War is also Redemption (Tractate Megilla)
by Tzvi Fishman
While HaRav Avraham Yitzhal HaKohen Kook possessed a towering love for all people, and while his writings on love are often quoted during times of fraternal conflict and global war, one should not get the impression that Rabbi Kook was a screaming liberal who fostered the creed of turning the other cheek. For example, in the midst of World War One when the nations of the world were engaged in a savage outburst of killing and destruction, Rabbi Kook wrote the following:
“When there is a great war in the world, the power of the Mashiach awakens. The time of the songbird has come, the weeding away of tyrants… The present World War is filled with deep and awesome expectations which point to the Revealed End leading to the settlement of Eretz Yisrael. ‘Master of wars, the sower of righteousness, Who causes salvation to sprout… cause a new light to shine upon Zion. May we all be speedily privileged to enjoy its light.’”
During the midst of World War One, with his penetrating gaze and deep Torah wisdom, Rabbi Kook understood that Hashem, ‘the Master of War,’ was bringing about a new stage in the history-sweeping drama of the Redemption of Israel. Indeed, in the aftermath of the war, the Balfour Proclamation opened a path toward the creation of an internationally-recognized Jewish Homeland. Similarly, in the aftermath of World War Two, the State of Israel was established. Today, we can see how Rabbi Kook’s vision applies as well to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. No doubt one of the outcomes will be a great influx of olim in the continuing ingathering of the exiles to the Promised Land.
In his essays concerning war in his book “Orot,” Rabbi Kook goes on to analyze the inner causes which led to the devastating world upheaval. He writes:
“The moral repression found in the profane culture which exerted vast dominion over the nations, brought oppression to their hearts, and caused evil traits, diseases, and anger to multiply and be pent up in the depths of their souls. And now these are erupting their fetters through the horrendously bloody and awesomely cruel battles, which are more in keeping with their still unrefined natures.”
Rabbi Kook sought to explain how an enlightened, industrialized, and cultured Europe could unleash such destructive barbaric forces that brought the world to a cataclysmic and death-filled war. Some 20,000,000 people were killed and another 21,000,000 wounded. What went wrong?
The “profane culture” he writes about which grew to dominate Western civilization is the outgrowth of Christianity, whose doctrines of repression burst through Christianity’s outer guise of gentility and brotherhood into a monstrous storm of violence and hate. Rabbi Kook explains that in denying the Torah and its commandments, Christianity separated mankind from Hashem. Unlike the constant self-correction and moral improvement demanded by the Torah, through the diligent work of perfecting character traits, Christianity’s false show of morals proved impotent in uplifting man’s baser traits. Only the Torah, Rabbi Kook explains, has the unique power to refine man’s nature. All other disciplines, whether religious, secular, philosophical, or scientific, can add to man’s quantitative knowledge, but they cannot effect any lasting inner change.
In his eye-opening essays, Rabbi Kook teaches that Christian civilization, and the profane secular culture which grew out from it, knows what is evil, but does not know how to correct it. It learned about morals from the Hebrew Bible, but in cutting itself off from Israel and the commandments of the Torah, requiring only a statement of belief in the Christian messiah, it separated mankind from the one and only path to Hashem and true morality. Rabbi Kook uses the expression, “Forgetters of Hashem in their innards and carrying His Name on the lips,” (Orot, 2:8). According to Rabbi Kook’s Torah worldview, Christianity left man simmering in secular and pseudo-religious darkness in a cauldron of unrefined passions and lusts which finally exploded in the devastating world war. He continues:
“The sin of those who shed blood is saturated with stain – the evil kings of the land and the murderers who bring terror on the earth. ‘The land will not be atoned for the blood which has been spilled upon it except through the blood of those who spilled it’ (Jeremiah, 2:22), and atonement is sure to come – the total annulment of all of today’s cultural edifices, with all of their lies and deceit, with all of their evil pollutions and venomous poisons. The entire culture which flatters itself with melodious lies must be erased from the world, and in their stead will be established the kingdom of the high holy ones.”
Here we can see that although Rabbi Kook loved all of humanity, he wasn’t blind to the evil which existed in the world and he demands, in the light of the Torah and Prophets of Israel, that the evil culture haunting mankind be obliterated from the earth. In its place will shine forth the light of Israel:
“The light of Israel will appear, to establish a world whose nations are possessed of a new spirit, nations who will no longer speak emptiness, and who will no longer act contemptuously against Hashem and against His Mashiach, against the life-light of the world, and against the perfection and belief embodied in the eternal covenant of the Torah… Then it will be known and proven that only in Him, in the G-d of Israel, is there salvation, and the salvation of Hashem will surely come.
“The dissipation of the powers of the heathens, who are drunk with a poisonous cup, is sure to come. Hashem has opened His arsenal and taken out His weapons of war. Then the present-day culture will be totally erased, with all of its foundations, libraries, and theaters. And all of the vain and cruel laws, and the evil and sinful customs of life, will all pass away to oblivion. And Hashem alone will be exalted above all on that day… ‘And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all of the nations shall stream unto it’” (Orot, Chapter 2:8).
May it be soon.
[Based on the book, “War and Peace,” by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman.]