed to the Zionist movement. While his letters show his pain on having to leave the Land of Israel,47 he decided that the urgency of the matter demanded his participation in the congress, where he hoped to influence the rabbis to abandon their fight against the Zionists. When the war broke out, all routes to Israel were blocked, and Rabbi Kook was forced to seek temporary asylum in England. At the time, the government of England, which was soon to rule over Palestine, was debating whether or not to let the Jews establish a sovereign state in Israel. It was Rabbi Kook’s influence which helped to strengthen the Zionist cause. A letter he wrote was read in the Parliament before a vote was taken. Thus the Balfour Declaration, and the increased Jewish settlement of Israel which resulted from it, were spurred by Rabbi Kook’s great love and commitment to the land.
וְקוֹל שׁוֹפָר שֶׁל קִבּוּץ נִדָּחִים מִתְעוֹרֵר וְרַחֲמִים רַבִּים מִתְגַּבְּרִים, וְתִקְוַת חַיִּים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְנוֹצֶצֶת, וְצֶמַח ד’ הוֹלֵךְ וּפוֹרֵחַ, וְאוֹר יְשׁוּעָה וּגְאֻלָּה מִתְפַּצֵּל וּמִתְפַּשֵּׁט, כְּשַׁחַר פָּרוּשׂ עַל הֶהָרִים.
“And the voice of the shofar of the ingathering of the outcasts awakens; and great mercy increases; and the hope of life for Israel sparkles; and the planting of G-d develops and blooms; and the light of Salvation and Redemption spreads out and out, like the dawn which stretches over the mountains.”
In the Shemona Esrei prayer which a religious Jew prays three times a day, he beseeches G-d to gather Israel’s scattered exiles to Zion: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth to our land.”48
How does G-d do this? Through a slow, patient process which our Sages compare to the awakening of dawn:
“It happened that Rabbi Hiyah Rabbah, and Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta were walking in the Arbel Valley at the break of morning, before the light of day. They witnessed the rising of the dawn as it spread out its light. Rabbi Hiyah Rabbah said to Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta, `Rabbi, thus is the Redemption of Israel – at the beginning it comes slowly, slowly, and then afterwards it increases and grows.'”49
To help understand the slow, gradually unfolding process which accompanies our Redemption, it is helpful to arise before sunrise to observe the emergence of dawn – not at six in the morning when the sun bursts above the horizon, but two hours earlier in the darkness of night. This is the time that our Sages would wake up to begin the deep devotions they practiced to prepare for the morning’s first prayer. They knew that the new day began, not with the sunrise, but much earlier, in the very depths of the night. For the new day begins, not with more light, but with a noticeable addition of darkness.50 Slowly night’s curtain lightens. Stars sparkle less brightly. Delicate threads of silver spread through the sky. Constellations begin to vanish. The first real light appears, a patch of faint color. The darkness lessens. Other colors appear. A border of light outlines the distant mountains. Gradually, they emerge from the receding darkness. Their silhouettes stand out along the horizon. Suffused rays spread through the heavens. Daybreak arises long before the sun can be seen. Finally, it is morning, the dawn of a new day. Daylight spreads over the mountains, yet only after a prologue of increasing suspense do the sun’s rays shine in a crescendo of light. The sun in all of its glory appears, a crown of golden colors. Then as it rises, it becomes a blinding, fiery sphere – a light so intense, the eye cannot bear its brilliance.
Why has the Almighty programmed nature to unfold every day in this gradually developing way? Because the human eye could not withstand the sun’s brilliance if it were to appear all at once.51 So too with Israel’s Redemption. The world first must be prepared for the overpowering light. Slowly, the vessel which will channel G-d’s light to the world must be forged. Slowly, the world stage must be made ready. Patiently, after years and generations, the House of Jacob returns from Galut to emerge first as a newborn State, and then as the Kingdom of Israel. Slowly, the long night of exile gives way to a new light on Zion,52 to the incomparable light of Mashiach, and to a new dawning era for all of mankind.
First, Jews begin to understand that life in the exile is truly foreign. A yearning for independence arises, a longing for a Jewish homeland – a remembering of Zion. This is the shofar of the national return which we pray for, the shofar of freedom,48 to cast off our subservience to other nations, and our bondage to other cultures and creeds. The call of this yearning reverberates in our celestial soul and awakens great mercy on high. Like the cleansing blast of the shofar on Rosh HaShana, which stirs G-d’s compassion, the shofar of our yearning for Israel awakens G-d’s grace on His people. A new era of Salvation is born.
This is the shofar we pray for, the shofar of G-d’s kindness and mercy which heralds the end of our exile and our return to our land. There is, however, another type of shofar which can awaken our yearning if we fail to arise on our own. In a sermon on Rosh Hashana, several years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Rav Kook said: “If there will cease the holy fervor, and the desire for exalted Redemption which stems from it; and if the natural, human feeling for nationality, and the yearning for the honorable life of the nation will disappear – the enemies of Israel will come and blow a shofar in our ears which calls for our Redemption. They force us to hear the voice of the shofar. They sound an alarm, and set off a cannon in our ears, and don’t grant us rest in the Galut. This shofar of an impure beast will be transformed into the shofar of Mashiach. Amalek, Hitler, and others like them awaken the Redemption. And he… who did not want to hear, because his ears had become blocked, he will hear… out of absolute coercion, he will listen.”53
If we do not hear the pure call of the shofar of Redemption, then G-d uses an impure shofar instead. In His exalted plan for the world, He has decreed that the Jewish people are to live in Eretz Yisrael. As the exile nears completion, and the sins of the Jewish people are atoned; the time arrives to return to the land. Whether we like it or not, G-d’s decree shall be enforced. If we do not hear the call for our freedom, the impure shofar of our enemies will thunder in our ears to uproot us from our exile.
Why don’t we listen? What prevents us from hearing? Why don’t we take seriously the words of our prayers when we say: “Gather our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth to our land.”47 Because in our alienation from the deep, inner teachings of Torah,54 and from the deep inner voice of our souls, we become seduced and imprisoned by foreign cultures and lands.
Fortunately, the pioneers of the holy possess souls which cannot find comfort in the adulterous charms of Galut. They passionately yearn for the land where all of G-d’s goodness is found. When this holy yearning valorously builds in the soul, “even in one individual – behold, it acts like an overflowing spring to all of the Clal… and the voice of the shofar of the ingathering of the outcasts awakens; and great mercy increases; and the hope of life for Israel sparkles; and the planting of G-d develops and blooms….”
Thus, the Gaon of Vilna sends his students to Eretz Yisrael to settle in the land. Spiritual reverberations spread out over continents. Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher and Rabbi Eliahu Guttmacher form the first Zionist movement, the Chovevei Tzion. Their yearning spreads to include even non-religious Jews who can no longer bear the humiliation of Galut. An assimilated Paris journalist, Herzl, is suddenly filled with a spirit of Jewish identity and national pride. Jews assemble together for a World Zionist Congress. Hearts never touched by Jewish education are filled with a growing fervor for Zion. Waves of Aliyah begin. Myriads of souls hear the call. After a nearly 2000 year exile, Jews the world over begin to discover a new hope for life. The yearning grows gradually, like the growth of a plant – “the planting of G-d develops and blooms.” At first the seed is buried underground. Then, in time, it sprouts. Jewish settlements begin reappearing in Israel. By sea, by air, and by land, arriving refugees fall to their knees to kiss the cherished land. The light of Redemption spreads over the mountains. Slowly, darkness gives way to light. Though the new day takes a long time in unfolding, the sun in all of its splendor is destined to appear.
LETTERS OF HOLINESS
In this essay, Rabbi Kook delves into the inner workings of the soul. His description is both a metaphor and an almost technical study of the Kabbalistic foundations of Jewish life. In fact, if not for the surprising revelation at its center, the essay would seem out of place in a collection of writings on Eretz Yisrael.
If we could dissect a soul, what would we discover inside? What would a microscopic examination reveal? What are a soul’s components? Its atoms? When we probe as deeply as we can into the anatomy of the soul, suddenly under our high_powered lens, an Alef comes into focus. Then we see a Mem, and a Taf. If a soul had a genetic make-up, we would discover that its DNA helix is made up of Hebrew letters.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook spoke about this essay, he would say that Hebrew letters are the atoms and basic building blocks of the Jewish soul. The letters which Rabbi Kook describes are not only the outer, graphic shape of the letters, which have meaning in themselves,1 but the inner essence and content of the letters. In another work, Rosh Millin, Rabbi Kook writes in depth on the meaning of each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Unlike the letters of the English alphabet which are mere symbols of sounds with no inner meaning of their own, the letters of the Holy Tongue have an independent existence, and spiritual roots in the world above.2
In Hebrew, the word for letter is אות. An אות is a symbol for something which possesses a much deeper content. For example, the Sabbath is called an אות.3 Tefillin are an אות.4 So is Brit Milah.5 They are symbols of the special covenant between the Jewish people and G-d. Interestingly, the heavenly lights, the sun and the moon, are called אותות.6 The word אות also appears in the Tanach, referring to a portentious event which will occur in the future.7
In the wisdom of the Kabbalah, letters are understood to be powerful, life-giving forces. The Gemara teaches that the Hebrew letters were used to create heaven and earth.8 Bezalel knew how to combine the letters which were used in Creation. It was this secret wisdom which enabled him to build the Mishkan.8
The Torah itself is made up of letters. Each letter is said to represent one of the basic 600,000 Jewish souls in the world.9 The combination of letters which has been handed down to us in the Torah is suited to our understanding, but it is not the only arrangement.10 Hashem, Himself is the commander of the world’s army of letters ה’ צבאות.11
In addition to their alphabetical form, each letter has a deeper, living nature. Every letter contains a concept, a direction, a will which finds expression in the soul. Beyond a person’s individual ego is the deeper, general will of existence. There is a force of life which is Divinely inspired, and this is what inspires each individual ego and psyche. The inner components of this deeper life-force are the Hebrew letters. Just as the letters are the building blocks of Torah, and of the world, they combine to form the molecular blueprint of the soul. What atoms are to the physical world, Hebrew letters are to the spiritual.
מְלֵאָה הִיא הַנְּשָׁמָה אוֹתִיּוֹת מְלֵאוֹת אוֹר_חַיִּים, מְלֵאוֹת דֵּעָה וְרָצוֹן, מְלֵאוֹת רוּחַ_הַבָּטָה וּמְצִיאוּת מְלֵאָה.
“The soul is filled with letters which are infused with the light of life, full of knowledge and will, full of spiritual seeking, and full existence.”
The soul is filled with letters which contain the Divine life-force which grants us existence. They themselves have knowledge and will and a quest for spiritual inspiration. All of a Jew’s primary activities, whether his thought, will, deed, and imagination, stem from the letters of his soul. Different combinations of letters make for different types of souls. There are high-powered combinations, and there are souls of lesser might. According to the brilliance of these life-giving letters, a man’s soul radiates with more and more energy.
מִזֹּהַר הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הַחַיּוֹת הַלָּלוּ מִתְמַלְּאוֹת זִיו_חַיִּים כָּל יֶתֶר הַדְּרָגוֹת אֲשֶׁר לְבִנְיַן_הַחַיִּים, אֲשֶׁר לְכָל שְׂדֵרוֹת הָרָצוֹן, הַדֵּעָה וְהַמִּפְעָל, לְרוּחַ וּנְשָׁמָה, בְּכָל עֶרְכֵיהֶם.
“From the rays of these living letters, all of the other levels of life’s building are filled with the light of life – all of the aspects of the will, of knowledge, and of deed, of the spirit, and of the soul, in all of their values.”
Like atoms, these letters exist in a constant, dynamic flow. They are active, full of knowledge, motivation, inspiration, and will, constantly affecting the life of the soul. They are full of vision and imaginative flight. They are filled with full existence, not bounded in nature, containing a blueprint for all of Creation within them; in the same way that a molecule contains a solar system of atoms within it, and a cell contains the genetic structure of the body as a whole. Every soul contains a blueprint for all of the world. Letters activate letters in a constant chain reaction which is the motivating force of all life.
