Regarding suggestions that the yishuv be divided in order to strengthen Torah observance, the Rav said on his deathbed, “Division is the basis of heresy. There is no permission for communal division in Israel”

Celebration of the Soul

[Rabbi Kook’s teachings and customs on Pesach have been excerpted from the book “Celebration of the Soul” by HaRav Moshe Neriyah. Translated by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe.]


Our Freedom

“The freedom which so greatly stirs us on the first night of the festival of our freedom — even during our years of exile and subjugation, we continued to express our yearnings for it, saying, “Now we are slaves; next year we shall be free men” — that freedom must gradually develop within us until the day arrives when the shadows vanish and our absolute liberty shines upon us, as fully brilliant and pure as the heavens. But we must learn to appropriate for ourselves that great spirit of liberty which shone upon us in our radiant periods, which blazed lightning like amid the first redemption from Egypt. The King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, appeared to us then in His great glory, drew us near to His service — which is our absolute freedom — and lifted us up from the degradation of foreign bondage, the toil of which is futile.

How are we to understand this unique freedom of ours? How can we integrate it into the reality of life? In particular, how can we relate it to the advances of our new life, when radiant flashes of national liberty are beginning to shine upon us through the mercy of the Rock of Israel, our everlasting Redeemer?

“The difference between the slave and the free man is not merely one of social position. We can find an enlightened slave whose spirit is free, and, on the other hand, a free man with the mentality of a slave. Intrinsic freedom is that exalted spirit by which man — as well as the nation as a whole — is inspired to remain faithful to his inner essence, to the spiritual attribute of the Divine Image within him; it is that attribute which enables him to feel that his life has purpose and value. But a person with a slave mentality lives life and harbors emotions rooted not in his essential spiritual nature, but in that which is attractive and good in the eyes of another, who thus rules over him, whether physically or by moral persuasion.

“We, vanquished in exile, were oppressed for so many hundreds of years by cruel masters. But our inner supernal soul is imbued with the spirit of freedom, the spirit of an internal self-knowledge, ‘Engraved upon the tablets’ [Ex. 32:16]. Do not read engraved [charut], but freedom [chierut]’ (Avot 6:2). Were it not for this wondrous gift bestowed upon us when we went forth to everlasting freedom from Pharaoh, the exile would have transformed the spirit within us into the spirit of a slave. But on the Festival of our Freedom we demonstrate openheartedly that we truly feel ourselves to be free men in our essence, and that our exalted yearning for the good and the sublime reflects our essential nature, which intuitively recognizes what is good.

“This inner liberty is gradually manifesting itself in the small steps of our national renewal, in limited amounts according to the measure of the redemption which is being revealed to us. By the inner light of this essential freedom, we shall move forward to increasingly assert our vigorous inner independence, an independence acquired through the revelation of the Shechinah, when God delivered us and our forefathers from Egypt to everlasting freedom.

[Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, pp. 157-8]


Freedom and the Banishing of Chametz

“Freedom and the banishing of chametz — these two symbolize the Festival of Redemption, Pesach, the Festival of our Freedom. What can we learn from these two interdependent concepts? The eternal answer is that there are two conditions required for redemption: One is physical emancipation from any foreign subjugation, from any force which enslaves the Divine Image in man by diminishing its value, its splendid majesty and noble sanctity. But this liberty is acquired only through the freedom of the soul, the freedom of the spirit from all that diverts it from the firm, straight path etched in its essential nature. Yet these two types of freedom cannot be achieved, neither by the individual nor by the nation as a spiritually unique collective, without the banishing from one’s domain of everything which inhibits freedom, namely, the chametz in the dough, whose threat is greatest when the light of redemption flickers.

“During such a period of transition, the slumbering forces awaken. Waves of life roar mightily. At this time of agitation, that which is lowly — both physically and spiritually — awakens, as do the most noble of positive life forces. Hence, great caution is required. The pioneers of redemption, the entire generation which is meriting to witness the first bud of the sprouting of redemption, will necessarily contain many thoughts, images, and teachings which tend to destroy, defile, and annihilate all glory and strength in Israel.

“Have not educators and leaders risen in our midst who stand at the helm of education and leadership and offer our children to Molech, who inoculate them with every foreign thought and insipid idea because they prefer alien shoots taken not from the fields of Israel, but from the vines of Sodom and the fields of Gemorrah? What has led us to the black depth of brotherly hatred which threatens to destroy and undermine all that has been accomplished through generations of superhuman toil and self-sacrifice? It is the absorption of the chametz of alien spirituality which is a hindrance at the time that the flourishing of our redemption is progressing. What has caused the blindness preventing us from looking Heavenward, from seeing how the Rock of Israel leads us on the wings of eagles to the heights of redemption? We must awaken and rise above the lowly bondage to all that is alien, be it expressed in foreign languages or be it expressed in our own tongue but with an alien, poisonous spirit. Let us go, brothers, to the Seder together. Let us recognize that we are children of royalty, a nation whose eternal destiny is freedom, that Israel is neither a servant nor a home-born slave, nor an object of contempt. So it has been from the day of the Festival of our Freedom, when we raised high the flag of freedom and of banishing the chametz within us by fulfilling the word of God, the Eternal Redeemer of Israel. Preserve the freedom and observe the banishing of chametz and thus speedily bring the complete redemption.”

