We must repair this world that we have broken and are breaking.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook wrote his masterwork “Orot HaTshuva-The Lights of Return/Repair” in the early 1900s to guide us in this most important and pressing task. We have reached the third step in this guide. 

The first step is ‘tshuva related to our transgressions against the laws of nature and morality’.We must take responsibility for our acts of wrongdoing in this area. We must ‘become obedient to the laws of nature, or morality and of the Torah so that we may be renewed in life’s vitality’.

The second step is ‘tshuva related to faith, religion and tradition’. Our faith and religion must be forces for love, kindness and justice- not hatred and control. We must ‘fix our faith and refine our religion’.

We now reach the third step: Tshuva sichleet-in the realm of thought. This comes after teshuva according to nature and religious faith have already taken place. It represents the peak of penitential expression.

This level of tshuva is inspired not only by a natural malaise, physical or spiritual, or by the influence of religious tradition, whether it has induced in the person a fear of retribution or conditioned him to the acceptance of some law or precept.

It is inspired by a comprehensive outlook on life that comes to crystallization after the natural and religious phases of tshuva had registered their influence.

This phase of tshuva, in which the previous are included, abounds in endless delight. It transforms all the past sins into spiritual assets. From every error it derives noble lessons, and from every lowly fall it derives the inspiration for the climb to splendid heights.

This is the type of tshuva toward which all aspire, which must come and is bound to come.” (Lights of Tshuva, Chapter 1)

This step in tshuva requires us to develop ‘a comprehensive outlook on life’. What does a comprehensive outlook entail? 

Rav Kook wrote extensively on this. Let us review some of his teachings: “When we soar on high as on eagles’ wings in the spiritual world, our soul stirs us to speak and to think about the most universal themes. All the values in the diverse aspects of our life present themselves to us in one embrace…all are held together and are woven to each other and they are organically attached to each other…All things are joined in a more comprehensive whole, different worlds are united.” (Lights of Holiness, 2:366)

“When one looks at the world from an ideal perspective, which has been illuminated by the light of the holy, one does not see particular beings in the aspect of their particularity. In every phenomenon, in every grouping, even the most minute into which beings and functions are differentiated, one sees the result of the unfolding of the whole…

Thus all existence rises above its unfortunate fragmentation and its disjoined particulars are rebuilt into a complete edifice…All existence is elevated when perceived in its true nature. Particularity develops to a form of the more general; it is robed in great, limitless universality…The branches are join at their roots and nourish themselves from their vitalizing substance. This harmony resounds in the spirit of every upright person, in every righteous person who loves righteousness.” (Ibid, 2:427)

“When we contemplate the physical creation as a whole, we realize that it is all one organism, that the parts are linked in varying gradations to each other. We see this in every plant, in every living being. We see this in humans, how our higher organs [brain, heart], which bear an important and ideal function are dependent, in their formation, in their being and continued existence, on lower organs…” (Ibid, 2:431)

What are the implications of this reality for our lives and actions?

“A chaotic world stands before us, as long as we have not reached the state of higher perfection of uniting all life forces and all their diverse tendencies. So long as each one exalts themselves, saying, I will be sovereign, I and no other, there cannot be peace in our midst and God’s name is not associated with us…

All life endeavors, especially the spiritual endeavors of thought, must be directed to disclose the lights of the higher general harmony. This is effected not by rejecting any force, any thought, any movement, any tendency, but by including each within the vast ocean of infinite light. There- all is united, all is elevated, all is exalted, all is hallowed.” (Ibid, 2:588)

And hence: “Great souls cannot dissociate themselves from the most universal concerns. All they desire and aspire for is the universal good, universal in its comprehensiveness, universal in its full width, height and depth.

But the whole is constituted of numberless particulars, particular individuals and particular communities. The whole cannot achieve its highest fulfillment except through the perfection of its particular individuals, and the particular communities, whether small or large, of which it is constituted…

When love possessed-people see the world, especially living creatures full of quarrels, hatred, persecutions and conflicts, they year with all their being to share in those aspirations that move life toward comprehensiveness and unity, peace and tranquility….They must join with the all and for the sake of all.

When they confront the human scene, and find divisions among nations, religions, parties, with goals in conflict, they endeavor with all their might to bring all together, to mend and to unite…They want that every particular shall be preserved and developed, and that the collective whole shall be united and abounding in peace.” (Ibid 2:456-7)

The foundation of prayer is loudly stating  morning and night so that all can hear: SHMA ISRAEL, YHVH ELOHEYNU, YHVH ECHAD- Hear Oh Israel, The Creator Of All Existence Is One. (Dvarim 6:4)

Rav Kook explains: “The affirmation of the unity of God aspires to reveal the unity in the world, in humankind, among nations and in the entire content of existence, without any dichotomy between action and theory, between reason and the imagination.

Even the dichotomies experienced will be unified through a higher enlightenment, which recognizes their aspect of unity and compatibility. In the content of our lives, this is the entire basis of holiness. In the life of the spirit it is the light of eternity, in which the temporal and the eternal merge in one whole.

This is the most august thought among the great thoughts that humans’ intellectual capacity can conceive. It is revealed to us through our receptivity to spiritual illumination. It may take us to the height of a revelation of the divine, by the way of reason, the knowledge called ‘paneem el paneem-face to face’(Exodus 33:11). (Ibid, 2:425)

Rav Kook is explaining to us that tshuva sichleet-in the realm of thought’ requires us to see the larger context in which we are alive. It requires us to “think about the most universal themes…all our thoughts must be directed  to disclose the lights of the higher general harmony.” 

We must “desire and aspire for the universal good”. We must ‘move life toward comprehensiveness and unity, peace and tranquility. We must join the all for the sake of all. 

We must urgently step beyond our individual identities and limits in order to develop a truly universal consciousness.

“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.” 

Be’Mhera BeYamenu-Immediately In Our Days


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

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