In our generation, there are many souls who are very deficient in the area of free will.  Therefore, they are infected with many evil deeds and extremely evil beliefs, may God protect us.  Nevertheless, the light of segulah shines within them.  Therefore, they deeply cherish Klal Yisrael (the Jewish collective) and desire Eretz Yisrael.  They also excel in a number of good and precious character traits, which are ingrained in their souls from the segulah of Israel.

Rabbi Kook on Loving Other Jews in the Generation of Redemption  

(Excerpted from the book “The Dawn of Redemption” by HaRav Yaakov Filber. Part 3, Ch.9. Translated by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman. More of Rabbi Lichtman’s books and shiurim on Torat Eretz Yisrael can be found at:

In his letter to the Ridbaz (Iggrot HaRe’iyah 555), Rav Kook zt”l explains what the proper approach is to loving fellow Jews in our generation:

You [originally] wrote that you were astonished that I embrace everyone, even the sinners of Israel, in order to bring them back to the fold.  I replied [and explained] my reasoning, alluding to the fact that a person capable of studying the innermost secrets of the Torah is more imbued with the light of kindness emanating from the Torah of kindness, and he must strive to rectify the fallen and bring the distant closer [to God].  In the language of the kabbalists, this is referred to as “gathering the holy sparks from the husks.”  But you felt that this contradicts the blessing in which we beseech [God] to uproot and crush the heretics.

Please pay attention to my words, honorable gaon, and I will explain the matter to you in simple terms, not in the Torah’s esoteric language, which you are convinced that you do not know…

Your Honor should know that there are two essential concepts that, together, build the holiness of Israel and God’s connection to the Jewish people:

The first is segulah – the holy nature within the soul of a Jew, [passed on] as an inheritance from the Patriarchs, as it says, Not because of your righteousness… (Devarim 9:5), The Lord cherished only your forefathers, to love them, and He chose their offspring after them (ibid. 10:15).  [It also says], You shall be to Me a treasure (segulah) from among all the nations (Shemot 19:5).  Segulah is an inner, holy force that rests within the nature of the soul, at God’s will.  It is like the nature of everything else in existence, which cannot change at all.  For He spoke and it came to be (Tehillim 33:9), And He established them forever and ever (ibid. 148:6).

The second concept is bechirah, free will, which depends on good deeds and Torah study.  The component of segulah is much greater and holier than the component that depends on free will; there is no comparison whatsoever.  It’s just that there is a [Divine] covenant that [determines that] the [Jewish people’s] inner segulah will reveal itself in our times only according to the degree that bechirah aids in its revelation.  Therefore, everything depends on an abundance of good deeds, the sanctity of one’s faith, and Torah study.

HaShem Yitbarach, Who guides every generation with kindness, arranges the order of the souls that need to appear in the world.  Sometimes the force of bechirah intensifies, while the force of segulah remains in a state of concealment and is unrecognizable.  Other times, the force of segulah intensifies, while the force of bechirah remains in a state of concealment.  The main efficacy of brit avot [the covenant God made with the Patriarchs] – which never expires, even when the merit of the Patriarchs ceases to exist – comes from the force of segulah.

At the time of the footsteps of Mashiach, the force of segulah intensifies in great measure.  This is the essence of “He remembers the kindness of the Patriarchs and brings a redeemer to their descendants, for the sake of His name, with love” (from the Amidah prayer).  That is, [God will redeem us] not by virtue of [our] bechirah, which emanates from the good deeds and penitence of the descendants; rather, “for the sake of His name,” which is expressed by way of remembering the kindness of the Patriarchs.

Rav Kook adds that it is possible, at times, for a Jew to lose his segulah, but that is only when he – God forbid – hates the Jewish people and actually and enthusiastically attempts to harm them.  This coincides with the words of the Rambam in Hilchot Tefillah (2:1): “In the days of Rabban Gamliel, the number of heretics in Israel increased, and they would oppress the Jews…”  With them in mind, Chazal arose and instituted the blessing against the heretics, in which we pray that God uproot and destroy them.  And even this [blessing] was difficult for the Sages to establish, which is why R. Gamliel declared, “Is there not anyone who knows how to establish a blessing against the heretics?” (Berachot 28b).  [In the end], only Shmuel HaKatan was able to compose the blessing, for he was clear of any measure of hatred, as he was fond of saying: “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice” (Avot 4:24).  [He was chosen] so that he could have in mind, when instituting the blessing, specifically those who have completely lost their component of segulah.  Rav Kook continues:

In our generation, there are many souls who are very deficient in the area of free will.  Therefore, they are infected with many evil deeds and extremely evil beliefs, may God protect us.  Nevertheless, the light of segulah shines within them.  Therefore, they deeply cherish Klal Yisrael (the Jewish collective) and desire Eretz Yisrael.  They also excel in a number of good and precious character traits, which are ingrained in their souls from the segulah of Israel.

