From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The gradualness of progress in the universe, the limitations on nature and its ostensible slovenliness, the limitations on spiritual ascent, the transience of miracles – all these elements strengthen the foundation of the unceasing spiritual ascent which is the inner foundation of the universe”
(Erpalei Tohar 121)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“We Must go Forth and Occupy the Land”
The Desert Generation did not wish to go into the Land, to fight and to conquer it, and accepted the spies’ report that conquering the Land was an impossible, irrational mission, as it says: “‘We cannot go forward against those people!’ replied the men who had gone with him. ‘They are too strong for us.’ They began to speak badly about the land they had explored. They told the Israelites, ‘The land we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants’” (13:31-32).
Indeed, the people were convinced by the spies’ words, and they brought harsh arguments against G-d, Moses and Aaron, even wishing to replace them with different leaders: “‘Why is God bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will be captives! It would be best to go back to Egypt.’ The people started saying to one another, ‘Let’s appoint a [new] leader and go back to Egypt.’” (14:3-4).
The Desert Generation did not wish to accept the word of Joshua and Calev, who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” (13:30); and “The land through which we passed in our explorations is a very, very good land!” (14:7). Joshua and Calev understood that the generation’s weakness stemmed from the weakness of their faith in G-d and in His unlimited ability, and they told the people: “If G-d is satisfied with us and brings us to this land, He can give it to us – a land flowing with milk and honey. But don’t rebel against G-d! Don’t be afraid of the people in the land! They have lost their protection and shall be our prey! G-d is with us, so don’t be afraid!” (14:8-9).
The people, instead of accepting the words of Joshua and Calev, wanted to stone them. Moses, a great lover of Israel and a faithful leader, heard G-d say that He wanted to wipe them out: “I will kill them with a plague and annihilate them. Then I will make you into a greater, more powerful nation then they” (14:12). In response, Moses came out in defense of Israel, arguing that if G-d destroyed Israel, the nations would say, “G-d was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert” (14:15-16). By such means, G-d’s name would be profaned on earth. Moses therefore asked that G-d forgive them (14:19).
The spies’ negative talk about the Land made the Jewish People sink to a level of such weakness of spirit and faith that they wanted to retract on their original longing to go there, conquer it and to settle it. Instead they wished to return to Egypt. Today, similar arguments are unfortunately being heard from recent prime ministers. Out of their great weakness of faith in Israel’s ability to occupy the Land and to settle all of it, they have dreamt up dangerous, hallucinatory programs, calling them by various names – Disengagement… Convergence… Realignment – yet they are all the same thing, just dressed up differently. All of these plans weaken the spirit of the nation, pulling the rug out from under our just claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. They weaken the State of Israel and endanger its existence as a sovereign state, and they provide moral support to our enemies, giving them hopes of being able to destroy the State of Israel.
We very much need spiritual and political leaders who can breathe a different spirit into the Jewish People, unify them and strengthen their faith. We need leaders like Calev ben Yefuneh who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” and like Moses, who beseeched G-d, saying, “Forgive the sin of this people!” Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Has the Time Come to Learn Mysticism?
Many ask: Perhaps the time has come for us to delve into Jewish mysticism? The answer is not just “perhaps” but “certainly”. In any event, this is the vociferous opinion of our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, that this is the only way to save our generation from heresy, our greatest threat, and to restore the generation to repentance (Orot HaTeshuva 4:9).
Obviously, there is no slight intended here to all the other holy spheres of the Torah – gemara and halachah, ethics and faith. Yet none of these will succeed without the soul of the Torah, the mystical component of the Torah.
You might ask: Are we so much greater than previous generations? Does our studying mysticism not constitute arrogance? Shouldn’t the simpler parts of the Torah, so full of purity and holiness, suffice for us? The answer is that certainly, we are insignificant, but you cannot compare different generations, and now the time has come. Beforehand, it had not yet come.
For example, Rav Kook explains at the end of a long treatise that over the course of the Exile, all the nationalistic ideas were stored away in Jewish mysticism, because they did not belong to reality. Now, however, that the nation is rising to rebirth, we have to expose all of these concealed ideas that have to do with nationalism and having a state, so that we can revive the foundation of our rebirth. (Orot 117-118).
