Missing the point about Jews, Judaism and Zionism

We are used to worrying about the BDS boycott, and various academic boycotts and the like. There has been no talk of boycotts in my University. If the National Tertiary Education Union went down those stairs and/or the University, there would be mayhem.

What attracted my attention today is a statement we hear over and over, in various guises and contexts. The statement is attributed in the Jerusalem to former Chief Rabbi Sacks, a brilliant speaker and writer. He is alleged to have said

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Sacks said that some politicians in the British Labour Party had courted the Muslim vote and had adopted anti-Israel attitudes which have morphed into anti-Semitism.

I could not DISagree more. Where is the clear thinking. Anti-Israel attitudes expressed in the context of ‘we must solve the problem of Palestinian Arabs’ is nothing more than anti-Semitism. This is not anti-Zionism. The logic is exceedingly simple. There is no body, none, that will agree that Jews deserve a homeland, and that homeland is Israel. This narrative is elided too often. Some will quibble over the definition of borders and security provisions and so forth. They are issues that should be discussed. However, since 1948 and before that, there is still no recognition that Jews need a homeland. In this I include the entire spectrum of Jews in Israel except for the hand full of lunatics led by Moshe Ber Beck, the Iranian nuzzler. He is welcome to live there, and be happy. They are not religious Jews. They have seen that all their sycophantic activities amount to nothing but Bitul Torah while protesting and travel.

No, Rabbi Sacks. Nothing has “morphed“. This is classic fallacy filled British diplomacy . The anti-Semitic Ken Livingstone types of this world should be dethroned, but to allow the semblance of thought that Jews are not entitled to their homeland, as above, and call this entitlement Zionism, is bizarre, I find it difficult to comprehend. Nay, this is an attack on Judaism 101. We assert our right to live in peaceful boundaries. Those who seek to deny this right, whether emanating from explicit charter, whispering, obfuscation or diplobabble (the French Connection) are anti-Semites.

As Rav Kook so eloquently put it:

“It is only the anticipation of redemption that preserves Judaism in Exile, while Judaism in the Land of Israel is the redemption itself.”

This redemption is what we aspire to.

[ Only an ignorant would interpret this to mean Rav Kook’s Judaism in Exile was not infused with Torah. ]


Our own Taliban להבדיל

From Yeshiva World News:

An erev Pesach entertainment event in Jerusalem’s Arena Stadium that was to include Mordechai Ben-David has been canceled. According to a Kikar Shabbos News report, the cancellation follows the intervention of the “Vaad Mishmeres Kodesh & Chinuch”.

The entertainment event “Kumzing – By the Minagnim Orchestra” – was for men only, sponsored in part by the Jerusalem Municipality and was scheduled for Monday evening, 10 Nissan. The chairman of the vaad, Rabbi Mordechai Blau, announced on Sunday, 24 Adar-II that the committee opposes the event which if held, will be going on against the wishes of gedolei yisrael shlita.

Kikar reports as a result of the vaad’s announcement, the event is being canceled.

Rabbi Blau says that the Vaad takes issue with these shows since “gedolei yisrael oppose them”.

No names of any Gedolei Yisroel were named.

Unless there is something disgusting about this concern that I’m not aware of, the biggest enemy we face in our midst are not so much the Rabbonim Muvhakim, but rather the Askant, the Askonim (machars/political apparatchiks), who want to control lives whether it’s in keeping with Torah or indeed their Rav HaMuvhak.

I’m reminded by the admission of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank who related a discussion with Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld.  I will leave out the juicy bits but you can read them here

About six weeks ago, I spoke with Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld, and at one point, I asked him if it is right that he signs himself as the Rav of the Ashkenazim in our Holy City… He answered me that the truth is, he does not sign so, but they made for him a stamp and wrote this on it.

I love this picture (edited by me to look clearer, I don’t know where I got it from), because it represents the truth. Not the world of falsehood that has enveloped our enclaves and askonim. Rav Kook (in the spodik) sitting next to Rav Sonnenfeld. The two behaved properly to each other, even though Rav Sonnenfeld was older and more prone to manipulation by the Hungarian political incursion into Yerusholyaim described by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank.

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Time for Mechila: nobody is perfect

This statement most certainly includes me. When writing my blog posts, I’ve occasionally unintentionally upset someone or have been misunderstood given the fact that perhaps I unwisely tend not to spend too much time actually writing my posts or proof-reading them.

