Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L wrote a very important 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 was published in HaTor (the weekly periodical of the Mizrahi movement). 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 this difficult time, we are besieged by many troubles from without, sufferings that afflict the entire Jewish people. But our greatest pain comes from our troubles within. We lack unity, shalom bayit, in the House of Israel. Let us recall the days and events recorded in the Scroll of Esther, written with prophetic inspiration. For God’s spirit transcends the passage of time and transient ideologies. Esther’s eternal words — “Go gather all of the Jews” — must rejuvenate us and elevate us from our lowly state.
Is Unity Possible?
One may ask: Is it really possible nowadays to gather all of the Jews together? Is it possible to unite all of the different factions and parties? How will the bones, scattered across the vast valley of exile — both material and spiritual — once again form that entity known as Klal Yisrael, and set forth its demands for renewal and redemption?
The answer is that there is a place where this dispersion, both physical and spiritual, cannot rule over us. But you object: We see with our own eyes the terrible internal strife. Jews rise up against Jews, brothers turn against each other like wolves and snakes. How can we say, “Go gather all of the Jews”?
Whoever thinks that Haman erred when he said, “There is one nation scattered and divided” (Esther 3:8), is mistaken. Indeed, the Jewish people are scattered and divided. But, nevertheless, it is one nation. You may wonder how a nation may be simultaneously united and divided. The world is full of wonders. This nation, whose very survival throughout history is replete with wonders and miracles, demonstrates by its very existence that it is, in its essence, one nation, despite its dispersion and disunity.
True, the afflictions of exile have divided us. But “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie.” The exile and all of its horrors must come to an end. The wind has begun to blow from the four corners of the earth, from the troubles surrounding us, and from the spiritual revelation which stirs us to return and be rebuilt in our homeland. Now we are nearing the realization that there is a cure for the malady of our dispersion and division. In the final analysis, we are, and will always be, a united nation. Israel shall once again rise to the eternal words, “Go gather all of the Jews.”
Our Hidden Spirit
Yet the difficult barrier obstructing the path of redemption remains: the divisive discord that consumes us. The answer is that a person has two aspects. Medical procedures utilize the body’s inner resources of vitality and health. This inner spirit is so hidden that even the patient is unaware of its existence.
Spiritual maladies and their physical manifestations only infect our lower aspect, the side which we see. But our hidden, unknown side always bursts with energy. It is brimming with life and strength. This hidden repository of health has the power to heal the outer self, which can mislead us into thinking that we are sick and feeble, when in fact we possess a healthy soul, full of life and vigor.
That which is true for the individual applies to a much greater degree to the entire collective. Klal Yisrael in particular is truly one nation: “And who is like Your people, Israel, one nation in the land?” (I Sam. 15:19) We must admit our error in identifying ourselves, the essence of Israel, with the nation’s superficial appearance, with its outer, baser side. This self-image makes us cringe and tremble. We judge ourselves solely on the basis of our dispersion and inner strife.
The Hamans of every generation strike at us with their venom and hatred. Especially in this period of transition, they perceive our weak side, for it is visible and recognizable. But precisely through these tribulations we will come to the realization that we possess a previously unknown, collective soul — a great national spirit whose existence we had forgotten. It abounds with vitality; it has the strength to renew our lives as of old, and repel all of the Amalekites who wish to assault our weak and feeble.
This hidden Judaism, unknown even to ourselves, this great soul of a great nation, bearing both the suffering and the light of the world within it, will become known to us during these portentous times. The blessing of “Go gather all of the Jews” will emerge from its hidden place inside the nation’s soul. Every Purim we must appreciate the great inner repository of our blessedness and our essential trait of unity, which will vanquish our divided side.
From a state of being unable to “distinguish between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai” we will attain a higher awareness: the ability to uncover the hidden traits of Israel within us. Fellow Jews will recognize one another and join hands. And a mighty voice will be heard, “Let us rise up and ascend to Zion, to the house of our God” (Jer. 31:5)
(Adapted from Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, pp. 155-157, and Celebration of the Soul by R. Pesach Jaffe, pp. 126-129.)
Thanks to Rabbi Chanan Morrison for this presentation: His website offers wonderful Rav Kook teachings – http://www.ravkooktorah.org/PURIM_66.htm