כְּשֶׁנִּגָּשִׁים לְמִצְוָה, הַמִּצְוָה הִיא תָּמִיד מְלֵאָה זִיו_חַיִּים שֶׁל כָּל עוֹלָמִים, מְלֵאָה הִיא כָּל מִצְוָה אוֹתִיּוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת וְנִפְלָאוֹת, מִכָּל תרי”ג מִצְווֹת הַתְּלוּיוֹת בְּכָל מִצְוָה, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים שֶׁבְּסוֹד הָאֱמוּנָה.
“Upon approaching a mitzvah, the mitzvah is always full of the light of life of all of the worlds – every mitzvah is filled with letters, big, incredible letters from among all of the 613 precepts which are, in turn, interdependent on each individual precept – from all of the life of the worlds which is in the secret of faith.”
What happens in the soul when a person approaches a mitzvah? A mitzvah of the Torah is also filled with pulsating letters and a stream of Divine inspirational force. The commandments themselves are fountains of life, as the Torah says, “These are the mitzvot which a man shall do and live.”12 The mitzvot are the channels which enable letters to flow from their Divine source to the soul. The life-force in the mitzvot adds vitality to the life-force in man. They are the circuits and conduits of life. And they too, like the letters, are microcosms of existence, bursting with the energy that G-d supplies to the world.
When a Jew performs a mitzvah, he receives a new dose of energy and life. When the letters of his soul collide and combine with the letters of the mitzvah, an explosion occurs. Like a nuclear fusion of atoms, new life is released to the soul and to all of the worlds. The union of the soul and the mitzvah is what gives the world its constant renewal. And because each individual mitzvah is integrally connected to all of the 613 precepts of the Torah,13 when we perform one mitzvah, we release the power of them all in a chain reaction which sends waves of Kedusha and light throughout the universe. This is the mechanism which brings life to the world. Thus, our Sages have taught that if the Jews were to stop learning Torah, G-d forbid, for even a moment, the whole world would come to an end.14
The interrelationship between all of the 613 precepts of the Torah offers both tremendous potential and problems. Because every mitzvah is integrally connected to every other, the performance of a mitzvah can only be perfect if all of the other mitzvot are performed. This can be likened to a symphony made up of hundreds of notes. When they are all played together, they blend into a pleasing harmony. But if one note is flat, or missing, the harmony of the whole is destroyed. This is true in the life of an individual, and in the life of the nation. When a person is only performing a portion of the 613 mitzvot, his life-force is lessened. Similarly, if the Jewish nation as a whole is missing the full range of mitzvot, either because of spiritual weakness, or because of Galut, the entire life of the nation is crippled, and Divine goodness appears in the world in a dim, shattered light.
זִיו אוֹר אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים, אוֹר חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים, חַי בְּכָל נֹעַם בְּהוֹד כָּל מִצְוָה.
“The light of the G-d of life, the light of the life of the world, lives in complete harmony in the glory of every mitzvah.”
In the observance of a mitzvah, the soul meets with the light of G-d. This is the meaning of the Yichud prayer which some Jews say before performing a mitzvah. The mitzvah is the vehicle which unites G-d and His Shekhina, with all of Clal Yisrael.15 A Jew cleaves to G-d, not only through abstract meditation, but through the performance of the practical mitzvot as well. When we perform the commandments, we connect our lives to G-d’s will, and to the Divine life-force which He implanted in them. This is the path to true life, through cleaving to the Divine life-force in the mitzvah, as we say upon reading the Torah: “Those who cleave to Hashem your G-d are all alive today.”16
תֵּכֶף בְּגִשְׁתֵּנוּ לְמִצְוָה לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ מִתְגַּדְּלוֹת כָּל הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הַחַיּוֹת שֶׁבְּמַהוּתֵנוּ, אָנוּ מִתְגַּדְּלִים וּמִתְגַּבְּרִים, מִתְעַצְּמִים בְּאוֹר_חַיִּים וַהֲוָיָה עֶלְיוֹנָה, מְפֹאָרָה וַעֲשִׁירָה עֹשֶׁר_קֹדֶשׁ_ עוֹלָמִים, וּבְאוֹר תּוֹרָה וְזִיו חָכְמָה… וּבְכָל הַיְקוּם מִתְחַדֵּשׁ אוֹר וְחַיִּים. הָעוֹלָם מֻכְרָע עַל יָדֵינוּ לִזְכוּת, עַל כָּל פָּנִים מִתּוֹסֵף אוֹר וְיֹשֶׁר, רָצוֹן וָשֹׂבַע טוֹב פְּנִימִי.
“As soon as we approach a commandment’s performance, all of the living letters which constitute our essence expand – we grow bigger, and become stronger and more forceful in the light of life and sublime existence which is resplendent and rich with the wealth of universal holiness and with the light of Torah and of wisdom…. and all of the universe is renewed with light and life. The judgment of the world turns meritorious because of our deeds; light and truth, good will and inward satisfaction grace every face.”
When we come to perform a mitzvah, the energy in our souls and the mitzvah interact, and all of the letters which make up our essences grow bigger with an injection of Kedusha, Torah, exalted wisdom, and life. If we were on the proper level to experience this spiritual union, if our sensitivities were in tune with the immeasurable wealth of our Divine inner life, when we approached a mitzvah, we would feel the same ecstasy and joy that a bride and groom feel when they step under the wedding canopy to become husband and wife.
When a Jew performs a mitzvah, the letters of his or her soul are magnified with an accelerated life-force. Letters of Torah from the upper worlds of existence merge with the letters of the individual soul. This “wedding” between the upper and lower worlds causes a union of splendor and joy. Our will and G-d’s will become one. We and the world are filled with supernal strength, wisdom, holiness, valor, harmony, and joy. The same wholeness which returned to the world upon the giving of the Torah now returns to our souls. In the meeting of man and the mitzvah, the purpose of life is achieved. Man stands in line with G-d’s will for existence. The soul cleaves to G-d. Worlds merge, and the union brings rebirth to all of Creation.
Because of the soul’s connection to all of the world, each seemingly small mitzvah is, in truth, a cosmic deed which fills the world with untold blessing. The performance of a mitzvah fills the world with Torah, and with inner goodness and truth. We hold in our hands the fate of existence. Our good deeds infuse the world with merit.17 By observing the commandments of the Torah, we not only elevate our own life, we make the world a better place. In the Heavenly court, G-d’s judgment is sweetened.
In effect, the Almighty has put in our hands the key to existence. Divine blessing and life are released in the world according to what we do.18 In a sense, when we perform a mitzvah, we give strength to G-d Himself, as we say in our morning prayers, תנו עֹז לאלקים. “Give strength to G-d.”19 Israel is figuratively the source of G-d’s power. It is our deeds which enable G-d’s goodness to appear in the world. Because of the unity of all Creation, the mitzvot which we perform on earth open valves of Heavenly blessing in the exalted worlds above. By doing G-d’s will, we bring about the wedding of heaven and earth.
This union, Rabbi Kook writes, brings a look of inward satisfaction to every being’s face. If this is so, why don’t we see it? A part of the reason is because the union between G-d and the world is still incomplete, as the verse in Tehillim implies: “How can we sing the song of the Lord in an alien land?”20 As long as the nation of Israel has not returned in its fullness to Israel, as long as we can perform only part of the Torah and mitzvot, as long as the Beit HaMikdash is missing, then G-d’s blessing and light is diminished. Only with our redemption from physical and spiritual bondage, when we return to national Torah wholeness, will smiles grace every face, as the verse says, “Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with happy song.”21 This happens when the nation is living its true life of Torah in Eretz Yisrael.22
FOR IN ERETZ YISRAEL, THE LETTERS OF OUR SOUL GROW BIGGER. THEY ARE MAGNIFIED THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF TIMES, EVEN WITHOUT DOING A MITZVAH, BECAUSE JUST BEING IN ISRAEL IS A MITZVAH IN ITSELF.23
בְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְגַּדְּלוֹת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁל נִשְׁמָתֵנוּ, שָׁם מַחְשִׂיפוֹת הֵן נְהָרָה, יוֹנְקוֹת חַיִּים עַצְמִיִּים מִזִּיו_הַחַיִּים שֶׁל כְּנֶסֶת_יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֻשְפָּעוֹת הֵן מִסּוֹד יְצִירָתָם הַמְּקוֹרִית בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה. אֲוִירָא דְּאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מַמְצִיא אֶת הַגִּדּוּל הָרַעֲנָן שֶׁל אוֹתִיּוֹת_הַחַיִּים הַלָּלוּ, בְּזִיו תִּפְאָרָה, בִּידִידוּת נְעִימָה וּבִגְבוּרַת_רַעַם עַלִּיזָה מְלֵאָה שִׁפְעַת קֹדֶשׁ, “כָּל הַכָּתוּב לְחַיִּים בִּירוּשָׁלֵם”.
“In Eretz Yisrael, the letters of our souls grow bigger; there they reveal shining light; they are nurtured with independent life from the light of life of Knesset Yisrael; they are directly influenced from the secret of their original creation.”
In simple language, Rabbi Kook is saying that if there were a geiger counter which could measure the existence of Hebrew letters, it would start to crackle with a thunderous noise the moment it approached the borders of Israel. For Eretz Yisrael is the land of gigantic, 3-D letters. It is the land of indigenous alefs and bets. Like the giants which the spies encountered in Hevron, and the gigantic fruit they found in the land, the alphabet of Eretz Yisrael dwarfs the lilliputian alphabet of Galut. The letters thrive in the air of Israel and draw body-building nutrients from its holy soil. In contrast, the letters of Chutz L’Aretz are stunted, like plants grown outside of their natural climate.
When a Jew makes Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, his letters shift into high gear and multiply in size. All of his being gets bigger. He grows closer to G-d. Compared to the person he was in Galut, he becomes larger than life.24 He transforms into a giant, filled with greater valor, greater Kedusha, greater happiness and wisdom.
What is the secret of this change? IN ERETZ YISRAEL, OUR LETTERS, LIKE OUR SOULS,25 BECOME THE GIGANTIC LETTERS OF CLAL YISRAEL. They are no longer small, private, individual letters – THEY MULTIPLY AND MULTIPLY THROUGH THEIR UNION WITH KNESSET YISRAEL. IN THE LAND OF CLAL YISRAEL, OUR LETTERS MERGE WITH THE MEGA-SOUL OF THE NATION.
In his connection to the nation, the Oleh to Israel becomes a more complete Jew. He becomes a co-builder of the Jewish nation. He becomes a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force, in the army of G-d.26 He speaks the language of his forefathers. He becomes independent in his own land. His aspirations are filled with idealism. He becomes an architect of history, an active partner of Redemption. His outlook and psyche are exponentially expanded by his new identification with the national aspiration and will.
Because he is living in Israel, his whole life is a mitzvah. A mitzvah which is equal in weight to all of the mitzvot of the Torah.27 Divine life flows and flows into his being through the infinite channel of his new mitzvah life. His house is a mitzvah,28 his job is a mitzvah, every step which he takes in the Holy Land is a mitzvah, every four cubits earns him a greater share in the world to come.29 Every holy breath he takes fills him with holy life. Letters and letters of Torah pour into his soul.
Rabbi Kook quotes a verse from the book of Isaiah:
“And it shall come to pass, that he who is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, they shall be called holy, everyone in Jerusalem who is written to life.”30
In Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, the letters of our souls are inscribed for eternal life.
Like the land’s giant letters, the mitzvot of the land are giant mitzvot too, performed where G-d’s commandments are supposed to be performed.31 They burst with energy and life through the full force of their value. In Israel, the performance of the mitzvot is pure, without static and pollution, performed in the land of G-d.32 In Israel, each mitzvah reverberates through the myriad of souls in the Clal, multiplying beyond measure, echoing through the universe, filling the world with harmony, completeness, and order. When the nation is living its true Torah life in Israel, G-d’s will for the world is fulfilled. The vaults of heaven spread open, and Divine blessing flows uninterrupted to all of creation.
So too, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael is the complete Torah. As our Sages teach: “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.”33 The Torah in Israel is the all–encompassing Torah, the Torah of the nation, the Torah of the Clal, none of whose mitzvot or letters are missing. In the Land of Israel, the Torah is in its true place, radiating its influence in intimate pleasantness, its heavenly letters glowing with the light of the Shekhina.34
We learned in previous essays that a Jew who yearns for the Land of Israel can share in her spiritual treasures. This holy attachment has a direct effect on the letters of the soul of a person who longs to be a part of the land.
