Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L wrote a letter to the people of Israel on Erev Purim,1934. It was a tumultuous time as Nazism was gaining power and the Zionist effort to reach out to Israel and the world was struggling. Rav Kook shared this timeless and timely message to all the factions of Israel. It continues to be extremely relevant to our current reality and its challenges. He began by quoting Megillat Esther and the Talmud:
“Go gather all the Jews” (Esther 4:16)- Rava said: ‘One is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim until they cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’. (Megillah 7b)
During these days of Purim, in these difficult hours, many adversities from outside are besieging and afflicting the entire nation of Israel. Yet the greatest anguish stems from our internal conflicts, because internal tranquility, peace in the House of Israel, is lacking.
Let us then recall the days and events that are recorded in the Scroll of Esther which was written with divine inspiration. This divine spirit transcends all passages of time and the changing ideologies of each generation. The eternal words ‘Go, gather all the Jews’ must once again revitalize us and elevate us from our degradation.
But one must certainly ask: Is it really possible to gather all the Jews?
How can one unite all the different factions and parties? How will the ‘bones scattered across the wide valley of exile’ [based on Ezekiel 37] – both material and spiritual- once again form that entity known as Klal Israel and put forth a demand for its strength, its renewal and a return from its captivity?
…After all, we see with our own eyes the awful internal strife, Jews fighting Jews, brothers turning against brothers like wolves and snakes. How then can one say,‘Go, gather all the Jews’?
Whoever thinks Haman was lying when he said, “There is one nation scattered and divided’ (Esther 3:8) is mistaken. Indeed this one nation is scattered and divided, but nevertheless it is one nation.
We should not question the possibility of a nation being united and divided at the same time. There are wonders in the world. This nation, whose entire existence in the world rests upon wondrous wonders, demonstrates by its very existence that it is essentially one nation-despite its being scattered and divided.
True, the malady of exile has scattered and divided us….But the Eternal One of Israel does not lie. The exile and its terrors must come to an end.
Now that the wind has begun to blow from the four corners of the earth, from both the troubles surrounding us and from the spiritual revelations that are stirring us to return and be rebuilt in the land of our life. We are now nearing the realization that there is a cure for the malady of our dispersion and division. In the final analysis, we are, and shall be, one nation, and Israel shall once again rise to the eternal words ‘Go, gather all the Jews’.
But the difficult problem blocking the path of redemption remains: dispersion and division are consuming us. We must understand that the answer is that each person has two aspects. Medical treatment of an individual draws from the inner springs of vitality and health dormant within a person’s soul. That inner soul is so hidden that the patient himself is usually unaware of its essence.
Spiritual maladies and their physical manifestations infect only the lower aspect of a person, the familiar side of which they are aware. But our hidden, unknown side is always bursting with energy, brimming with life and strength. This inner repository of health has the power to affect the outer self. We have been misled into thinking that we are sick and feeble when in fact we possess an energetic, healthy soul full of life and vigor.
That which is true for each individual applies to a much greater degree to the entire collective. Klal Israel is truly one nation: ‘And who is like Your nation, Israel, one nation in the land’ (Samuel 1- 15:29). We must therefore admit our error in identifying the essence of Judaism with its external appearance, its outer, baser side. This self-image has made us fearful. We are conscious only of our dispersion and division.
The Hamans of every generation, who strike at us with their poisonous hatred, particularly in this transition period, perceive our weak side, for it is visible and recognizable. But precisely through these tribulations we will come to a sense that we possess a previously unknown, collective soul, a great national spirit whose existence we have forgotten. It abounds with vitality and possesses sufficient power to renew our lives as of old. It enables us to withstand all of the Amalekites who wish to smite our feeble selves.
This hidden Judaism, unknown even to ourselves, this great soul of a great nation, which carries both the suffering and the light of the world within it, will become known to us during these portentous times. The blessings of ‘Go, gather all the Jews’ will emerge from its unknown place in the national soul.
Every Purim we must appreciate the great, hidden repository of our blessedness and wealth and the virtue of our oneness, which will vanquish our scattered and divided side. Amidst all the redeemers, emancipators and friends, amidst all the subjugators and enemies and their various councils, He Who sits in the heavens laughs, bringing us the light of salvation and redemption of the worlds.
From a condition of ‘until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’’ comes the supernal inclinations to find the unknown Jew within us. Brother shall know brother and they will join hands together. A mighty voice will be heard: ‘Let us rise up and ascend to Zion, to the house of our Lord!’ (Jeremiah 31:5)
And, as was said in the days of Mordechai and Esther, it shall be said again that there is one united nation, standing strong. This nation will rebuild its ruins through its hidden, internal repository in which the blessing of ‘Go, gather all the Jews’ is concealed.
‘One is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’ and let us say ‘L’chaim, l’chaim’ to good life and peace for all of Israel, and all shall say ‘Amen’.”
Translation by Pesach Jaffe.