[Olat Re’iyah II, pp. 2445]



When we speak of beginnings, the Rav once said, it is important to emphasize the pioneering origins, the labor pains which enabled the continuation. We learn this from God Himself. When He mentions the youthful devotion of the Jews, He does not mention their meritorious acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when they said, “We shall do and we shall hear” (Ex. 24:7). Rather, “I remember in your favor…when you followed Me in the desert, in a land that was not sown” (Jer. 2:2). The willingness to go into the desert and walk in an unsown land, the youthful devotion and bride-like love — these are what He recalls.


“By Excluding Himself from the Community, He Denies God”

“What does the wicked son say? ‘What do you mean by this service?’ [Ex. 12:26]. ‘You’ but not he. By excluding himself from the community, he denies God” (Haggadah). The very exclusion of oneself from the collective, separating oneself from the sanctity of Klal Yisrael, is itself a denial of God. The sanctity of faith is bound and sustained by the commitment to Klal Yisrael.

[Olat Reiyah II, p. 275]


Regarding suggestions that the yishuv be divided in order to strengthen Torah observance, the Rav said on his deathbed, “Division is the basis of heresy. There is no permission for communal division in Israel” (LiShloshah BeElul, p. 48).


In the summer of 1935, a group of German immigrants belonging to the Mizrachi in Eretz Yisrael threatened to form a splinter group. Prior to departing for an international convention, Mizrachi leaders met with the Rav and told him that both camps felt that the split was desirable. The Rav denounced divisive activity generally and the division of a religious party in particular. He concluded by quoting a Mishnah, “[Co-owners of] sacred writings [bound in a single scroll], even if both of them are willing, they may not divide them” (Baba Batra 1:6).


Elijah’s Cup

In the additional prayers recited in the Grace after the Meal following a circumcision, we ask God first to send us “His anointed one who walks with wholeness” and then to send “the righteous priest who was taken to concealment,” that is, Elijah. But Elijah is supposed to come before Mashiach. Why, then, is the order of the supplications reversed?

Elijah will indeed appear before Mashiach, but the footsteps of Mashiach — ‘ikvata d’Mishicha’ — will be felt before the footsteps of Elijah. The beginnings of the material aspects of the redemption, the building of the Land and its agricultural development, will appear before the spiritual awakening heralded by Elijah is felt. Therefore, we first request that God send “His anointed one,” for the material development of the Jewish people will precede the spiritual salvation wrought by Elijah. This sequence is alluded to in the verse “Save Your people and bless Your heritage, tend them and carry them forever” (Ps. 28:9) — first “tend” to their material needs in a rich pasture, and afterwards, “carry them,” raise them and elevate them spiritually.


While in London, the Rav wrote to his son:

I spoke on the last day of Pesach here to the “Sinai” youth group about the meaning of Elijah’s turning “the heart of fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers” (Mal. 3:24). The dominant quality in the younger generation is social; it is the source of the vigor of this new generation’s supernal spiritual ideals. But the quality of nobility dominates the older generation. Thus, the idolaters who were ignorant of this noble quality attributed a lesser stature to a person over fifty years of age because of the weakening of his social quality. They failed to realize that this trait was the result of a development of the noble quality, the supremacy of sacred thoughts, which in fact forms the basis of all society.

But the world is trapped in straits dividing the world of the fathers from the world of the children. The noble quality, when its social elements are absent, is impaired and unable to serve as the cornerstone of life, even the spiritual life. And the social quality, without the vigor of nobility, becomes atrocious. Hence, our longing for the advent of Elijah is built upon the power of unification of the social and noble qualities, the hearts of the children and the hearts of the fathers.

When the gates swing open, allowing movement between these two chambers — these two separate worlds, which appear to be diametrically opposed — the world will fill with light and the blessing of peace will spread throughout the universe. In the interior of the souls, fountains will well up in which the abundant nobility of heaven and the earthly society will blend fully. Then the statutes and judgments of the Torah of Moses will be reacquired by all of Israel, and the earth will be saved from the awesome destruction wrought by the separation of these qualities. And Elijah the prophet will appear “before the coming of the day of the Lord…to turn the heart of fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers” (cf. Mal. 3:22-24).

[Igrot III, pp. 37-8]


Slavery and Freedom

From those distinctions which we are explicitly commanded to make — “between the sacred and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of activity” (Havdalah) — we may learn about those which are not explicit. The difference between slavery and freedom should be included among the categories of distinctions. It is difficult to grasp the concept of slavery in its entirety, to understand how to free oneself from its shackles and stand upon the expanse of freedom, to shake off the accursed status of the slave and acquire the blessedness of the free man. It is also difficult to fully comprehend the concept of freedom and commit oneself to genuine freedom, rather than that counterfeit freedom which is more dreadful and base than any slavery. This difficulty applies to every individual, with his unique character, his active and intellectual life, and it applies, in a higher and more general manner, to the nation as a whole.