Obviously, that does not mean that the time has come regarding ALL the secrets. Rav Kook testifies about himself that it is hard for him to delineate which secrets will cause damage if revealed, and which will bring a blessing. He says this in the context of his discussing renewing the path to repentance. In the Exile, the concept of repentance was linked to reverence and submission, but now, that the light of salvation is shining forth, it should be linked to joy and fortitude. Yet we have to proceed with great caution lest our educating, with all our joy and fortitude, not nullify in the least the caution and reverence that was present down through the generations among fine, righteous Jews (Letter 378, printed at the beginning of Orot HaTeshuva).
Indeed, this is a very responsible consideration, but in general, the time has certainly come for the secrets of the Torah, as Rav Kook testifies about himself: “There is nothing from my own thoughts and opinions that does not have a source in the writings of the Arizal” (LiShlosha Be’Elul” I:46).
One might ask: Did our great master, Rav Kook, forget an explicit ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, that learning mysticism is just for people who are great in Torah, “once they have filled themselves with ‘meat and wine’, namely, the dietary laws and all the laws of the mitzvoth?” (Rav Moshe Isserlis’s comment on Yoreh Deah 146:4). This ruling was supported by all the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch. Surely he did not forget.
Rav Kook writes countless times that mystical knowledge is not for the masses, that anyway, they won’t understand a thing. Rather, it is only for elite few (Orot HaKodesh 1:46). The longing for mystical knowledge belongs to those elite individuals, not for those who throw around the terms without understanding their inner meaning (Letters I, page 232). Rav Kook writes:
“There is a great shortcoming to the standard student of Kaballah, in that he does not first employ his intellect, delving into the Torah’s sources to become wise in divine matters.” In other words, they don’t learn faith in depth. “Rather, they stuff themselves with the mysticism written in books. Through such study, their intellect is not elevated. All that happens is that sort of obscure emotion illuminates their being” (Orot HaTorah 10:7).
“Sometimes, lack of intelligence can bring a student to mysticism” (ibid., ibid., 8). “When, in fact, is it good to study the Torah’s secrets? After one has exhausted all the other holy fields of study” (ibid, ibid., 1). Mysticism is not for “those who cling to it without the proper preparation” (Orot HaTeshuvah 4:9).
Those people “take literally all of those holy secrets, which stand at the pinnacle of the universe, thereby increasing strife amongst Israel” by talking about the “mixed multitude” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 59).
If someone jumps ahead of himself, before he has learned conventional ethics, harm will result, and he will lose it all (see Rav Kook’s article on “Studying the Spirituality of the Torah” from Orot HaTorah, published by “Sifriyat Chava”, page 193). “Unless the intellect is first refined, studying Kaballah brings mishap to the world.” (ibid., page 225). “Lofty research at the wrong time causes illusions, religious hallucinations or heresy” (ibid., 240).
“Studying mysticism unprepared, jumping into it only out of weakness based on an inner yearning, coupled with laziness and idleness, causes the form of that mysticism to be blurred. This occurs when it is studied by people unconnected to reality, people who lack the capability to grasp the living world…” Orot page 93).
Rav Kook certainly knew that mysticism is only for the elite few, hence its study does not appear in the detailed curriculum he wrote for the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 62).
If so, what is the meaning of his call for the uncovering of the Torah’s mysteries? It means rewriting them in a conventional style, as he, himself, did in his many books, or as the Maharal did before him. Those elite, down through the generations, who studied the Torah’s secrets, elevate the generation by their influence upon, and through their illuminating all the spheres of life with the light of these lofty lights, thereby bringing the world eternal blessing. (Orot HaKodesh I:86).
Q: Is one allowed to burn copies of music disks?
A: Certainly not. It’s an infringement on copyrights. The artist invested in his work!
Q: Is one allowed to go to a comedy show during Sefirat HaOmer?
A: Certainly not. It’s forbidden all year long, because of the prohibition against “sitting with scoffers” (Psalm 1), all the more so during Sefirat HaOmer.
Torah lectures on the Bus
Q: Is one allowed to give a Torah lecture on Gemara in a loud voice on the bus when the rest of the passengers complain?
A: Certainly not. The bus is for them as well.
Q: Is there a concrete halachic prohibition against using obscene language?
A: Certainly, and it’s severe. See Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11.
Cheating on Tests
Q: Is one allowed to cheat on tests?
A: Certainly not. It’s a Torah prohibition against stealing ideas.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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