RAV KOOK ON ‘TSHUVA/RETURN: HARNESSING THE LIMITLESS POWER OF THE WILL FOR GOOD
“The whole world is pervaded by harmony…Our inner moral sense and its powerful claims represent an echo of the unitary voice in all parts of existence.” (Orot HaTshuva, 8:7)
‘The whole world is pervaded by harmony.’ The scientific description of reality certainly demonstrates this in countless ways. The growth of human understanding has been the unfolding realization that we are all part of a precisely created unified unity. ‘It all fits together’.
With a few exceptions. War, disease, suffering, poverty are all strong experiences of the dis-harmonious. The physical world may be created perfectly, but we, human beings, are experiencing major imperfections in much of our experience.
The harmony that pervades all existence is not widely experienced in the human realm. The trees, animals and most other living things are living in perfect harmony with the unfolding of existence. We are decidedly not.
Rav Kook TZ’L explains the reason for that:
“Every moral severance in thought or deed, in character or disposition, creates many wounds that inflict many inner pains in all aspects of the soul. The basis of these spiritual pains is the disturbing force of withdrawing the light of life emanating from the general order of existence from the life channels of sinning soul”. (Ibid)
Our actions cause us to either be in connection with the harmonious force in existence or to separate and distance ourselves from it.
The pain of this separation serves as the fuel to our return to the harmonious:
“Sins are the essence of melancholy. When the soul undergoes cleansing, it experiences the very essence of its wrongdoings and the the melancholy of tshuva asserts itself. A fire of anguish, remorse, shame and a terrifying fear burns inside it. But in this very process it is purified.” (Ibid, 8:11)
That is the blessing of the Divine Goodness. The pain is the door to the liberation:
“Once our moral sense is awakened, the light of the soul immediately manifests, and by that light our whole self becomes subject to probing. We see our defects. We become agitated with a deep sense of anxiety because of our low state of perfection and our grave deterioration.
It is, however, precisely then for us to consider that this awareness and the anxiety that comes with it are the best signs pointing to full liberation through the perfection of the self.” (Ibid, 8:16)
‘The perfection of the self’. Is such a level of being accomplishable?
Rav Kook teaches that it is and that we have a powerful inner force that can help us reach that pinnacle:
“When the light of tshuva is constantly active, the important principle -that the goodness of the will is basic and all the inclinations in the world are only its implementation-becomes clear. The quality of will ennobled by holiness…asserts itself increasingly within us. We then come to recognize the true value of genuine success that depends only on the person and is independent of external conditions–and this is a will for the good.” (Ibid,9:1)
Our inner commitment to expressing our will for the good is our secret tool for personal and planetary transformation:
“For a good will that always abides in the soul transforms all life and all existence towards the good. By looking at the basic nature of existence with an eye for the good, one exerts an influence on existence and on the complicated processes of life so that they emerge from their deficiencies. All things then bloom and live in a happy state, as a result of the spiritual riches and the abundance that is contained in the good will.” (Ibid)
‘A good will…transforms all life and all existence toward the good.’ Through manifesting our will for the good we are instantly aligned with the Divine Will. Extraordinary power then rests within each human being:
“The mighty will…becomes a living force that engenders great and lofty things for good and for blessing…Morality, the impulse for equity and good, represents the central direction of the will of existence…As the tshuva process is deepened…the deeper becomes the attachment of our good side to the domain of free choice. Thus the light and the spiritual riches of our life are magnified now and for all time, and we and all existence rises to greater heights. We are illuminated with a higher perception of the highest good–that a disposition for the good is the universal foundation, the beginning and the end of all existence. ‘The Holy One is good to all and God’s mercies are over all His creations (Psalms 145:9)” (Ibid 16:2)
Our inner return/fusion with the universal will for good is transformative:
“We thus become a new being, we release with a resolute spirit the vibrations of a new way of life on all who are around us. We bring to our generation and to future generations the glad tidings of the joy of integrity, the joy of song out of our confidence of liberation, with celebration and jubilation.” (Ibid, 16:7)
There is no limit to our possibilities once we harness the power of the good.
“From the moment the mighty stream for the universal will for life turns toward the good, many forces within the whole of existence are stirred to reveal the good and to bestow good to all…Tshuva is inspired by yearning of all existence to be better, purer, more vigorous and on a higher plane that it is. Within this yearning is a hidden life-force for overcoming every factor that limits and weakens existence.” (Ibid, 6:1)
May we truly be agents for this life-force.
‘Bee’mehera be’yamenu-speedily in our days.’
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish , firstname.lastname@example.org, www.haorot.com .
Translations of Rav Kook are based on Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser’s masterful presentations of selection of Torat HaRav Kook. I have sometimes taken the liberty to change the translation from third person to first person.