Sometimes people send me a private email, and I act on it. Other times they send me a fake comment and when I try to reply, it bounces because there is no such address. Given that it’s Erev Yom Kippur, if there is a current or past post that you feel is unfair or has stepped over a halachic boundary, I ask you sincerely to email me, and most certainly, if it is a real email address and doesn’t bounce, I will reply accordingly.

I chanced across a comment about two? years ago where someone said I had it in for Rav Beck of Adass. Let me be very clear. Rav Beck is a holy man, a Yirei Shomayim, who has never done anything to me and I do not seek to belittle him in any way. I do have differences between the views of my Rabonim and his Shita on some things, and I do not resile for those. That should not be confused with a “personal vendetta” which I think I saw someone on the internet describe it.

So, for the sake of the record I will state those things (some of which also apply to Satmar, Toldos Aron and various other extreme groups within Adass)

  • I utterly and completely condemn their approach to the state of the Israel, and consider Veyoel Moshe, not Halacha and not LeMaaseh and it has been taken apart as a Sefer many times by people more learned than I. It’s also just reminded me of a story:
    • In the early days, Rav Kook זצ’’ל was the then Chief Rabbi, and he was informed that there were some Jewish Builders working on Rosh Hashono. What did he do? He didn’t send people to scream at them and throw stones at them etc This were before the State came to be. He immediately called his Shamash and a few others and instructed them to go to the building site, and blow the mandatory number of notes of the Shofar with a Brocha to be Motzi the Builders. The builders were bewildered. They asked who are these people. They were told these are the direct emissaries of the Chief Rabbi, the Holy Tzadik, Rav Kook. They asked what are they doing here on Rosh Hashono. They were told that Rav Kook has personally requested that they be given the opportunity to share in the Mitzvah of Tekias Shofar. The Builders were bewildered but stayed silent. They put down their tools. The Shofar was blown. Rav Kook’s emissaries then quietly left the building site and returned to Rav Kook. What transpired was the approach that I subscribe to. The builders were overcome. The sound of the Shofar and the care and indirect admonition of Rav Kook left them in a state of shock. They downed their tools, went home, and many of them apparently changed clothes and attended Shule.
  • I utterly condemn anyone who quietly visits and stays in contact with his brother Moshe Ber Beck. For those who don’t know this is the “personage” who went and continues to kiss Arafar, Ahmadinejad and all שונאי ישראל and give us the “problem” of we aren’t against Jews (like moshe ber beck) just Zionists. Well everyone should answer them truthfully. EVERY Jew is a Zionist. Every Jew believes that the Land of Israel is the Land of Jews. Some might differ with timing and method, but we pray this three times a day and more. Don’t anyone ever fall for the trick that a Jew is not a Zionist. EVERY JEW IS A ZIONIST. There is no need to go into Rashi and Tosfos on when, how, etc. To the שונאי ישראל there is NO difference. All you are doing is giving them hate fodder.
  • I utterly condemn and person who fails to alert authorities about a danger in our midst (e.g. a pedophile, a wife basher etc)
  • I utterly condemn anyone who on the basis that somebody reports such a danger, discriminates against such people. We must encourage those affected to get all the help they need to cope with what in some cases is a life long struggle.
  • I utterly condemn the infamous blog authored by Scott Rosenberg which is spite filled hate for Torah.

That being said, I am sure I have made someone unhappy and may have crossed a line in one of my many posts. If so, please feel free to email me personally or if you like write a comment and I won’t publish the comment.If on reflection (and I will reflect) I will apologise one way or another,

My blog posts are there mainly to help me. They are therapeutic. I write what’s on my mind, and I also have an outlet to spread Torah. At all times I try to be fair, but I far from perfect. If you are unhappy and don’t tell me some way (even write me a hand written letter and drop in my letter box) please do so. My email address is very easy to find i s a a c @ B A L B dot IN … just don’t send to my RMIT address as I am on leave at the moment and not reading those emails.

Wishing EVERYONE כתיבה וחתימה טובה בברכת כהן מוחזק

May all your Tefillos go straight to where they have to, and be successful, and may we all be Zoche to שופר גדול לחירותנו

matos masei 

After Jewish men illegally consorted with Midianite women, we find a strange offer from the sinners. Instead of the usual animal or flour/incense based sacrifices, they suggest that atonement for their sins should be granted by bringing the jewellery and concealed body ornaments proudly adorning the Midianite women and used to cajole them to a sordid bed of iniquity. This is a most strange and irregular “sacrifice”. From whence did they assume that such a notion would be acceptable? The sons of Aaron died for bringing a “strange fire” as a sacrifice! There was no Torah precedent for this style of offering to atone for the injunction against iniquitous cohabitation.

