RAV KOOK ON BREISHIT: BEGINNING NOW AND AGAIN AND BETTER THAN EVER
“The perception that dawns on a person to see the world, not as finished, but as in the process of continued becoming, ascending, developing-this changes us from being ‘under the sun’ to being ‘above the sun’ from the place where everything takes on new form. The joy of heaven and earth abide in us as on the day they were created.
In this luminous perspective one looks at all the worlds, at the general and human development, at the destiny of each creature, at all the events of all times.” -Rav Kook TZ’L (Orot Hakodesh 2:517)
We are beginning the new year again. For the 5783rd time.
The book of Breishit/Genesis. For at least the 2000th time.
The Torah describes the reality of time in existence as a simultaneous recycling circle and a spiral moving forward. And as a gateway to the Divine Presence.
“בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים- In the beginning Elohim Created” (Genesis 1:1)
Rav Kook explains that: “The Israelites are blessed with the capacity to see the Divine Light that fills the entire creation. The Torah begins with the creation followed by the name of Elohim. For the entire creation speaks of the glory of the Creator and even when His Name is not mentioned it soon becomes clear that the Divine will be revealed afterwards.” -(Maamrei HaRayah-246)
The Torah describes the discovery and experience of the Divine Presence through the experience of life of the people of the Bible. This is embedded into our very beginnings.
” וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ: זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם. –And Elohim created the Human in His image, In the image of Elohim He Created Him- Male and Female He Created Them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Rav Kook explains: “A foundation of the Torah is that the human is created in the Divine Image. The essence of this is found through the absolute freedom that humans have. As Maimonides points out in Hilchot Tshuva-The Laws of Return (4:5)- ‘without the foundation of absolute human freedom, there would be no reason for the Torah to exist’.” (Pinkasei HaRayah, 2:16)
We are as the Divine, completely and utterly free.
What a blessing and a responsibility.
We are free to create, we are free to destroy.
We are free to love, we are free to hate.
And our choices have a huge impact on reality.
In the story of Noach, the Torah describes the Creator’s decision to end most human life:
” וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְנֹחַ, קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ. And Elohim said to Noach: ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me. The world is filled with human crime. I will therefore destroy them with the earth’.” (Genesis 6:13)
Rav Kook explains: “The Torah of Israel clarifies how the state of the world and human ethics are dependent on each other. It is clear that the improvement of the world is dependent on ethical improvement. This is the essence of the Israelite understanding of the Creator. ” (Notebook 1:499)
Therefore our doing of good is the most powerful tool we have for personal and planetary transformation.
“When the longing to be good to all is intensified in a person, then they know that an illumination from a higher realm has reached them. Praise be if they prepare a proper place in their heart, mind, actions and feelings to receive this noble light, which is the most precious asset on earth. Hold on to it, do not let it go. Do not allow any physical or spiritual impediment to keep you from welcoming this holy thought into your inner being. Battle against them, remain resolute. ‘Draw your knowledge from afar’(Job 36:3). This is emulating the attributes of the Divine, who is good to all and ‘whose compassions are over all His works’(Psalms 145:5).” ” טוֹב יְהוָה לַכֹּל , וְרַחֲמָיו, עַל כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו-The Creator is good to all and His compassions are upon all his works.” (Ibid).
We, created in the Divine Image, are invited to be good to all and extend our compassion to the whole creation.
As Rav Kook poeticized in 1912:
“It is the good that I desire,
Its glorious expanses entrance me.
Its lips, its roses, I kiss,
Its beautiful vision exalts me.
Absolute good, without limitation,
Without end, constriction or boundary,
That is not separate from anything alive,
That with it’s love, fixes everything broken.
Good for me, good for all,
Good without bad or tightness,
Good full of pleasure for all,
Full of tranquility without anxiety.
Good forever, good right now,
Good for every people and nation,
Who seek the good and not the bad,
And the light and the delight, ‘as the One is there’ (Genesis 21:7).”
May our desire for the absolute good be our catalyst for manifesting it.
With blessings from Jerusalem
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.haorot.com