When we search for the chametz by candlelight, we also search the chambers of the heart in an effort to incinerate the chametz of slavery adhering to our souls. Thus we may enter the brilliant sphere of our Festival of Freedom in an exalted spirit. We are cleansed of all stains of bondage, both overt slavery, which degrades the glory of the soul and pollutes the nobility of the spirit, as well as that hidden slavery, falsified by fraudulent colors of superficial, second-rate freedom, which fools the blind masses. We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. The bitter herbs commemorate that slavery, for the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers in Egypt. The life of the slave whose spirit is enslaved is lowly but not bitter. An enslaved spirit cannot experience the torments of the degradation of bondage because this debasement befits his character. He may even find satisfaction with his lot and say, “I will not go free” (Ex. 21:5). When we were in bondage, we were subjugated under the hand of oppressors, but the radiance of our noble freedom — inherited by virtue of our holy lineage from the Patriarchs, divine princes among the nations — could not be totally extinguished. Our life of slavery was bitter. Yet, through the power of this hallowed legacy, we are able, even now, to distinguish between slavery and freedom, between that which befits our pure spirit and that which has penetrated our life through constant subjugations and exiles.

Let us endeavor to rejuvenate all of our resources through the power of liberty being created within us upon this Holy Land, where we are fully justified in feeling the greatness of our freedom in its refined, natural state. And on this sacred festival, the time of our freedom, the lights of freedom will shine upon us in their purity, distinguishing between slavery and freedom, between pure, genuine freedom and counterfeit freedom, whose very essence is stamped with the seal of slavery. Now the voice resounding from all of the House of Israel on the exalted Seder night, emerging from the depths of the heart with joy and with yearning — “Now we are slaves; next year we shall be free men” — is heard also among us citizens of the Land of our nation. This great voice shall awaken the collective voice of the entire nation, in all its dispersions, to proclaim from the depths of the soul, “Now we are here; next year we shall be in the Land of Israel!”

[Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, pp. 1634]


Pesach in Egypt and Pesach in the Future

During the magnificent hours of the night of the Festival of our Freedom, when hundreds of thousands of Jews recline at the Seder, their faces luminous in the brilliant glow of the exodus from Egypt…the question flashes in our mind: how can we join the past to the future with the bonds of the present?

In order to construct a bridge to join the past to the future in terms of the redemption, we must understand the unifying principle underlying the two essentially different redemptions. The exodus from Egypt was characterized by haste, the haste of the Shechinah, of Israel, and of the Egyptians. Everything occurred at lightning speed, like an arrow hurtling from the bow. A group of slaves who had nearly forgotten the pride of the inner soul dwelling within them as an inheritance of the Patriarchs, divine princes on earth, rose through the forceful hand of the Worker of Wonders to become a great and powerful nation, courageous and noble of spirit, the likes of which the world had never known. This wonder was wrought in order to separate this nation from all the dark confusion of the idolatrous nations populating the earth.

Contrast the redemption of the future, for which we are preparing, whose flag bears the inscription: “For you shall not go out in haste” (Is. 52:12). With slow steps we approach the future redemption. Its aim is not escape from the rest of the world, for we have already managed to illuminate many dark horizons and to purify the world at many levels. Indeed, the brilliant rays of our soul — strengthened by generations of self sacrifice to preserve the sanctity of our Torah and its lifestyle — have become radiant stars for many nations. Rather, the future redemption is gradually approaching with two noble objectives. The first is to complete the enterprise of our wondrous light in the world, to present that light in its pure, elemental form, cleansed of all the dross and crudeness accumulated through contact with many nations still soiled by the filth of idolatry. The second is to purge ourselves of all alien inclinations absorbed from mingling with the nations during the course of the long exile and its consequences. Only when we stand, as we did on the day of our departure from Egypt, on our own feet with the inner conviction to traverse the high places of the earth for the majesty of the Lord, Rock of Israel, then all the nations shall see our righteousness, and the justness of our freedom will be revealed and discerned across the entire face of the earth. But for a future redemption sustained by the vigor of the past redemption through the channels of the present, we require that trait of “not in haste” to draw energy from the great fountain of the speedy departure of the past redemption.

Would that all of our children standing now on the threshold of the upcoming redemption listen and recognize its noble objective and know that our current efforts and yearnings are necessary to enable us to bind the distant, bygone redemption with the redemption of the future. We must never become a nation whose past glory and splendid sanctity, though imprinted on itself and on the world by its glorious achievements and the sanctity of its wondrous return, become blurred through neglect and lack of appreciation of their worth, their dignity, and their awesome, towering height. We are summoned to stand before the entire world with a pure, refined soul which appears in its full glory on the stage of the world, to shine as an everlasting beacon for all the nations under the heavens. We are summoned to reveal ourselves as the single, wondrous nation, unique in its sublime qualities and singular life, against which no weapon that is formed shall prevail (cf. Is. 54:17). This is the attribute that binds the Pesach of Egypt with the Pesach of the future.

[Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, pp. 165-6]



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