WHAT WOULD RAV KOOK ZT”L SAY TO THE NATION OF ISRAEL TODAY?
Medinat Israel-The National State of Israel is an extraordinary place. The return of B’nai Israel-The Children of Israel to their ancestral homeland is an extraordinary historical event that is unfolding before our eyes. The process of the modern rebuilding of Israel has been and continues to be full of extraordinary challenges and accomplishments.
As we approach the 75th celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut/Israel’s Independence Day, we must acknowledge that the Children of Israel are currently strongly divided and conflicted about the foundational structure of Medinat Israel-The State of Israel.
Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L (1865-1935) was the spiritual visionary and activist whose entire life and being was dedicated to the material and spiritual rebuilding of the people of Israel in the land of Israel. Through his activities as Chief Rabbi of Yaffo (1904-1914) and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem (from 1919) and of Israel (from 1921 till his passing) he gave spiritual inspiration and direction that helped lead to the creation of the State of Israel.
Rav Kook was actually the first person in history to use the words ‘Medinat Israel-State of Israel’. In 1911 in Yaffo he wrote that a nation can only be a source of happiness for its citizens if it is “idealistic in its foundation; its very being must be engraved with the highest ideals. This truly offers the greatest happiness for each individual…This nation is our nation ‘Medinat Israel’-The National State of Israel, the foundation of God’s presence in the world. Its entire desire is that ‘God will be one and His name one’(Jer.14:9).” (Notebook 1: 188; Lights of Israel, Orot, Ch. 6:7)
It is now 112 years since he wrote these words.
The nation of Israel is divided into differing political and religious camps who share a deep caring for the well being of Israel while they are in a pitched battle over the core legal and legislative structure of their State.
What might Rav Kook say to the people of Israel today?
When we review Rav Kook’s voluminous writings, we find extensive discussion and guidance as to what the people of Israel must do in order to build the State of Israel in the Israelite way of wisdom and peace that is in line with the highest Torah of Israel.
In the beginning of Notebook 3, which he wrote in Yaffo in early 1914, Rav Kook described the core of the conflict that we are experiencing today and the path that we must follow to resolve it.
I am sharing the essential core of this entry while changing the order of a few passages for the sake of clarity and brevity. It is clear that the seeds of Israel’s current challenging conflict were already germinating in the early 20th century.
“Three forces are currently wrestling in our camp.
The three parties that are active in the life of our nation are:
1)The Orthodox party, as we are accustomed to call it, which carries the banner of the holy; it pitches stridently, jealousy, bitterly for Torah and commandments, faith, and all that is holy in Israel.
2)The new Nationalist party, which campaigns for all the aspirations of the nationalist tendency…which desires to renew its national life completely…
3) The Liberal party,which carries the banner of Enlightenment…It does not fit into the nationalist scheme and seeks the universal human content of the Enlightenment, culture, ethics and so forth…
We would be very unfortunate if we allowed these three forces to remain scattered, mutually antagonistic and schismatic. They must necessarily unite to aid and perfect each other. Each will thus check the extremism of the other.
The Holy, the Nation, and Humanity- these are the three major demands of which all life, our own and everyone’s, is composed…
The necessary blending of these three great demands must arise in every group that aspires to future life. When we observe our lives and see that these forces, despite their potential for synthesis, are increasingly divided, we are called to come to the rescue.
The foundations of the schism consists of the negative aspects that each force views in its counterpart…
Divisiveness where there should be unity brings about the gradual emptying of spirit…Then each adherent to a specific group is filled with fiery energy to negate the other group or groups that he refuses to recognize.
When life is like this, the situation is terrible, the spirit is broken, the position of truth, its inner awareness together with its loves, falters and disappears because truth has been parceled into separate areas….
It is clear that in a healthy state there is a need for these forces together. We must always aspire to come to this healthy state in which these three forces will reign together in all their fullness and goodness. They must join in a whole harmonious state in which there is neither lack nor extra, since the Holy, the Nation, and Humankind will cleave together in a lofty and practical love.
The individuals and the parties, each of whom finds their talents best suited for one of these three areas, will join together in friendship and recognition of the positive mission and contribution of the other…Each will recognize the positive aspect of each party…
When we look intelligently at the eruptions from which we so much suffer in our generation, we know that there is only one way before us. Everyone, every individual and group, must take this understanding to heart.
Thus together with the defensiveness that each feels toward the particular party to which they are attached by natural temperament, habit and education, they will also know how to respect and use the strengths that reside in other persons and parties, in order to complete themselves and their own group…
In this manner, we can hope to arrive at a state of living worthy of one nation in the land.” (Notebook 3:1,2; Lights of Renewal, Orot Ch. 18)
We aspire for a glorious future life.
We are observing and seeing that the forces that need to be synthesized are increasingly divided.
We are called to come to the rescue.
Many people in Israel are ‘enslaved’ to their particular parties and perspectives. We must transcend our individual loyalties and embrace the collective identity of Israel.
Rav Kook is very clear that Israel must learn to unite the forces of holiness, nationalism and universalism. Differing focuses and priorities must not be a cause for conflict. They are in truth each offering their unique contribution to our collective efforts. Each passionate adherent to each party must also understand and respect the value, strengths and importance of the others.
We will thus be able to build a nation that is engraved with the highest ideals and is truly the foundation of the Divine Presence in the world. We will thus be able to build Medinat Israel together.
BeMhera BeYamenu/Quickly In Our Days.
The English translation of Rav Kook’s writing is based on Rabbi Bezalel Naor’s wonderful translation of OROT.- https://korenpub.com/products/orot-bilingual .
Please see here for more of Rabbi Naor’s important elucidations of Rav Kook’s revolutionary Torah. https://orot.com/