The 5 Foundations of Existence

Rav Kook’s primary student, HaRav David Cohen-HaRav HaNazir -after many years of deep immersion in Rav Kook’s writings- explained that Rav Kook’s understanding and presentation of existence is based on 5 foundational principles:

1. HAKODESH HAKLALI-EVERYTHING IS HOLY
“There is a holiness that builds and there is a holiness that destroys. The benefits of the holiness that builds are visible. The benefits of the one that destroys are hidden, because it destroys in order to build what is nobler than what has been built already” (Orot HaKodesh/Lights of Holiness 2:314). We must “take the deeper elements of good and holiness that have been embodied in the lower and superficial. Out of these we will build a new world, a world pervaded by a great light” (Lights of Holiness-2:314).

2. HA’CHAYUT HA’OLAMIT-EVERYTHING IS ALIVE
“You live in a world full of light and life…. And everything aspires, longs, yearns, according to a pattern that is adorned with holiness and girded with beauty. This life of yours is not a meaningless phenomenon” (Ibid 2:343).

3. HA’ACHDUT HA’KOLELET-EVERYTHING IS ONE
“All existence is included in one point” (2:391). “The affirmation of the divine unity 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” (Ibid 2:411).

4. HA’TOV HA’KLALI-EVERYTHING IS GOOD
After all, everything in the creation was deemed tov/good. We chose to also experience raa/bad. “And the Divine directive is to raise humankind and the world from the depths of bad to the heights of good. And humankind and the world [were] destined for this, as was the bad itself…. It will be elevated and transformed to good as it recognizes that its negativity is actually directed towards the universal improvement of the good” (2:475).

5. HITALOOT HA’OLAM-EVERYTHING IS RISING, EVOLVING, ELEVATING
In this case, I’ll introduce this principle with the quote from the Ramchal -Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (1797-1746) that the Nazir chooses to illustrate this point. The Ramchal was a primary elaborator of the Torah of the Ari HaKadosh-Isaac Luria (1534-1572) is hugely influential on modern Jewish thought: “The worlds were created in order to rise from their level. The descent and breakage is so that we can experience elevation little by little until everything will return to its wholeness. From the beginning of history the wheel turns towards one point — ‘ha’shlemut ha’acharon‘ — the final wholeness and perfection”(Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, 138 Gates of Wisdom, 30,131).

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