הַצִּפִּיָּה לִרְאוֹת בַּהֲדַר אֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה, הַשְּׁקִיקָה הַפְּנִימִית לְאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מַגְדֶּלֶת אֶת אוֹתִיּוֹת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, אֶת אוֹתִיּוֹת_ הַחַיִּים הָעַצְמִיּוֹת הַיִּשְׂרָאֵלִיּוֹת שֶׁבִּפְנִימִיּוּתֵנוּ וְעַצְמִיּוּתֵנוּ, הִיא מַגְדַּלְתָּם גִּדּוּל רוּחָנִי פְּנִימִי, “אֶחָד הַנּוֹלָד בָּהּ וְאֶחָד הַמְצַפֶּה לִרְאוֹתָהּ”, “וּלְצִיּוֹן יֵאָמַר אִישׁ וְאִישׁ יֻלַּד בָּהּ, וְהוּא יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עֶלְיוֹן, ד’ יִסְפֹּר בִּכְתוֹב עַמִּים זֶה יֻלַּד_שָׁם סֶלָה”.
“The yearning to see the glory of the cherished land; the inner longing for the land of Israel, increases the letters of holiness, the letters of independent Israeli life that are at the depth of our essence and being; it increases their inner spiritual growth. `One who is born in it, and one who yearns to see it’35 – `And to Zion it shall be said; a man, and a man who is born in it, and He will establish it in exaltation, the Lord will count in the writing of the nations, this one has been born there, Selah.’36”
Not only by being in Israel can this heroic life be achieved, but also the soul which aspires to live in Israel is invigorated with increased holy energy. The Jew who sincerely yearns to see Israel is influenced by its greatness. In yearning to link himself with the land, he too is like someone approaching a mitzvah, running to embrace his beloved. His pulse quickens, and the letters of his soul expand to receive a giant new infusion of life. He grows spiritually bigger in his attachment to Eretz Yisrael and to the aspirations of Clal Yisrael. Both “One who is born in it, and one who longs to see it,” both of them share in her blessing; both attain wholeness by living the maximum life of a Jew.
הַמִּשְׁפָּט – הָעַמּוּד הָאֶמְצָעִי, שֶׁכָּל הַטְּרַקְלִין עָלָיו נִשְׁעָן, “מָשָׁל לְמַטְרוֹנָה הַהוֹלֶכֶת וְשִׁפּוּלֶיהָ מִכָּאן וּמִכָּאן, מִשְׁפָּטִים וְאֶמְצָעִיתָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה”, הֵם הֵם מַהוּת_הַחַיִּים, “מִשְׁפָּט בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל”, מַהוּת הַחֵפֶץ הַנִּשְׁמָתִי הַסָּפוּג בְּנִשְׁמַת מָשִׁיחַ רוּחַ אַפֵּנוּ אֲשֶׁר יִקְרְאוּ לוֹ ד’ צִדְקֵנוּ, אֲשֶׁר יְגַלֶּה אוֹר מִשְׁפַּט ד’ בָּאָרֶץ בִּגְּבוּרָה עֶלְיוֹנָה, הַשּׁוֹלֶלֶת כָּל מִלְחָמָה וְכָל שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים. מִשְׁפַּט בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל לֵב אַהֲרֹן – תַּמְצִית הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הַנִּשְׁמָתִיּוֹת שֶׁל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, מְאִירָה בְּאוּרִים_וְתוּמִים, “בּוֹלְטוֹת אוֹ מִצְטָרְפוֹת”.
“Judgment – the middle pillar upon which the entire palace rests, “A parable to a lady who is walking, and the hem of her dress is on this side and that, the laws and the center of Torah,” these are the essence of existence; “The judgment of the Children of Israel” – the essence of the desire which is infused in the soul of Mashiach, the spirit of our lives, who will be called, Hashem Who Justifies Our Being, who with exalted valor will reveal in the land, the light of the judgment of G-d which condemns all war and killing.
“The judgment of the Children of Israel upon the heart of Aharon – the extract of the letters of the soul of all Israel, lights up on the Urim and Tumim, “Either sticking out or joining together.”
Rabbi Kook concludes his essay with an introspective glance into the meaning of Mishpat, which is translated as law or judgment. Why in an esoteric essay on Hebrew letters is he suddenly interested in judgment? What does law and justice have to do with this essay on souls?
Interestingly, Mishpat also means sentence. Thus, finding this word in a study of letters is not so surprising. A sentence is a combination and an ordering of letters to express a complete thought. Similarly, justice is an ordering of existence, by placing everything in its proper place. It is through justice that G-d’s plan for the world is established on earth.
The ordering of letters, and of life, is quintessentially expressed in the breastplate of Aharon, the Kohen Gadol. As the leader in the service of G-d in the Mishkan, he stands at the vortex of religious life of the nation. The very center of this life, symbolized by the heart of the breastplate, the Urim and Tumim, is the institution of law and judgment – “Mishpat Bnei Yisrael.”37
Elsewhere in the book of OROT, Rabbi Kook explains how Christianity uprooted justice and law from religious practice and belief.38 In Judaism, justice is the “middle pillar of existence upon which the entire palace rests.”39 It is Divine judgment and law which demand that the entire world be in its properly ordered place. In his very first remarks on the Bible, Rashi asks why the Torah begins with the account of Creation, and not with the first commandment given to Am Yisrael. He answers that the Torah wants to teach that the same Almighty who created the world and gave the Land of Israel to the Canaanite nations can take it away and give it to whomever He pleases.40 A proper understanding of the Torah first necessitates the understanding that the Jewish people belong in Israel. This is G-d’s will for the world. This is the order and law of the universe. Global harmony and perfection can only be achieved when Am Yisrael is in Israel.41
The Divine order for the world is symbolized by the Urim and Tumim, the letters on the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol. Fastened to the breastplate, or Hoshen, were the precious stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel.42 Engraved on the stones were the names of the tribes, written with all twenty-two letters of the alphabet. When the Children of Israel approached G-d with a question, one of the ways He would answer was through the medium of the Hoshen.43 Letters would either light up in an order which Aharon would decipher, or be joined in sequence to read out G_d’s answer.44 Through the combination of letters, a Divine Judgment was made, and G-d’s will was brought down to the Jews.
Just as Divine life comes to man’s soul through the vehicle of the mitzvot, judgment comes to the world through the letters on the Urim and Tumim. Here in the history of our nation, we have a living example of the power of the letters at work. In the depths of our national soul, the swirl of sparkling letters spells out a call for Divine law and order for all of the world.
The task of establishing the justice of G-d in the world is the mission of Am Yisrael. This can only be achieved when the Jewish people are in Israel, for this in itself is G-d’s will for the world: “Righteousness and justice in the land.”45 The desire for justice lies at the root of the Jewish soul. When the Jewish people are functioning at their maximum mitzvah power in Israel, connected to the Torah in all of its depth, our driving aspiration is to establish the Law and Justice of G-d over all of creation. This is our task as the heart of the nations, to lead each nation to its proper function and place. Then, when the world’s borders are all set in order, and each nation understands its required role, the lamb will lie down with the wolf, Israel will be at peace with the gentiles, conflict will cease, and war and killing will come to an end.46
This longing for world justice is “the soul of Mashiach, the spirit of our lives.” His spirit is the spirit of Am Yisrael. He epitomizes our national conscience and our desire for justice for all. The Israeli King fights the wars of Israel, and the wars of G-d, for they are one and the same. As the Rambam writes in The Laws of Kings and Their Wars: “And in everything he does, his deeds will be in the Name of G-d, and his preoccupation and goal to uphold the true Law, and to fill the world with righteousness, and to shatter the might of the wicked, and to fight the wars of G-d, for, first and foremost, a King is crowned to establish justice and to wage wars.”47
In the end, the armies of Mashiach shall surely triumph. The judgment of G-d shall prevail, and the righteousness of His nation Israel shall shine forth from Jerusalem like a beacon to the far ends of the world.48
THE ETERNAL FLAME
In this essay, Rabbi Kook offers us a glimpse into his outlook on modern Jewish history. Rabbi Kook’s analysis of the deep, inner psychology of the nation is what distinguishes his writings from all other Torah luminaries of our time. In this essay, we discover the vision which made him the spiritual leader of Clal Yisrael, and which, at the same time, set him in conflict with contemporaries who battled against his all-encompassing perspective.
Rabbi Kook wrote this essay at a time when the modern Enlightenment movement was attracting great numbers of Jews away from the traditional fold. At the same time, the Zionist movement was bringing waves of settlers to Israel who were brazenly anti-religious in their values. These two movements were gaining in momentum and luring many spirited idealists away from the Orthodox world, because the Torah did not seem to offer the expansive world view which they sought.
Rabbi Kook is looking at this development and telling us what is going on behind the scenes in the deep psychological subconscious of the Jewish people at this point in our history. What does Rabbi Kook see? He sees that the inner motivating force behind all of these movements is a longing for G-d, and for a full Jewish life. He understands that underneath all of these revolutions, whatever their outward expressions, whether Jews are trying to be more French or German, more reform, more universal; to be communists in Russia, capitalists in America, or Zionists in Eretz Yisrael, behind all of these aspirations and lofty ideals, is a search for G-d. The soul of the nation is seeking its identity and the path to truthful Israeli expression.
In a letter soliciting financial support for a Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Kook wrote: “The beginning of the secular, physical Redemption (of Israel) influences the entire world, but its root and foundation is the redemption of the sacred. The inner hope to see the Kohanim officiating, Levites singing on the platform, and Israelites attending the Temple service, is the ultimate basis of the entire renewal. Whether or not we understand how these tremendous things will occur, we believe that the word of the Lord stands forever, and that Israel, which has risen to renew itself, abounding with Divine power and the light of faith, is a holy nation yearning for its Holy of Holies, for its splendid beauty, for the Temple to be rebuilt, and the Sanctuary established.”1
Rabbi Kook takes an encompassing glance at Jewish history, and understands that the time has arrived for the Jewish soul to move into a higher gear. The Jewish ghetto can no longer provide the inspiration which the new generation demands. Great souls, souls of freedom, souls of idealism, souls of Redemption, cannot be confined within the gates of ghetto existence. The ever-burning flame in the heart of the nation is demanding a higher expression.
בְּתוֹךְ הַלֵּב פְּנִימָה, בְּחַדְרֵי טָהֳרָתוֹ וּקְדֻשָּׁתוֹ, מִתְגַּבֶּרֶת הִיא הַשַּׁלְהֶבֶת הַיִּשְרָאֵלִית, הַדּוֹרֶשֶׁת בְּחָזְקָה אֶת הַהִתְקַשְּׁרוּת הָאַמִּיצָה וְהַתְּדִירָה שֶׁל הַחַיִּים אֶל מִצְווֹת ד’ כֻּלָּן, לָצֶקֶת אֶת רוּחַ ד’, רוּחַ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמָּלֵא הַכְּלָלִי הַמְמַלֵּא אֶת כָּל חֲלָלָהּ שֶׁל הַנְּשָׁמָה, בְּתוֹךְ כָּל הַכֵּלִים הָרַבִּים הַמְיֻחָדִים לָהּ, לְהַבִּיעַ אֶת הַבִּטּוּי הַיִּשְׂרָאֵלִי הַמָּלֵא בְּהַבְלָטָה גְּמוּרָה, מַעֲשִׂית וְאִידִיאָלִית.
“Within the inner heart, in its pure and holy chambers, the Israeli flame increases, demanding the strong, brave, constant connection of life to all of the mitzvot of G-d; to pour the spirit of G-d, the full, all-encompassing spirit of Israel that fills all of the vaults of the soul, into all of its many unique vessels, to express the full Israeli expression in its complete practical and idealized form.”
Rabbi Kook begins by telling us that the motivating force behind the historical development of the Jewish people lies “within the inner heart.” This means that the motivating drive of the Jewish people is something deep and hidden. A superficial view of the Jewish people will not reveal the real inner factors involved. Just as a superficial view of an individual will not reveal the deep psychological reasons for his actions, a study of Am Yisrael will not uncover its inner workings if the investigation only examines surface aspects, or even one or two generations.
