“There is the one whose soul expands beyond the boundary of Israel. They sing the song of humankind. Their spirit expands to the noble essence and genius of all humanity.”
Rav Kook’s understanding extends to the universal circle of all humankind. He explains the process by which we reach beyond our national experience and connect as Israel to all the people and nations of our planet. He describes the universal ethical imperative of improving the life and behavior of all humankind. His visionary teachings elaborate on what we can do to contribute significantly to facilitate planetary redemption.
The Jewish, Christian, Muslim Conflict (and Resolution):
וְשָׁפַט֙ בֵּ֣ין הַגֹּויִ֔ם וְהֹוכִ֖יחַ לְעַמִּ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבֹותָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֹֽותֵיהֶם֙
לְמַזְמֵרֹ֔ות לֹא־יִשָּׂ֨א גֹ֤וי אֶל־גֹּוי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּ עֹ֖וד מִלְחָמָֽה׃
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
This is the day and the experience that all peace loving souls crave. And yet we seem to be so distant from that. How can we reach that mutual loving and caring state that Isaiah prophesies?
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, TZ”L addressed this in an extraordinary letter that he wrote in 1908. He had been in Israel and serving as the Chief Rabbi of Yaffo and the new settlements for almost 4 years. The letter was written to Rabbi Pinchas HaKohen, chief of the Bet Din-Rabbinic Court of Birz in northern Lithuania.
After elaborating on the need in the Yishuv for “a new type of Yeshiva…in which the mystical aspect of the Torah…will have a prominent part”, he addresses Judaism and other religions:
“I will state to your honor my opinion, that it is not the aim of the enlightenment that emanates from Israel to absorb or destroy them, just as it is not our aim to destroy the world’s different nationalities. Our aim is to perfect and elevate them, to purge them of their dross.”
In the same way that Avraham Avinu worked to raise human consciousness beyond the blindness of idolatry and towards the clarity of a unified creation and Creator, Judaism is called upon to raise religious consciousness beyond “the conception of God (that) is crystallized among people in a particular form, going back to childish habit and imagination.” (Orot, Essays-יסורים ממרקים-The Pangs of Cleansing)
The Torah describes the unfolding of human history in Breishit-Genesis.
The family of Avraham, Itzchak and Yaakov form the basis of the Jewish people. Avraham’s son and Itzchak’s half brother, Ishmael becomes the progenitor of the Arab people and the nation which was (forcibly) converted to Islam by Mohammed (570 c.e.-730 c.e. and his followers).
Yaakov’s twin brother, Esau was seen by Jewish theologians and historians as the spiritual forefather of Edom-Rome and then Christianity.
The Torah describes in great detail the process of Yaakov/Israel’s return to his homeland after fleeing 22 years earlier from Esau’s wrath for his deceptive ‘stealing’ of the birthright/blessing. After expressing his trepidation Yaakov divides his family into two camps so that “if Esau comes and attacks one camp, at least the other camp will survive” (Genesis 32:9).
And then the meeting occurs: Jacob “prostrated himself seven times as he approached his brother. Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, fell upon his neck, and they kissed and wept” (Genesis 33:4) Their reconciliation continues and Yaakov says to Esau ‘seeing your face is like seeing the face of God (Elohim)” (Genesis 33:10).
Rav Kook derives a startling prophecy from this interaction and statement.
“(Jacob’s) word shall not go down as a vain utterance. The brotherly love of Esau and Yaakov, of Itzchak and Ishmael will assert itself above all the confusion that the evil brought upon us by our physicality has engendered.
It will overcome them and transform them to eternal light and compassion.”
The loving after years of enmity is a foreshadowing of the loving meeting that will occur historically between all the children of Avraham in the latter days of history. As Rav Kook says explicitly: “This broad concept, sweetened by the enlightenment of the true teaching of the Torah (perhaps a reference to Kabbala) must be our guide in all our ways in the end of days, to seal/complete our understanding of the Torah with the Messianic imprint by turning the bitter to sweet and darkness to light.” (Igrot 1:112)
Events of the past century have continued for the most part to grow the hatred between religions. These have turned to armed conflicts in numerous times and places with new potential battlegrounds looming all over the planet.
The Torah however teaches us that this is not the end of history but a turn of the wheel that is moving inexorably to reconciliation, harmony and universal love. There is much for us to do to achieve this aim, but an important beginning point is to realize that this is the goal of history and we are here to serve this divine unfolding of love and shalom.
May we be so blessed.
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT KEDOSHIM: HOW TO CREATE A WORLD OF UNIVERSAL LOVE
“The objective of the entire Torah is to remove the roadblocks so that universal love will spread and extend to all realms of life.” (Rav Kook)
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT VAYAKHEL: WE MUST BUILD A TEMPLE OF GENEROSITY AND KINDNESS
“The holy temple must be built in our inner spirit every day through thoughts and acts of kindness and compassion. We need to know that when the longing to be good to all is intensified in us an illumination from the higher realm has reached us.” -Rav Kook ZT’L
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT TETZAVEH: HOW TO ILLUMINATE LIFE
“We must kindle the light of eternal freedom and loving unification for all existence.”
RAV KOOK ON MISHPATIM: THE ISRAELITE WAY OF LIVING LAWFULLY
“These are the laws of the higher moral Torah that is engaged in the quest for universal good.” Rav Kook ZT’L
RAVKOOK ON PARSHAT VAYESHEV: THE DIVINE COINCIDENCES THAT MOVE HISTORY TO ABSOLUTE GOOD
“We must recognize that even the most distant and seemingly unrelated actions and events are part of the precise-Divine Providence bringing existence to its highest good.”
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT VAYISHLACH:RESTORING THE BROTHERLY LOVE OF YAAKOV AND ESAU
“The brotherly love of Esau and Yaakov and of Yitzchak and Ishmael will overcome all the disturbances and transform them to eternal light and compassion.”
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT VAYETZEH: THE HOUSE OF JACOB’S UNIVERSAL MISSION
“The descendants of Yaakov Avinu must help humankind emerge from terrible spiritual and physical suffering and to bring it to a life of freedom full of splendor and bliss.”
RAV KOOK ON PARSHAT VAYERA: PERFECTING THE WORLD DOING RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE
“We must bring humankind out of its physical and spiritual suffering to a life of freedom full of splendor and delight.”
RAV KOOK ON NOACH: HOW TO BE A COMPLETE TZADIK IN OUR GENERATION
“Noach was the complete tzadik of his generation because he fully integrated his emotions and intellect and was thus able to walk with Elohim.”
RAV KOOK ON BREISHIT: BEGINNING NOW AND AGAIN AND BETTER THAN EVER
“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. ”