“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.
“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)
“Knesset Israel/The Community of Israel aspires to tikkun olam/repair the world in all its fullness and to effect purifying and original forgiveness. This comes not merely from the salvation of a human’s soul and improvement of their will….but rather from a comprehensive correction of the very cause of sins.” Rav Kook
“We see that the spiritual and practical fabric of civilization in its present state can not prevent, despite all its glorious wisdom, wholesale slaughter and fearful world-destruction.”-Rav Kook
“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
“We must raise our thought and will and basic preoccupations towards universality, to the inclusion of all, to the whole world, to the collective of Israel, to all existence.” -Rav Kook
“We must kindle and shine the light of eternal freedom and loving unification for all existence.” -Rav Kook
“The heart must be filled with love for all.
The love of all creation comes first, then comes the love for all humankind, and then follows the love for Israel. It is the destiny of Israel to serve toward the perfection of all things. 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
“All our thoughts must be directed to disclose the lights of the higher general harmony….When we confront the human scene and find divisions among, nations, religions, parties, with goals in conflict, we must endeavor with all our might to bring all together, to mend and to unite. We must preserve and develop every particular and our collective whole must be united and abounding in shalom-peace.”
“These are the laws of the higher moral Torah that is engaged with the quest for universal good.” Rav Kook ZT’L
“Atheism has a temporary legitimacy in order to purge away the aberrations that have attached themselves to religious faith because of a deficiency in perception and in the divine service….If religious faith is to be revitalized, a great effort is needed to deepen our knowledge of God.”- Rav Kook