The secrets of the Jewish people lie in the heart, not only of the individual, but in the heart of the nation as a whole. In the inner, pure chambers of the Israeli heart, a phenomenon is now taking place of which a person may not be aware. He may not even be aware that he possesses a pure and holy heart. He may not be aware that he has a connection to Am Yisrael and to an eternal life far beyond his private existence.
Because the word, Israeli, has such a powerful association with today’s modern Israeli Jew, it must be noted that when we use the expression, the chambers of the Israeli heart, we are not singling out the Jews from Eretz Yisrael – but, rather, all Jews. In essence, all Jews are Israelis.2 Because of the exile, some Jews were born in Mexico, America, or France, but at heart, they are all Israelites, or Children of Israel.
In his deepest essence, a Jew is always pure and holy. As we say upon awakening in the morning, “My G-d, the soul which You gave me is pure….” In the inner chambers of our soul, a flame burns which cannot be extinguished. The Israeli soul is Kadosh. Nothing in the world can contaminate the Divine oil which fuels it. The flame is eternal.3 It is the voice of G_d calling. The soul of a Jew, and the soul the nation, is a flame which is constantly fueled with a burning desire for G-d. This is the quest which consumes King David: “You said of my heart, seek My Presence – Your Presence G-d, I will seek.”4
This inner flame of the Israeli nation is the secret of Jewish survival. It’s source is Divine. Other nations appear on the stage of world history, blaze brightly, and soon disappear.5 Israel remains and grows stronger. Its flame can never go out. Its light illuminates the depths of Jewish existence, accompanying Am Yisrael throughout all of its history, from the burning bush in the wilderness,6 to the fiery revelation at Mount Sinai,7 to the Pillar of Fire which lit up the journeys of Bnei Yisrael,8 to the constant flame which burns on the Temple altar, “A fire will constantly be burnt upon the altar – it shall not be extinguished.”9
Thus if we seek to discover what is motivating the Jewish people at any moment of history, we have to remember our nation’s unique Divine calling and adopt a loftier, holier perspective.
The nation of Israel has a special inner character of Kedusha.10 We are the Jewish people not because we have been given the Torah – we have been given the Torah because we are the Jewish people.11 The Torah is uniquely suited to our special nature. Thus, our Sages have taught us that if there were to be no Jewish people in the world, G-d forbid, there would be no Torah.12 As the Kuzari makes clear, the Jewish people did not receive their greatness because of the greatness of Moshe Rabenu, he received his stature from the exalted stature of Am Yisrael.13
On several occasions, we have mentioned that every Jewish soul is connected to the eternal soul of the Clal. An individual lives and dies, but the life of the Clal is eternal. It is a Divine creation, ever-flaming, ever united with G-d. This connection to G-d is our quintessential expression.
The path to this union, Rabbi Kook tells us, to the quintessential Israeli expression of life at its fullest, is through, “all of the mitzvot of G-d,” in “all of their many unique vessels.” These are the commandments, as lived by the nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael. As the Kuzari teaches: the proper deeds, in the proper place.14 These are the vessels which bring the light of G-d to the world: Shabbat, Tefillin, Sukkot, Brit Milah, family purity, the sacrifices, the precepts which relate to the Land of Israel, and all of the other commandments. This Divine union is the true life which the Israeli heart always demands. This inner yearning is the true yearning of our soul. Nothing else can replace it. Nothing else can fuel our souls with true satisfaction and meaning. Movements and ideologies all come and go, offering temporary diversion, but the burning quest for our true Torah life in Eretz Yisrael pushes us onward forever.15
הָרְשָפִים מִתְגַּבְּרִים בְּלֶב הַצַּדִּיקִים, יְקוֹד אֵשׁ קֹדֶשׁ יוֹקֵד וְעוֹלֶה, וּבְלֵב כָּל הָאֻמָּה הוּא בּוֹעֵר מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה, “אֵשׁ תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא תִכְבֶּה”.
“The sparks flash more brightly in the hearts of the Tzaddikim, the burning of holy fire blazes and rises up, and in the heart of all of the nation, it continues to burn from the days of yore, `A fire will constantly be burnt upon the altar – it shall not be extinguished.'”9
The soul’s yearning for an attachment to G-d exists in every Jew. In the masses, however, the yearning is dormant. People search for fulfillment in a thousand different illusions: in money, in power, in honor, in success, in achievement, and fame. The search for their attainment is the idol worship of today. Inwardly motivated by a longing for G-d, the Jewish heart can become temporarily lost in seductive detours along the way.
This search for fulfillment can also find far more noble expression, in the quest for world justice, universalism, and peace. Not realizing that all of these goals are the rewards of the Torah, secular theories and policies are formulated to bring man to these lofty aspirations. However, no matter how altruistic these visions may be, only when they are based on G-d’s blueprint for universal harmony and peace can they reach lasting fruition.
Thus, Theodore Herzl is not aware of the inner force which is pushing him towards the World Zionist Congress. Trotsky and Marx are not aware that beneath their longing for a perfect society lies something much greater. Moshe Mendelssohn is actually seeking a full expression of Judaism when, in fact, he proposes the opposite. Freud takes a penetrating look at his soul and only gets as deep as his father and mother. Einstein succeeds in recognizing the forces of energy behind all of life’s atoms, but not the Hebrew letters. Their paths are different, yet the force motivating their search is the same. Their inner Israeli flame is burning brightly, demanding the ultimate truth. Old explanations and frameworks won’t do. The ghetto walls are too confining. They long for wide-open horizons. The four cubits of Halacha16 no longer satisfy their souls. They want nationhood. They want freedom, equality, justice, and universal morality. They want intellectual expansion. They want a new, more complete, more inspiring life as part of the world body of nations.
It is important to understand why the Judaism of the ghetto fails to attract these high-powered souls. At the same time, it must be remembered that the same G-d who guides all of Jewish history is acting behind the scenes, guiding this episode also – even though it seems to be a rejection of Jewish tradition and Torah. However, to bring out the true beauty and splendor of Torah, its foundations must be challenged; its adherents must be motivated to teach in a more inspiring light, and to explain in a language which the new generation can hear.
Souls seeking greater expression are not finding the inspiration they need. The world utopia they are seeking can not reach fruition in a ghetto in Warsaw. The universal justice and morality they want to see in the world can not go forth from a shtetl in Russia. True world enlightenment, justice, and morality goes forth only from Zion, when the rebuilt Jewish nation is sovereign in Eretz Yisrael.
They are not finding what they seek in the Torah, because the Torah was never meant to be lived in a ghetto. Shabbat was never meant to be spent in Berlin. Instead of experiencing the encompassing soul of the Torah, they are experiencing its shell. For what law could be more just, moral, and enlightening than G-d’s Law? What could be more universal than the original blueprint for all of Creation? But in the Diaspora, the Torah’s vessels are broken. Its light is diminished. Without its national framework, without its national land, the international impact of Torah is lost. Instead of prophecy and universal upliftment comes a focus on ritual law.
Elsewhere in the book, OROT, Rabbi Kook writes: “Faith shines fully only in a robust Knesset Yisrael, complete in its might, in its government, in its Temple, in its land, and in all of its spiritual and material possessions. All of the mitzvot, both in their form and in their inner goals, are bound to that supreme state, and only then will they appear in all of their glory. Because of the astonishing descent of Knesset Yisrael (to Galut,) we cannot demand from religious faith and the mitzvot all of their radiance; but only that small spark which continues to burn even at the lowest level of decline. This point is sustained by a ray of brilliant light from the glorious past, and from the future which glows from afar… All of the practical mitzvot, as well as those which concern the proper behavior between man and his fellow man, as well as the virtuous character traits related to a religious lifestyle – their full light will shine only when the nation achieves its most elevated state. To the extent that the nation remains degraded, the light is diminished.”17
The souls of the new generation rightfully feel that something is missing. They want a higher vision. They want a bigger Torah, a more world-perfecting Torah. The answers they receive to their questions do not satisfy their souls. The inner flame of the Israeli nation wants much more than the exiled, powerless G-d of the ghetto – it demands full expression – a connection to Divinity in all fields of life – a connection which is possible not in the ghetto, nor in the salons of bourgeoise Europe, nor in communist Russia, nor on Sigmund Freud’s couch, nor in the sweatshops of the Lower East Side, nor in the towers of Wall Street, nor in the utopian framework of a socialist kibbutz, but only with the full Torah life of the nation in Eretz Yisrael.
When this new generation of Jews begins searching for their hearts’ full expression, some look to politics, some to philosophy, some to reform Judaism, some toward Zionism, and others toward science, but behind all of their searching is the inner subconscious demand for a true, national, Israeli life – a life of attachment to G-d. This is the force which Rabbi Kook sees when he looks beyond the superficial expressions of these movements. While this deep inner yearning lies hidden from recognition in the masses, the Rabbis who are most deeply connected to the nation’s Divine Segula are aware of the inner flame which is burning. It is they, the guardians of the secrets of Torah, who are the nation’s true psychologists. They are the burning coals whose great yearning and love for Israel fuels and ignites all of the nation. The Zionist movement does not begin with Herzl, but with the Gaon of Vilna, who sends his students to Eretz Yisrael some eighty years before Theodore Herzl is born. This awakened yearning spreads through the Jewish world and inspires other Jews, religious and secular alike, to raise up the banner of Zion.
This knowledge of the deep psychological drives of the nation is the treasure of the elite Tzaddikim18 who labor to master the esoteric teachings of Torah. The Rabbis who taught that the way to world redemption was through the return of the nation of Israel to Eretz Yisrael, encountered vehement resistance from the spiritual defenders of the Galut status quo, who were unwilling to change their manner of teaching. For instance, Rabbi Kook’s positive orientation toward the secular Zionists was strongly condemned. His encompassing love for all of the Jewish people, which finds expression in this essay, was called a distortion and a flaw in his stature. In response, his son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, commented:
“In truth, one has to know that this love which my father, and teacher, זצ”ל, felt for Am Yisrael, was not the normal human understanding of love. Rather, he harbored a profound understanding of Am Yisrael, and his love flowed from this.”19
Ironically, Rabbi Kook saw the shortcomings of his generation as clearly as anyone in his time. In spite of his great love for the nation, he was not blind to the blemishes20 which appeared in the new Yishuv. Many of his writings and letters reveal his deep anguish over the secular lifestyle of the Zionist pioneers.21 Often, he harshly criticized their outward behavior. He warned about the grave danger to the nation which the estrangement from Torah would bring: the seduction of our youth to unholy cultures, family impurity, fraternal hatred, and an eventual weakening commitment to Eretz Yisrael,22 all of which we are witnessing in our time. In spite of this, he strove to bring every Jew closer to Torah, not through condemnation and coercion, but through an attitude of tolerance and limitless love.
Ahavah for the entire Jewish nation is not a distortion, but the very sign of a true shepherd of Israel, as the book, Mesillat Yesharim, sets forth:
“These are the true shepherds of Israel, whom the Holy One Blessed Be He greatly desires; who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, who petition and actively work for their peace and well being in all of their endeavors, and who forever stand in the breach to pray for them, to nullify stern decrees, and to open the gates of blessing for them.”23
It is out of this all-embracing understanding and love that Rabbi Kook writes:
וּבְלֵב כָּל רֵיקָנִים שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּבְלֵב כָּל פּוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָאֵשׁ בּוֹעֵר וְיוֹקֵד בִּפְנִימֵי פְּנִימִיּוּת, וּבִכְלָלוּת הָאֻמָּה כֻּלָּהּ כָּל חֵפֶץ הַחֵרוּת וְכָל תְּשׁוּקַת הַחַיִּים, כָּל תְּשׁוּקַת חַיֵּי הַכְּלָל וְהַפְּרָט, כָּל תִּקְוָה שֶׁל גְּאֻלָּה, רַק מִמְקוֹר מַעְיָן חַיִּים זֶה הֵם נוֹבְעִים, כְּדֵי לִחְיוֹת אֶת הַחַיִּים הַיִּשְׂרָאֵלִיִּים בִּמְלוֹאָם בְּלֹא סְתִירָה וּבְלֹא הַגְבָּלָה.
“And in the hearts of all of the empty ones, and in the hearts of all of the sinners of Israel, the fire burns and blazes in the most inward depths; and in the nation in its entirety, all of the desire for freedom, and all of the yearning for life, all of the yearning for the life of the Clal and the individual, all of the hope for Redemption; only from the source of this inner spring of life do they flow in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation.”
