THE WORLD IS BROKEN AND BREAKING.  Wildfires are ravaging the earth. A tiny invisible virus has been killing multitudes and terrorizing the human race for the past three years. And will continue to until…? 

Ecological disasters, global warming, climate weirding, unprecedented famine, war and violence. Everywhere, all the time.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L was deeply concerned about  Israel and the world. He saw the brokenness and devoted his life to repair. To tikkun-repair, fixing. To tshuva-return, penitence. 

The horrible condition of the human experience in the world moved him over a hundred years ago to write Orot HaTshuva-The Lights of Return. This 17 chapter book was published in 1925 and is his most well known writing. It must now become even better known.

The continuing horrible condition of the human experience invites us to return to these writings and draw from them the guidance and inspiration that we need to fix all that we have broken.

In the first chapter, Rav Kook outlines the three focal points that we need to repair in order to repair the whole. We will review these. Let us begin with the first:

He explains that the first area of tshuva is: Tshuva tiveet- in the natural realm…This may be divided into two parts: goofanit- physical and nafsheet-psychological. 

Physical tshuva is related to all transgressions against the laws of nature, and such laws of morals and the Torah that are linked to the laws of nature. Every act of wrongdoing/bad behavior must in the end engender illness and pain. The individual as well as society is exposed to much suffering as a result of this.” (Lights of Penitence; Chapter 1)

‘Transgressions against the laws of nature and morality engender illness and pain’. The smoke pollution of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s was probably the beginning of this transgressive behavior. It has continued and increased exponentially since that time. All realms of the natural world are suffering from this. 

Rav Kook continues: “After it becomes clear that we ourselves are responsible for our distress as a result of our misbehavior- we must give thought to correcting our condition, to conforming to the laws of life, to protecting the laws of nature, morality and the Torah. Thus we may be renewed in the vitality of life.” (Ibid)

The ecology and anti-war movements are signs of our attempts to conform to the laws of life and nature. They have to grow significantly to have a real and lasting impact on planet earth and humanity. The dictators, murderers and polluters are still in charge.

Rav Kook continues to explain the dynamics and importance of tshuva tiveet nafsheet-natural psychological repair:“The psychological dimension of natural tshuva is more inward. It embraces the role of what is called mussar klayot-the reprimand of the conscience [literally ‘call of the kishkes’]. It is a requisite of human nature to pursue the righteous path, and when someone strays from the right course, when they lapse into sin- their sensitivity will cause them disquiet and they will suffer pain if their soul is not yet completely corrupted. 

They will then hasten to repair the wrongdoing until they feel that their sin has been purged away….This is one of the foundations on which the essence of tshuva depends.”

Rav Kook is teaching us that we must allow ourselves to feel our inner conscience, individually and collectively, reprimanding us for our destructive behavior. Thus we can be more powerfully and internally motivated to act to repair everything we have broken.

“When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabba 7:13).

We must unite our spirits, minds, hearts and hands to repair that which we are continuing to break.

It is of utmost urgency.


Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, haorot@gmail.com , www.haorot.com

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