Some people lack deep insight and a discerning eye to be able to distinguish between the inner, holy segulah side of such souls and their corrupted bechirah side, which surrounds their spirits like thorns and thistles surround a rose.  If such a person insists on drawing them near [to the Torah’s ways], he can – God forbid – damage himself greatly, [by] learning from their ways and clinging to their evil side.  [Therefore], he must stay far away from them.  Moreover, HaShem places in the heart (of a person who does not know how to distinguish between the positive segulah and negative bechirah) this desire and thought of hatred and separation, so that he will not be harmed.

[The only one who should engage these bechirah-deficient souls], however, [is] one whose thoughts are constantly engrossed in examining things deeply, through the light of Torah, holiness, and a lofty fear of God – [a fear] that stems from the exaltedness of the Master of all Worlds, the Life of all Life, blessed be He – as opposed to, God forbid, a lowly fear [of God], which stems from the punish-ments of this world and the next, which is an external fear.  It is forbidden for scholars who study the secrets of the Torah in a deep way to [utilize such fear] in abundance; rather, they may take a little of it, in order to afflict the body and its crude inclinations, in the areas of bad traits and disgraceful characteristics, God forbid.

The main thing is that the heart needs to be filled with sacred love and exalted fear [that comes] from the counsel of the holy ones, like the fear of the exalted angels, the mighty ones who do [God’s] bidding.  Torah scholars such as these naturally recognize the nature of the inner segulah, and they know how to separate the bechirah-based shell from it with the devotion of their thoughts.  They are obligated and cautioned to [reach out to] sinners who have an inner segulah and bring them closer [to God], in order to arouse, more and more, the force of good that is hidden in them, until they completely overcome the bechirah-based evil and subdue it.

The actions of such “soul-procuring” scholars are never cast aside [completely].  Sometimes, their efforts are clearly visible. [This happens] when those who they have brought closer [to God] improve their ways and straighten out their viewpoints in a more practical way.  Other times, only an inner kernel enters the [souls of these wayward sons], and they can be sure that they will not leave this world without first repenting.  And even if, God forbid, the person who was influenced is so delinquent that he himself will not be privileged to repent, the power of this kernel will have an effect on the nature of his soul [to the degree] that proper offspring will issue from him, and they will repent and rectify their father’s soul, in the sense of, “A son brings merit to his father” (Sanhedrin 104a).

[Elsewhere] in Iggrot HaRe’iyah (letter 50), Rav Kook zt”l was asked by a very distinguished rabbi how he should deal with his children who, unfortunately, strayed from Torah observance.  The Rav’s response:

I already told Your Honor, when you were here with us, that my approach is to utilize specifically the trait of absolute chesed when dealing with the youngsters.  [We need] to tell them that their inclinations contain several good aspects, and that their main mistake is that they think that the things that they consider good are against the Torah.  The truth is that they are integral parts of the Torah.

Therefore, even though it is fitting to give them the freedom to learn writing [skills], languages, and [other] wisdoms, as much as they desire, nevertheless, it is [also] fitting that they view an affection for Judaism and mitzvot – at the very least the main and more-stringent (mitzvot) – as an act of chesed and justice towards Klal Yisrael.

We must explain to them, on their level, that it is proper for any person to perform an eternal favor for his nation, by causing the things that are, and always have been, sacred to it to dwell in its midst.  And a Jew must feel the propriety of this in a greater way, because even the lowliest among us can, in any case, detect that we have some superiority over the other nations in terms of spirituality.  And it is improper for any upright individual to cause this superiority to be degraded.  On the contrary, one must cause it to be prominent, by acting in the ways of Israel, together with the [modern] education and new ways of life, according to the time period.

Rav Kook concludes there that, indeed, this method of explanation downgrades the concept of Judaism, but at the same time it is understandable to the youth, and that is preferred over attempting to forcibly elevate them above their level, by way of the enthusiasm that their parents feel in their hearts towards Judaism.  Such an approach will not only fail to work, it is liable to cause damage.  Therefore, the [proper] course of action is to bring them closer to the ways of Israel slowly, slowly.  “Eventually, when they move on in years, they will improve their deeds, and their children will be able to be better than their fathers.  May HaShem Yitbarach help us sway the hearts of the sinners of our Nation to [achieve] complete repentance.”

In a pamphlet entitled Keter Torah, the [famous] writer, Alexander Zuskind Rabinowitz, better known as Azar, relates the following:

Eventually, one of the sons of that rabbi came to Eretz Yisrael and visited Rav Kook.  He told the Rav that his father showed him the letters [he received from] Rav Kook and that they had a tremendous influence on him, to the point where he completely changed [his ways]; and he thanked the Rav for this from the bottom of his heart.

In his letter to the Ridbaz, mentioned above, Rav Kook writes:

There is no doubt that if Your Honor and other great leaders of our time (may they live) would support me, join me, and act as I do – as much as possible according to their capabilities – God’s name would be sanctified, great peace and blessing would flow upon the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, very many [Jews] would repent wholeheartedly, and the pride of salvation would truly and speedily spring up, with a proper revelation, for the House of Israel.  It is utterly impossible to imagine and describe how much goodness, holiness, and universal rectification would blossom from this.





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