This is how Rabbi Kook describes the Mendelssohns, Trotskys, Herzls, Brenners, Echad HaAms, and even the blatant sinners who journeyed to Israel to take part in rebuilding the land. In the innermost hearts of Jews who have rejected all outward forms of their people’s religion and precepts, the holy Israeli flame continues to burn. It is precisely this flame which is fueling their rebuilding of Israel. In their quest for a national homeland as Jews, for a life free from foreign oppression and rule, without contradiction or boundary, they are acting in line with the deep holy drive of the nation to return to its full Divine life in Israel. They themselves are the pioneers of Redemption, even though they are not aware of the holy role they are playing in G-d’s Divine plan.
Ironically, the very commandments which connect the Israeli soul to the infinite light of G-d are the “shackles” that the new pioneers are throwing off, for in their eyes, the Torah’s precepts are a part of the constricting, life-negating, suffocation of the ghetto which they have abandoned “in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation.” They do not yet realize that it is precisely the mitzvot and our unique Torah life which enables the universal morality and justice which they seek to be established in this world. They do not yet understand that peace and goodness will come to the world, not through socialism, democracy, humanism, nor through capitulation to Israel’s enemies, but only through the word of G-d which will spread forth from Zion when we return to our full Torah life in Israel. The world unity they seek will not come out of a United Nations building in New York, nor out of a politician’s dream of a “New Middle East,” but out of the Sanhedrin, the Temple, and the Kingship of Israel. While they are unaware of the true path to Salvation, subconsciously they are being driven by the same holy yearning which beats in the inner heart of the nation as a whole.
The secular Zionists can spread heretical teachings, but their denials, rejections, and ridicule of Torah can not extinguish the pure Divine flame which exists in the inner vaults of the Jewish nation. Elsewhere, Rabbi Kook teaches that even the most adamant Jewish non-believer has more faith in G-d than the most devout gentile – not in his outward expression, but in his inner connection to Clal Yisrael, which is G-d’s national expression on earth.24 The Divine attachment may be broken, but the potential still remains, and with education, it can be repaired. Every yearning of a “non-religious” Jew for Eretz Yisrael is a yearning for the land of Hashem. Even if he believes he is coming to Israel to escape anti-semitism, to build a utopian society, or to be sovereign in his own land, deep down in his soul, he is being pushed to a new life in Zion by his soul’s inner longing to be more deeply connected to G-d.
Shir HaShirim is a song of Divine Inspiration which expresses the undying love between Israel and G-d. In this song which Rabbi Akiva calls “the Holy of Holies,”25 Israel is described as being attached to G-d’s heart. Israel’s love for G-d is eternal – stronger than death. Its flashes of fire are indestructible, withstanding all efforts to separate the Jewish people from their Creator:
“Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is a strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which has a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it. If a man were to give all of the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”26
Our Sages teach us that Shir HaShirim is an allegory for Israel’s history-long romance with G-d.27 Its poetic verses describe Israel’s youthful love for G-d, her running after G-d to the Wilderness, her sin and separation from G-d during the long night of exile; her shame, and eventual return to her original love. Israel implores the nations of the world not to judge her relationship to G-d by her dark outward appearance. This is only an external blemish, temporarily caused by her sin, like the darkening of the skin caused by an overexposure to sunlight. “Do not gaze upon me because I am black, because the sun has scorched me….”28 In her inner heart, however, Israel remains pure and faithful to her Beloved.
In the Gemara, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is asked why the nation of Israel was cursed at the time of Purim.29 Because they bowed down to the idol of Nebuchadnezer. Why then were they not destroyed by Haman? Because Am Yisrael did not sin inwardly when bowing down to Haman. They did so only for appearance sake, out of fear. We learn from this that sin is exterior to the nation.
The Maharal, in his book, Netzach Yisrael, describes Israel’s eternal inner purity which outward sin can never blemish nor reach.30 He repeatedly emphasizes that sin is something external to the Jewish people. The Divine inner light which characterizes Israel’s soul exists on a different plane of existence from the physical world. On this deeper Divine plane, there is no intersection nor contact with sin.
This is the deeper understanding of Am Yisrael which Rabbi Kook is referring to when he looks at the secular, and even anti-religious, settlers in Israel. He sees that they too are being motivated by a higher yearning for G-d. In his towering perspective, like a patient, loving father toward a disobedient child, Rabbi Kook views their disconnection from the practical mitzvot as a temporary disorder. His faith in their inner purity motivated him to include them in his love for all of the Clal, and to appreciate their positive contributions to the rebuilding of the land and to the Redemption of the nation.
In explaining the holiness of each and every Jew, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would frequently repeat a Gemara which says that even the “empty ones” of Israel are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate is filled with seeds.31 A pomegranate is an interesting fruit, in that the seeds are the fruit itself. So too with the Jewish people. The Zohar teaches that the Torah and Israel are one.32 Even though the mitzvot may lie dormant in the Jewish heart, every Jew is filled with them in his inner potential. Like a field which lies dormant in winter, with the coming of springtime and the proper measure of cultivation and rain, the soil will begin to bear fruit. Similarly, time and proper education will cause the dormant mitzvot in the Jewish people to sprout. The very commandments which seemed constricting and life-negating in our life in Galut, imprisoning Jews in a narrow, isolated, existence, will suddenly be seen in their life-giving light as the enlightened pathway to G-d which the Israeli heart seeks.
וְזֹאת הִיא תְּשׁוּקַת אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל, אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, אֶרֶץ ד’, שֶׁבָּהּ הַמִּצְוֹת כֻּלָּן מִתְגַּלְּמוֹת וּמִתְבַּלְּטוֹת בְּכָל חֲטִיבִיּוּתָן. וְהַתְּשׁוּקָה הַזֹּאת שֶׁל הוֹצָאַת צִבְיוֹן רוּחַ ד’, שֶׁל נְשִׂיאַת רֹאשׁ בְּרוּחַ ד’ בְּעֶצֶם גְּדֻלָּתוֹ, הִיא פּוֹעֶלֶת עַל הַלְּבָבוֹת כֻּלָּם וְהַכֹּל חֲפֵצִים לְהִתְאַחֵד עִמּוֹ, לִטְעֹם נְעִימַת חַיָּיו, “עַל כֵּן אָהַבְתִּי מִצְוֹתֶיךָ מִזָּהָב וּמִפָּז”.
“This is the yearning for the Land of Israel, the land of Kedusha, the land of Hashem, where all of the mitzvot are realized and expressed in their finished form.”
“And this yearning to reveal the special quality of the spirit of G-d, of raising one’s head in the spirit of G-d in its absolute greatness, this is what activates everyone’s hearts, and all wish to unite with it, to taste the pleasantness of its life; `Therefore I loved your commandments more than gold and refined gold.'”33
The return to a life of full Israeli expression, to a life illuminated by Torah in its highest revelation, occurs in Eretz Yisrael, the land of our life. The Spirit of G-d in the inner Israeli soul unites with the Spirit of G-d in the land, and the outcast lover returns to her original love, renewing the holy marriage of yore. This happens when the nation, and the Torah, and all of the mitzvot are reunited with the life-giving Spirit of G-d in the land.
This is not a new teaching. It is the same foundation of Torah which Moshe Rabenu repeats again and again in the book of Devarim:
“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments, which I teach you to do them, that you may live and go in and possess the land….”34
“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my G-d commanded me, that you should do them accordingly in the land whither you go to possess….”35
“And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments that you should do them in the land into which you go to possess….”36
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your G-d commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land into which you go to possess….”37
“Here, therefore, O Israel, and take care to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that you might increase mightily, as the Lord G-d of thy fathers has promised thee, in the land which flows with milk and honey.”38
The Kuzari emphasizes that this full Divine attachment can only be achieved in Eretz Yisrael, the only place where all of the precepts can be observed: “The Land of Israel is especially distinguished by the G-d of Israel, and no function can be perfect except there… heart and soul can only be perfectly pure and clean in the place especially selected by Hashem.”39
In the service of G-d, pure intention and performance are not enough. For a Jew’s worship to be complete, the place where he performs the precepts must be the place which G-d has chosen.
The story which unfolds in dialogue form in the Kuzari reaches its climax with the Rabbi’s Aliyah to Israel.40 Here, the yearning for the perfect life in the Land of Israel is expressed in dramatically poignant form. This ever-burning flame to live as free Jews in our own land is “the bravery in the heart” which sustained the Jewish people throughout all of the exile.
הָאֹמֶץ שֶׁבַּלֵּב, הַמַּרְאֶה לָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ אֶת גְּבוּרַת הָאֻמָּה בִּשְׁמִירַת צִבְיוֹנָהּ, שְׁמָהּ וְעֶרְכָּהּ, אֱמוּנָתָהּ, וּמַשְׂאַת נַפְשָׁהּ, כָּלוּל הוּא בִּתְשׁוּקַת חַיֵּי הָאֱמֶת, וְהַחַיִּים שֶׁל הַמִּצְווֹת כֻּלָּן, שֶיָּהֵל עָלֶיהָ אוֹר הַתּוֹרָה בְּכָל מִלּוּאוֹ וְטוּבוֹ.
“The bravery in the heart which demonstrated to the entire world the valor of the nation in preserving its character, its name and its values, its faith and the uplifting of its soul, is included in the yearning for the life of truth, and for the life of all of the mitzvot which will be enveloped by the light of the Torah in all of its completeness and goodness.”
This triumph of the nation’s will to remain ever true to itself, to its heritage, its truth, its land, and its G-d, is our valor in the eyes of the world. This bravery is our inheritance from Avraham Avinu, who when cast into a fiery furnace, clung to his faith in G-d.41 It is the valor of Rabbi Akiva, joyfully crying out Shema Yisrael as he is tortured to death by the Romans.42 It is the courage of Jews entering the gas chambers of Auschwitz garbed in Tallit and Tefillin. It is the yearning for a full Israeli life which gave secular pioneers the bravery to enter malaria-infested swamps, again and again, to dry up the land for the welfare of the generations to come.
אִם יִפָּלֵא בְּעֵינֵי כָּל עוֹמֵד מֵרָחוֹק: אֵיךְ אֶפְשָׁר, שֶׁכָּל הָרוּחוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לִכְאוֹרָה גַּם מֵאֱמוּנָה הֵם רְחוֹקִים, יִפְעַם בָּהֶם רוּחַ הַחַיִּים בְּכֹחוֹ הַפְּנִימִי לֹא לְבַד לְקִרְבַת אֱלֹהִים כְּלָלִית כִּי_אִם לְחַיֵּי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָאֲמִתִּיִּים, לְהַחְטָבָתָן שֶׁל הַמִּצְוֹת בְּצִיּוּר וּבְרַעְיוֹן, בְּשִׁירָה וּבְפֹעַל, – אַל יִפָּלֵא בְּעֵינֵי כָּל הַקָּשׁוּר בְּמַעֲמָקֵי רוּחוֹ בְּתוֹךְ עֳמָקֶיהָ שֶׁל כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיוֹדֵעַ אֶת נִפְלְאוֹת סְגֻלּוֹתֶיהָ.
“If it be a wonder in the eyes of all those who stand at a distance, `how is it possible that there will beat the spirit of life with its inner force in all of the spirits which are apparently even far from possessing faith – not only to a general closeness to G-d, but to the true life of Israel, to the framework of the mitzvot in form and idea, in song and in action?’ – it will not be wondrous in the eyes of all those who are attached in the depths of their spirit to the depths of Knesset Yisrael and who know of its wondrous Segulot.”
Rabbi Kook asks the very same question which we ask ourselves when we encounter his eloquent theory. How can it be said that those far from faith will discover a reawakened love for Judaism, and that diehard kibbutzniks will one day dance with Torah scrolls in their arms? Rabbi Kook, and all of the lovers of Israel who are attached with all of their being to Clal Yisrael, understand that every Jew, in his inner heart, longs to be a part of the nation’s true life in the Land of Israel, including not merely a general faith in G-d, but a loving commitment to all of the Torah and the mitzvot.
If this is so, how can we explain that many people in Israel seem very far away from Judaism and the commandments of the Torah? Rabbi Kook’s philosophy is inspiring, but where do we see its fulfillment in life? The answer is “Savlanut.” Patience. The Redemption of Israel unfolds slowly, slowly,43 in gradual stages which can span generations. Things of true meaning and inner value can take years and years to develop.
Our Sages liken the Redemption and the light of Mashiach to a gazelle.44 As the gazelle bounds over a mountain, leaping from rock to rock, one moment he leaps into view, and in the next moment he is gone – only to appear once again, ascending to a higher plateau. Similarly, a mountain stream rushes along the hills and slopes, only to disappear into a hidden, underground well. In its place are boulders, thistles, and rocky terrain until the stream reappears with ever-building force. If a hiker were to stand in only one spot and stare down at the vanishing water, he would think that the stream has disappeared. Only if he takes a higher perspective, a more encompassing view, does he see that the stream reappears in a different location along the mountain path. What seemed to be the end was really a prelude to another beginning. So too, out of the tragedy of the Holocaust came the establishment of the Jewish State. Out of a united Arab attack came miraculous victory in war.
After the Six Day War, a period of spirited settlement was followed by a heartbreaking Sinai withdrawal. Secular Zionism began losing fuel.45 Today, strength against our enemies has turned into surrender and weakness. True to Rabbi Kook’s warnings, the rebuilders of the land have begun to betray the nation’s historical covenant. Generals who reconquered our Biblical cities, sign treaties to give them away. What happened to the Redemption? The gazelle seems to have fled. The mountain stream seems to have run dry. But the secret of our history, of our ever-burning flame, insures us that an even brighter light of Mashiach is just around the bend.
Our retreats are only temporary. They actually help push us forward by showing us, through trial and error, the proper way to go. When we return to our true path, an even greater conviction and fuel propels us forward. Out of hardship and struggle, a greater love for our land, and for our sacred Torah is destined to come.
We are not to judge the nation of Israel with a superficial glance. We are not to look at the immediate moment alone. Jewish history is a continuum. Past, present, and future are one. The Redemption of the future lies hidden in the prophecies of the past:
“And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people, and I will be your G-d.”46
For nearly 2000 years, we were traumatized in Galut. The process of healing does not occur overnight. Less than fifty years ago, we became sovereign again in our land. First we had to rebuild the physical body of the nation. We had to clear swamps, plant forests, cultivate deserts, fight enemies, build houses and roads. With a little more patience, we will progress even further. Already, Israel is the Torah center of the world. Yeshivot form the center of every new settlement, from Hevron, to Beit-El, Shilo, the Golan, and Gush Katif. More miracles will happen, more hardships and setbacks will follow, and more dazzling strides forward are sure to occur. Because we know that our holy flame keeps burning, we are confident that it will spread until it illuminates all of the chambers of our heart. Secular Zionism will make peace with its religious brother, and the light of the Torah will shine through the land.47
זֶהוּ רָז הַגְּבוּרָה, רוֹמְמוּת הַחַיִּים אֲשֶׁר לָעַד לֹא יִתַּמּוּ. “וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת מִשְׁפָּטַי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָם הָאָדָם וָחַי בָּהֶם אֲנִי ד'”.
“This is the secret of the valor, the uplifting of life which will never cease. `You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, that a man shall do and live by them; I am the Lord.'”48
In the essay’s concluding sentences, Rabbi Kook reveals the deepest truths of existence. First, he tells us what true valor is – the constant effort to lift up life toward G-d. True valor is the valor of holiness. True bravery is the unending struggle to get closer and closer to G-d.
To tell us what life is, Rabbi Kook quotes a verse from the Torah. What does it teach us? Life, true life is not just eating, working, raising a family, and all of the other things generally thought of as life – but rather the observance of G-d’s commandments. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, that a man shall do and live by them.” This, and this alone, is true everlasting living. Other things might look like life, but in G-d’s eyes, the only living which counts is a life lived in accordance with His commandments. This is exactly what King Solomon teaches at the conclusion of Kohelet: “The end of the matter when all is said and done; Fear G-d and keep His commandments, for that is the sum of man.”49
Being in harmony with G-d’s Will for His people – this is living. How is it achieved? Through the pathway which G-d ordained. This is true enlightenment and freedom. This is the life which transcends earthly existence by linking life in this finite world with eternal life in the World to Come. Rather than restricting life, the Torah will be rediscovered as the gateway to every ideal.
What is the secret of this valor? How can a Jew constantly raise himself ever closer to G-d?
“לְהִתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי ד’ בְּאַרְצוֹת הַחַיִּים, זוֹ אֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל”.
“`To walk before the Lord in the lands of life, this is Eretz Yisrael.'”50
The pathway and ladder to G-d is in living a full Torah life in Israel. The verb להתהלך means not only to walk, but to walk to one’s inner self, to independence, to freedom – to go constantly forward and to progress. “To walk before the Lord in the lands of life.”51 Lands is written in the plural because Eretz Yisrael links two levels of living – life in this world and life in the next. It is the land where the dead will be resurrected to life.52 This transcendental ideal, the gateway to eternal living, can only take place in Israel. It is the one place in the world where the spiritual and the physical unite.53
This is the epitome of valor, and the secret of Eretz Yisrael.
- Similarly, Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah by emphasizing that the Land of Israel is the unique inheritance of Am Yisrael, Genesis, 1:1.
- Letters of Rabbi Kook, Letter 555.
- Olat Riyah, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Vol. 1, Pg. 203.
- Lamentations, 2:9. Rabbi Moshe Kaplan, “Teshuva: National Goal or Private Matter?” Merhavim, Vol. V, Pg. 3.
- Genesis, 12:3; Isaiah, 49:6.
- Zohar, 3:221B.
- Isaiah, 2:3.
- Midrash Tehillim, 20 and 128.
- Anaf Yosef to Yoma 54B.
- Ezekiel, 3:12. “Guide for the Perplexed,” 1:8. Also Chessed L’Avraham, Spring 3, River 7.
- Kuzari, 4:17, “He is called G-d of the land (of Israel) because it possesses a special power in its air which unites in a Segula assisting in the attainment of prophecy, and joined with this Segula are the conditions of soil and climate, which in connection with tilling the ground assists in improving the species.”
- Tehillim, 132:13-14.
- Nefesh HaChaim, 4:11 based on Zohar, Leviticus, 73A.
- Deut. 11:12.
- Ramban on the Torah, Leviticus, 18:25. Also, Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Part 2, Ch. 4:8.
- Ketubot 110B.
- See, Orot, “Eretz Yisrael,” Essay Four, and the commentary which appears in this book.
- Moed Katan, 25A, Rashi, “For the Shekhina does not reside outside of the Land of Israel.”
- Kuzari, 2:14; 2:16; 4:17.
- Ibid, 2:14. Sifre, Ekev, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.”
- Ramban on the Torah, Leviticus, 18:25, “For the essence of all of the precepts is that they be performed in the land of Hashem.” See Rabbi Kook, Introduction to Etz Hadar. Also, Celebration of the Soul, Genesis Jerusalem Publications, by HaRav Moshe Tzvi Neriah, translation by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe, Pg. 106. See Responsa of the Rashbah, Part 1, Response 134, in answer to a question regarding the Gemara in Ketubot 110B that a Jew who lives in Chutz L’Aretz is like someone who has no G-d: “The principal doing of the Torah commandments are all in the Land of Israel so much so that some of the commandments can only be practiced in Israel.” See also, L’Netivot Olam, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, (5727 edition) Part 1, Pg. 197, regarding the Chofetz Chaim who maintained that the commandments performed in Chutz L’Aretz have only one-twentieth the value which they possess in Eretz Yisrael.
- Sifre, Ekev, 11:18. Rashi, Deut. 11:18. Also, Ramban, Leviticus, 18:25.
- Deut. 1:8,21,26; 3:18; 4:1,5,14,40; 5:27-20; 6:1-3,18; 7:13; 8:1; 11:9…. See also, L’Netivot Olam, Ch. 3 “The Torah and the Land.” Also, Zohar, Emor, 93B. Iban Ezra, Deut. 31:16. Haskamah of the Netziv to Ahavat Chesed, re: Kings, 2:17, beg. “The statutes of the Lord of the land….”
- Sifre, Reah, 80.
- Likutei HaGra, at the end of Safra D’Tzniuta. Ezekiel, 37:12-14.
- For an in-depth discussion of the Clal, see the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications, Ch. 2.
- Bereshit Rabbah, 1:4.
- Zohar, Leviticus, 73A. Nefesh HaChaim, 4:11. Chofetz Chaim, Parshat Bo. Also, HaShla, Genesis, 11A regarding the Torah as Israel’s soul.
- Ezekiel, 37:11, Radak.
- Ibid, 37:12-14.
- Bamidbar Rabbah, 23:7: “The land is dear to Me… and so is Israel… I shall place Israel, which is dear to Me in the land which is dear to Me.” See the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 5, “Eretz Yisrael.”
- Samuel 2, 7:23, and Sabbath Mincha Amidah prayer, “And who is like Israel, one nation in the land.” See, Zohar, Emor, 93B.
- Proverbs, 19:21.
- Maharal, Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 1.
- Leviticus, 26:32 and Ramban on that verse.
- Ezekiel, 37:12-13. Kuzari, 2:12.
- Exodus, 19:5. Also, Deut. 26:18-19.
- Deut. 28:10. Isaiah, 43:21.
- Tehillim, 132:13.
- Ibid, 135:4.
- Ibid, 94:14.
- Ibid, 105:10-11. Chronicles, 1, 16:17-18.
- “Shabbat HaAretz,” HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Pgs. 62-63. Kaftor V’Perach, Ch. 10. Also, Responsa, Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah, 234, “The Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael comes from itself, and not because of the precepts related to it.”
- Ramban on the Torah, Leviticus, 26:32.
- Isaiah, 42:5. Ketubot 111A.
- Kuzari, 1:95; 2:32.
- Ibid, 2:14,16; 4:17.
- Megilla 14A. Samuel I, 10:5,11.
- Ezekiel, 1:3. See the Commentary to Chapter Six of “Eretz Yisrael” in this book.
- Kuzari, 2:14.
- Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 1.
- See the Commentary to Chapter Eight of “Lights on OROT,” Vol. 2, War and Peace, Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications.
- Regarding Rabbi Kook’s writings on the deep holy thinkers of Israel, and their influence on the world, see Orot, Orot Yisrael, 8:8; Orot HaKodesh, Vol. 1, Pg. 138; Vol. 2, Pg. 295 and 305; and Vol. 3, Pg. 117. Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 3, Letters 753, 852.
- Mishpat Cohen, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Pgs. 175-176, “As it has already been made known, even though prophecy has stopped, Ruach HaKodesh has not ceased among those fitted for it in each generation, as Rabeinu Chaim Vital, >HEB<זצ”ל<ENG>, has written in Shaare Kedusha (Part 3, Gate 7).” Also Rabbi Kook, Arpilei Tohar, Pg. 17.
- Isaiah, 59:21. See, Chapter Two, in this book.
- Hazone HaGeula, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Ch. 1, “The love of our Holy Land is a foundation of Torah which brings the entire nation and the whole world to their perfection. Whoever has a greater love for the Land of Israel and whoever exerts himself more ardently in the settlement of the Holy Land, he is blessed first, and he is closer to perfection.”
- Kuzari, 2:24. Letter of Teman, Rambam, “The obligation of the commandments is not dependent on the coming of Mashiach. Rather we are to busy ourselves with Torah and precepts, and to strive to fulfill everything we can…. However, if a man will stay in a place where he sees the Torah is waning, and where the Jewish people will be lost with the passage of time, and where he cannot stand by his faith, and say, `I will stay here until Mashiach comes, and survive where I am,’ this is nothing but an evil heart and a great loss, and a sickness of reasoning and spirit.”
- Berachot 8A, “Since the day the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One Blessed Be He has nothing in the world save for four cubits of Halacha alone.”
- HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would mention that this philosophy can be seen in the German Orthodox movement of the last century. See, “Nineteen Letters,” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Letter 16, “For the independent national life of Israel was never the essence or purpose of our existence as a nation, but only as a means of fulfilling our spiritual mission.” See also “Horev” Pg. 436.
- Ibid, Letter Nine. “Now the nation was scattered to the four corners of the earth, among all of the nations and unto all the regions of the world, in order that, in dispersion, it might fulfill its mission.”
- Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 6:8. Berachot 63A and B. Kuzari, 2:24; Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 153. Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Yoreh Deah, Response 234. See, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Pgs. 209-213.
- “Nineteen Letters,” Rabbi Hirsch, Letter Nine, “It became necessary to take away the abundance of earthly goods, the wealth, and the land which had led Israel to stray from its mission. Israel was forced to leave the happy soil which had seduced it from its allegiance to the Almighty.” See also Ketubot 110B, Tosefot regarding the opinion of R. Chaim HaCohen. See, the book, M’Afar Kumi, by Rabbi Tzvi Glatt for a refutation of this opinion.
- Ketubot 110B.
- Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12.
- Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 75:3. Rambam, Laws of Marriage, 13:19. See also, Ramban, Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4, “This is a positive commandment which applies in every generation.”
- See “Nineteen Letters,” Rabbi Hirsch, Letter Nine, “Nothing was to be saved except the soul of its existence, the Torah. No other bond of unity was henceforth to exist except `G-d and its Mission’ which are indestructible because they are spiritual concepts. But Israel’s mission did not cease with the end of its statehood, for that had been intended only as a means to an end.”
- Deut. 1:6-8.
- Numbers, 14:26-35. See Mesillat Yesharim on the Spies, Ch. 11.
- Deut., 1:26. M’Afar Kumi by Rabbi Tzvi Glatt, Section 1.
- Ramban, Supplement to the Sefer Mitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4.
- It is illuminating to note that land in Chutz L’Aretz is halachically not considered land. Rather it has the perishable status of movable property, not land. Land, regarded as permanent property, is only found in Eretz Yisrael. See, Tosefot, beginning, “Ein,” Shitot HaGaonim, Tractate Bechorot 53A.
- Leviticus, 26:33. Deut. 28:64. Ezekiel 36:20-24.
- Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 8 and 28.
- Chagiga 5B. Shabbat 145B.
- Deut. 11:16-17; 28:62-65; 29:18-27.
- Ezekiel, 37:1-14. Likutei HaGra, of the Gaon of Vilna, at the end of Safra D’Tzniuta: “Since the Temple was destroyed, our spirit and our crown departed, and only we remained, the body without the soul. And exile to outside of the land is a grave. Worms surround us there, and we do not have the power to save ourselves. They, the idol worshippers, it is they who devour our flesh. In every place there were great societies and Yeshivot, until the body decayed, and the bones scattered, again and again. Yet, always, some bones still existed, the Talmidei Chachamim of the Israelite nation, the pillars of the body – until even these bones rotted, and there only remained a rancid waste which disintegrated into dust – our life turned into dust.”
- Megilla 29A, “In the future, the synagogues and houses of study in Babylon will be reestablished in Eretz Yisrael.” See Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 28: “The Kedusha in the world, this is the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. And the Shekhina which went into the Galut with Am Yisrael, this is the ability to establish Kedusha not in its natural place. But this Kedusha which is antagonistic to nature is not complete Kedusha. It has to be engulfed in the loftiest extract of the highest Kedusha…. The Kedusha in the exile will forge a bond with the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, `In the future, the synagogues and houses of study in Babylon will be reestablished in Eretz Yisrael.'”
- See the Shlah HaKodesh, Amud HaShalom, last paragraph of Sukkah: “When I saw the Jewish people building houses like princes, making permanent houses in this world, and in the land of defilement, in spite of what our Rabbis of blessed memory have said, `The houses of the righteous are destined to come to Eretz Yisrael,’ …and this building (in Galut) seems like one who divorces his mind from Redemption. Therefore, my children, may the Lord watch and redeem you, if the Lord will give you much wealth, build houses only in accordance with your basic needs and no more, and build not towers and walls in grandeur and pride – rather only that you may have an abode fitting with your station and rooms for seclusion and Torah and repentance.” See also, Chatam Sofer on Yoreh Deah 138, “Regarding someone who builds a big house of stone unnecessarily in the Diaspora, in order to have more space, and will despair of the Redemption coming, in this manner his building is a danger and not a precept which will protect him.”
- Deut. 11:18, See Rashi.
- Shabbat 31A.
- Ibid, the Ran, there. See also, the Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatan, Mitzvah #1, for the understanding that the yearning for Salvation is a basic foundation in the belief of G-d, as it says, “`I am the Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt’ – the G-d who redeemed us in the past is the same G-d who will gather us and redeem us in the future.”
- Amidah prayer.
- Tehillim, 137:5.
- Mesillat Yesharim, Ch. 19.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1.
- Isaiah, 55:8-9.
- Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 64, Pg. 95, Translated by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe in “Celebration of the Soul,” Genesis Jerusalem Publications, Pg. 208, Orot HaTechiyah, 57,59,67,69. Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 1, Pg. 233. See Tikuney Zohar 30. Even Shlemah 11:3, by the Vilna Gaon, “The Redemption will not come except through the learning of Torah, and the main Redemption depends on the learning of Kabbalah.” See also, Rav Mordechai Atia, Preface to the Pardes of Rav Moshe Kordevero.
- See Mesillat Yesharim, and Shaare Kedusha by Rabbi Chaim Vital for a detailed study on the refined character traits needed to establish a proper foundation for the reception of Ruach HaKodesh.
- Berachot 8A.
- Isaiah, 12:3, Targum, “With joy you shall welcome a new learning from the elite Tzaddikim.” See the book “Meditation and Kabbalah” by R. Aryeh Kaplan for an in-depth discussion of this topic.
- Tikuney Zohar, Tikun 30. Orot, Pg. 101.
- Torat Eretz Yisrael, The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, Pgs. 248-255. See also Rav Mordechai Atia, loc cited above.
- Orot, Pg. 101.
- Numbers, 13:31. Mesillat Yesharim, HaRav Chaim Luzzato, Ch. 11, in the discussion on Honor.
- Vilna Gaon, Kol HaTor, Ch. 5: “Many of the sinners in this great sin of, `They despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in this sin of the Spies, that they have been sucked into the sin of the Spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproven by the giants of the world, the Rishonim and Achronim.”
- Exodus 19:5-6. Isaiah, 43:21.
- See Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 2, Clal Yisrael.
- Tanna Debe Eliyahu Rabbah, Ch. 9. Shaare Kedusha, Part 3, Gate 7.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, Ch. 9.
- Mesillat Yesharim, Ch. 19.
- Deut. 26:5.
- Sifre, Ki Tavo, 26:5.
- Genesis, 47:27.
- Kli Yakar, verse cited.
- Midrash HaGadol, there. See also, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on the Torah, loc. cited.
- Genesis, 47:29-31; and 49:29-32 (See the commentaries of Rabbi Munk and Rabbi Hirsch there).
- Vilna Gaon, Likutei HaGra, at the end of Safra D’Tzniuta.
- Shabbat 31A.
- Kuzari, 2:24.
- Shemona Esrei prayer.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael 3:6.
- Ibid 3:7.
- Tehillim, 19:8.
- Based on Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 5:3.
- Zohar, Levit. 73A.
- Orot HaTorah, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, 13:7.
- Bereshit Rabbah, 16:4.
- Siddur Beit Yaacov, Introduction.
- Torat Eretz Yisrael, Pgs. 13-15.
- See, “Nineteen Letters,” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Letter Nine and Sixteen.
- Isaiah, 2:3.
- Rambam, Laws of Kings, Ch. 12:5.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, Chapters 8 and 9.
- Isaiah, 42:6.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, Pg. 155:8; Pg. 156:10.
- Exodus, 19:6. See also, The Essays of Rabbi Kook, Pg. 174.
- Berachot 7A. Mechilta, Bo, Ch.1. Kuzari, 3:22; 2:14.
- Deut. 4:7.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael 8:9.
- Genesis, 1:27.
- Numbers, 24:5 and the Malbim there.
- Exodus, 19:6.
- Sifre, Reah, 13.
- Ezekiel, 36:23-24, “And I will sanctify My great Name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”
- Berachot 8A, “Since the day the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One Blessed Be He, has nothing in the world but four cubits of Halacha alone.” Also Orot Pg. 110.
- Likutei HaGra, at the end of Safra D’Tzniuta.
- See Chapters Four and Five of “Lights on OROT” in this volume and Chapters Five and Eight of “Lights on OROT,” Vol. 2, War and Peace.
- Ezekiel, 36:24-27.
- Ibid, 27-28.
- Yoma 9B.
- Lamentations, 1:17. Ezekiel, 36:17.
- Shaare Kedusha, Rabbi Chaim Vital, Part 3, Gate 7.
- See commentary to “Lights on OROT,” Vol. 2, War and Peace, Ch. 10.
- Kuzari, 1:4. Also note that the full title of the Kuzari is “The Book of the Defense of the Disgraced Religion.”
- Maharal, “Mitzvah Candle.” Daniel, Ch. 7, see Abarbanel.
- Ezekiel, 36:20.
- Ibid, Rashi.
- Sifre, Deut. 11:18, and Rashi there.
- Etz Chaim, Shaare HaKellim 1, Pg. 2; Zohar, 1:4A; Tanya, 36; See also, “Innerspace” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Pg. 83.
- Zacharia, 2:10. Taanit 3B.
- Ramban, Leviticus 26:32.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1.
- Iggeret of the Vilna Gaon upon his departure for Eretz Yisrael.
- Proverbs, 10:25.
- See Chapter Eight in this book.
- Orot, Eretz Yisrael, Essay 3.
- Sanhedrin 98A, beginning, “And Rabbi Abba says, `There is no clearer sign of the Redemption than this….”
- Ezekiel, 36:8.
- Rashi, Sanhedrin 98A, loc. cited.
- Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Chapter 11:1. Megillah 17B. For a more comprehensive discussion of this topic, see the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Chapters 11 and 12.
- Jeremiah, 31:15-16.
- Genesis, 35:16-20.
- Ibid, 48:7, Rashi.
- Joshua, 14:15. Bereshit Rabbah, 14:6.
- Genesis, 13:5.
- Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 139:3. Even HaEzer, 129:20.
- Genesis, 15:14; Exodus, 3:22 and 12:36.
- Berachot 8A.
- Morning prayer, blessings before the Shema.
- Numbers, 23:9.
- Kuzari, 2:36.
- Mesillat Yesharim, Introduction.
- Genesis, 18:18.
- Ibid, 12:3. Yevamot 63A.
- Pesachim 118A.
- Genesis, 12:1.
- Introduction to Safra D’Tzniuta, by HaRav Chaim of Volozhin.
- Shlah HaKodesh on Shavuot, Pg. 30.
- See Genesis, 12:1.
- See Zohar, Lech Lecha, verse cited.
- Yevamot 64A.
- Kuzari, 2:12.
- Ramban on the Torah, Leviticus, 18:25.
- Kuzari, 2:14.
- Genesis, 33:18.
- Kol HaTor, 3:7.
- Chesed L’Avraham, Spring 3, River 12.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, 7:18.
- Hazone HaGeula, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, 1:1.
- Kuzari, 4:17.
- See Chapter Seven in this book for a more detailed explanation of this subject.
- Orot HaTorah, 13:7.
- Shabbat 14B, beginning, “Yosi ben Yoezer from Tzraida….” Nazir 54B, Tosefot beginning, “Eretz….” Also, Vilna Gaon, Likutei HaGra, end of Safra D’Tzniuta.
- Pesachim 34B.
- Genesis, 12:1.
- Exodus, 3:7-8.
- Bava Batra 158B.
- Deut. 11:12.
- Ayelet HaShachar, HaRav Yaacov Filber, Chapter Eight. “Teshuva: National Goal or Private Matter?” Rabbi M. Kaplan, Merhavim, Vol. V, Pgs. V-VI, and notes 62 and 64.
- Ezra, 9:1-2.
- Ezekiel, 36:24-28.
- Ketubot 75A, “But of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in it; a man who was born there, and a man who yearns to see it.” See Rashi, there. Also, see Chapter Seven in this book.
- Kuzari, 2:24.
- Tal HaRiyah, HaRav Moshe Zvi Neriyah, Pg. 66, cited from Rav Meir Berlin, From Volozhin To Jerusalem. See also Tal HaRiyah, Pg. 26.
- Isaiah, 66:10.
- Taanit 30B, “Everyone who mourns for Jerusalem merits to share in her joy, and anyone who does not mourn for her will not share in her joy.”
- Rambam, Introduction to Pirke Avot, Ch. 1.
- Hoshea, 12:11.
- Vayikra Rabbah, 1:14. “Guide to the Perplexed,” Part 2, Section 35. Rambam, Foundations of the Torah, 7:6.
- Mesillat Yesharim, Ch. 3.
- Moed Katan 25A.
- Sanhedrin 11A.
- Isaiah, 2:3.
- Proverbs, 22:6.
- Isaiah, 43:21.
- See Chapter Six, in “Lights on OROT,” Vol. 2, War and Peace.
- Ketubot, 110B.
- Leviticus, 25:38.
- Meshech Chochmah, by the Ohr Samayach, Pgs. 171-172, “If a Jew thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem… then a raging stormwind will uproot him by his trunk… a tempest will arise and spread its roaring waves, and swallow and destroy, and flood forth without pity.” See also, Introduction to the Siddur, Beit Yaacov, by Rabbi Yaacov Emden, “When it seems to us in our present peaceful existence outside of the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the greatest, deepest, most obvious, and direct cause of the awful, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”
- Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9.
- Ibid, Ch. 11.
- Chessed L’Avraham, Spring 3, River 7.
- Bava Batra 158B.
- Bereshit Rabbah, 16:4.
- Berachot 8A.
- Midrash Tehillim, 105.
- Sifre, Reah.
- Sanhedrin 24A.
- Chagiga 5B.
- Chatam Sofer, Drashot, Pg. 374.
- Shabbat 145B.
- Ezekiel, 1:3.
- Moed Katan 25A.
- Kuzari, 2:14.
- Genesis, 12:1.
- Exodus, 3:7-8.
- Kuzari, 2:14.
- See Orot HaKodesh, Vol. One, Pg. 280. regarding the eight levels of Ruach HaKodesh. Rambam, “Guide to the Perplexed,” 2:45.
- Judges, 14:6.
- Ibid, 14:19.
- Kol HaTor, end of Chapter Five (Found in HaTekufah HaGedolah, Pg. 445).
- Tal HaRiyah, HaRav Moshe Zvi Neriyah, Pg. 18.
- Ibid., Pgs. 60, 66, 69, 72.
- Ibid., Pg. 90.
- Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 2, Pg. 285, “It is exceedingly difficult for me to decide something in regard to the request of Agudat Yisrael to journey to Berlin for the Rabbinical Congress. You know, my son, how heavy the consent to travel outside of the land weighs on me, even a temporary departure….” See also Pgs. 295, 296, loc. cit.
- Em HaBanim Smaicha, First Introduction, Pg. 25, Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal.
- Leviticus, 26:42.
- Sifre, Reah, 12:29.
- Ramban, Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4.
- The following is a partial list of Halachic authorities who state that living in Eretz Yisrael is a positive commandment in all generations: Ramban, Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4. Rambam, Laws of Marriage, 13:20; and Laws of Slaves, 8:39. Sefer Haredim, Ch. 7. Maharit, Responsa, 2:28. Knesset Gedolah, Even HaEzer, 75, Notes to the Beit Yosef, 25. Gaon of Vilna, Yoreh Deah, 267:161. Avne Nezer, Yoreh Deah, 454. M’il Tzedakah, Responsa 26. Rav Yaacov Emden, Mor Uktziah, Section 1, Pg. 16. Chida, Responsa Yoseph Ometz, 52. Paat HaShulchan, Ch.1, Beit Yisrael, 14. Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Yoreh Deah, 233. Ohr Samayach, Letter to the book, “Shivat Zion,” printed in Kol Yisrael, 5687. Chazan Ish, Letters, 175.
- Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 75:3, Sub-section 6, and see, Pitchei Tshuva, there. For a more detailed discussion on the Halacha of living in Eretz Yisrael, see the book, “M’Afar Kumi,” by Rabbi Tzvi Glatt >HEB<הי”ד<ENG>; and see, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Chapters Five, Seven, and Nine.
- Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9.
- Arizal, Shaar HaGilgulim, Intro. 3.
- Rav Tzadok of Lublin, Machshevet Harutz, 93B.
- Rav Tzadok of Lublin, Takanat HaShavin, 31A.
- Deut. 30:3, Rashi.
- Ibid. See also, Rav Mordechai Atia, “Lech Lecha V’Sod HaShavuah,” Pg. 24, 81.
- Ezekiel, 37:1-14.
- Orot HaTshuva, 5:8, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook.
- Isaiah, 42:6.
- Genesis, 18:18.
- Pamphlet “Third of Elul,” Paragraph 90.
- Tehillim, 116:9, see Rashi. Tehillim, 142:6, see the Radak.
- Ketubot 111A. Isaiah, 42:5.
- Ezekiel, 37:1-12.
- Amos, 7:17.
- Kuzari, 2:24.
- Deut. 11:12.
- Ibid, 30:1-10.
- Siddur Beit Yaacov, Introduction.
- Kuzari, 5:27.
- Tehillim, 102:14-15.
- Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Mishna Brura, 1:11.
- Tehillim, 137:1-7.
- Zohar 1:86B, 88A, 104A-B, 235A, to cite a few.
- Nefesh HaChaim, Gate One.
- Joshua, 7:10-26. Sanhedrin 43B.
- Letters of Rabbi Kook, Part 2, Letters 285, 286, 295, 296.
- Shemona Esrei, Blessing for the Ingathering of the exiles.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1.
- Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, 22, 685.
- Midrash Tehillim, 18.
- Blessing Before the Morning Shema.
- The Essays of Rabbi Kook, Pg. 269.
- See Chapter Two of “Eretz Yisrael” in this book.
- Shabbat 104A.
- Shlah, Bayit Acharon.
- Exodus, 31:13.
- Exodus, 13:9,16. Deut., 11:18.
- Genesis, 17:11.
- Ibid, 1:14.
- Exodus, 3:12.
- Berachot 55A.
- Shlah, Pesachim, Matza Ashira, 15B. Meor V’Shemesh, Numbers, 1:2.
- Ramban, Introduction to the Torah.
- Megaleh Amukot, 210.
- Leviticus, 18:5.
- See the meditation before the observance of the mitzvot of Tefillin and Tzitzit: “May it be Thy will, Lord my G-d and G_d of my fathers, that the commandment of Tzitzit be worthy before you as if I had fulfilled it in all of its details, implications, and intentions, together with the 613 commandments that are dependent on it.”
- Shabbat 88A; Jeremiah, 33:25. Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 4:11, and 25.
- “For the sake of the unification of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shekhina, in fear and in love to unify His Name, Yud Kay with Vav Kay, in perfect unity, in the name of all Israel.”
- Deut. 4:4.
- Rambam, Laws of Tshuva, 3:1; Kiddushin 40B, “Someone who does one mitzvah turns the world to merit.”
- Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 1:3.
- Tehillim, 68:35.
- Tehillim, 137:4.
- Ibid, 126:2.
- Ohr HaChaim, Deut, 26:1.
- Ramban, Supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment #4.
- Ketubot, 75A.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, 7:18, “The encompassing soul of Clal Yisrael doesn’t rest on the individual Jew except in Eretz Yisrael. As soon as a Jew comes to Israel, his individual soul is engulfed in the great light of the encompassing soul which enters inside it.”
- Samuel 1, 17:26, and 45. Shavuot, 35A-B. Orot, Pg. 24, Ch. 8.
- Sifre, Reah, 12:29.
- Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah, 138.
- Ketubot 111A.
- Isaiah, 4:3.
- Ramban, Levit. 18:25, “For the essence of all the precepts is that they be performed in the land of Hashem.” Also, Kuzari, 5:22.
- See the commentary to Chapters Four and Five on “Eretz Yisrael” in this book.
- Bereshit Rabbah, 16:7. Sifre, Ekev, 1.
- Midrash Tehillim, 105.
- Ketubot 75A.
- Tehillim, 87:5-6.
- Exodus, 28:30.
- Orot, Pg. 21, Ch. 3; Pg. 23, Ch. 6.
- Shmot Rabbah, Mishpatim. Introduction to Tikuney Zohar. Also, Avot, 1:18. “Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel says, The world endures on three things; Mishpat, truth, and peace, as it says: `Truth, and Mishpat, and peace, you shall judge in your gates.’ (Zacharia, 8:16)” Here, Mishpat is found as the middle pillar between truth and peace.
- Genesis, 1:1, Rashi.
- Maharal, Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 1.
- Exodus, 28:9,21,28.
- Yoma 73B.
- Ramban, Exodus, 28:30.
- Jeremiah, 9:23; 23:5; 33:15
- Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Ch. 12.
- Ibid, 4:10.
- Ibid, 12:5.
- See, “Celebration of the Soul,” HaRav Moshe Tzvi Neriah, Translated by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe, Genesis Jerusalem Publications, Pg. 265.
- See the Admore of Ostrovtza, “Hasidut and Zion,” The Masters of Poland Return to Zion, on Devarim Rabbah 2:5.
- Maharal, Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 11; Orot, Orot Yisrael, 9; Essays of Rabbi Kook, On Hanukah, Pg. 152.
- Tehillim, 27:8.
- See commentary to “Lights on OROT,” Vol. 2, War and Peace, Chapter Eight. Also, Maharal, “Mitzvah Candle.”
- Exodus, 3:2.
- Ibid, 19:18.
- Ibid, 40:38.
- Leviticus, 6:6.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, 9; Maharal, Tiferet Yisrael, Ch. 1; Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 2:4, “The Kedusha of the Clal.” Letters of Rabbi Kook, Letter 555.
- Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 3, “Yisrael and Torah.”
- Kuzari, 2:56.
- Ibid, 2:12.
- This is the theme of Tehillim 137 which expresses the eternal longing of the Jewish people for true Jewish life in Zion.
- Berachot 8A.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, Pg. 163. A translation by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe appears in “Celebration of the Soul,” Pg. 264.
- On the verse, Isaiah, 12:3, “With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation,” the Targum explains this as meaning, “With joy you shall welcome a new learning from the elite Tzaddikim.”
- See, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 5, Ahavah.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, 4:3.
- Letters of Rabbi Kook, Part 2, 187. See also, “Selected Letters,” Maalot Publishers, Edited by Tzvi Feldman, Pgs. 250_269.
- Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 1, Pg. 183.
- Mesillat Yesharim, Ch. 19.
- Orot, Orot Yisrael, 1:2: “Knesset Yisrael is the revelation of G-d’s hand in the world, in all existence, in a national format.”
- Rabbi Akiva on Shir HaShirim, Mishna, Yadayim, 3:5.
- Shir HaShirim, 8:6-8.
- See Rashi on Shir HaShirim.
- Shir HaShirim, 1:5-6.
- Megilla 12A.
- Maharal, Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 11.
- Berachot 57A.
- Zohar, Levit. 73A.
- Tehillim, 119:127.
- Deut. 4:1-2.
- Ibid, 4:5.
- Ibid, 4:14.
- Ibid, 6:1.
- Ibid, 6:3. See also, Deut. 5:28; 5:30.
- Kuzari, 5:23.
- Ibid, 5:22-28.
- Bereshit Rabbah, 39:3.
- Berachot 61B.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1.
- Shir HaShirim Rabbah, 2:14.
- OROT, Orot HaTechiya, 44: “We recognize that a spiritual rebellion will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the beginnings of the nation’s revival. The material comfort which will be attained by a percentage of the nation, convincing them that they already have completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the nation will plunge and sink until a storm of revolution will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of G-d and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor which triumphs over all of the worlds and all of their powers…. When the material drive surfaces, it will erupt with the fury of stormwinds, and these are the pangs of Mashiach which come to refine and purify the entire world through the pains which they cause.”
- Ezekiel, 36:27-28.
- Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 43.
- Leviticus, 18:5.
- Kohelet, 12:13.
- Midrash Tehillim, 56.
- Tehillim, 116:9, see Rashi, there. Tehillim, 142:6, see the Radak. Isaiah, 26:20, and 53:8. Ketubot 111A.
- Ketubot 111A.
- Hazone HaGeula, Ch. 1, “And we learn from this the great level of a person who yearns to return to the Holy Land even for the material aspects of the nation, for in its relation to the Clal, every physical manifestation is always transformed into the spiritual.”