Precious Jewellery represents the enticement embodied by the physical being. Man and Woman are attracted to beauty. This, in of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, without appreciation of such, there might be no procreation. The danger is born when physicality alone conceals and constricts the spiritual essence and striving of the holy Jewish soul. The soul is rendered wounded by the attack of physicality (or excessive materialism).
Rav Kook explains that the sinners had recognised that they allowed bodily desires influenced by external considerations to overtake the essence of their spiritual and religious imperative. The shell of the egg, if you will, conceals the yolk and albumen. In such situations, our role is to break the shell, and find the essential truth which nourishes the soul. We have witnessed the shell of a deal with Iran. The devil is in the detail concealed therein. May we merit to see true peace in our country, Israel, and may all Jews be safe from the scourge of the misleading and tempestuous storm of deception and violence enveloping our world—especially now—during the nine days of mourning for the destruction of our beloved Temple.

Beautiful D’var Torah on Shlach

[hat tip MT]

“And [the spies] began to speak badly about the land that they had explored.” (Num. 13:32)
A dispirited discussion took place at Beit HaRav, Rav Kook’s house in Jerusalem, not long after the end of World War II. The Chief Rabbi had passed away ten years earlier; now it was his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who sat at the head of the table.
One participant at the Sabbath table had brought up a disturbing topic: the phenomenon of visitors touring Eretz Yisrael and then criticising the country after returning to their homes. These visitors complain about everything: the heat, the poverty, the backwardness, the political situation – and discourage other Jews from moving here, he lamented.
Rav Tzvi Yehudah responded by telling the following parable, one he had heard in the name of the famed Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, the rabbi of Bialystok.
The Failed Match
There was once a wealthy man who sought the hand of a certain young lady. She was the most beautiful girl in town, and was blessed with many talents and a truly refined character. Her family was not well-off, so they were eager about a possible match with the prosperous fellow.
The young woman, however, was not interested in the match. Rich or not, the prospective suitor was known to be coarse and ill-mannered. She refused to meet with him.
The father asked her to at least meet with the young man in their home, so as not to embarrass him. After all, one meeting doesn’t obligate you to marry him! To please her father, the young woman agreed.
The following Sabbath afternoon, the fellow arrived at the house as arranged, and was warmly received by the father. Shortly afterwards, his daughter made her entrance. But her hair was uncombed, and she wore a faded, crumpled dress and shabby house slippers. Appalled at her disheveled appearance, it did not take long before the young man excused himself and made a hurried exit.
What everyone says about this girl – it’s not true, exclaimed the astonished young man to his friends. She’s hideous!
Rav Tzvi Yehudah stopped briefly, surveying the guests seated around the table. Superficially, it would appear that the brash young fellow had rejected the young woman. But in fact, it was she who had rejected him.
The same is true regarding the Land of Israel, the rabbi explained. Eretz Yisrael is a special land, only ready to accept those who are receptive to its unique spiritual qualities. The Land does not reveal its inner beauty to all who visit. Not everyone is worthy to perceive its special holiness. It may appear as if the dissatisfied visitors are the ones who reject the Land of Israel, he concluded. But in fact, it is the Land that rejects them!
A thoughtful silence pervaded the room. Those present were stunned by the parable and the rabbi’s impassioned delivery. Then one of the guests observed, Reb Tzvi Yehudah, your words are suitable for a son of your eminent father, may his memory be a blessing!
Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem
Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s response was indeed appropriate for Rav Kook’s son. When visitors from outside the country would approach the Chief Rabbi for a blessing, Rav Kook would quote from the Book of Psalms, “May God bless you from Zion” (128:5).
Then he would ask: What exactly is this blessing from Zion? In fact, the content of the blessing is described in the continuation of the verse: “May you see the goodness of Jerusalem.”
The rabbi would explain: The verse does not say that one should merit seeing Jerusalem; but that one should merit seeing ‘the goodness of Jerusalem.’ Many people visit Jerusalem. But how many of them merit seeing the inner goodness hidden in the holy city?
And that, he concluded, is God’s special blessing from Zion.

Which accent in Ivrit/Ivris did Rav Kook prefer

It may come as a shock to some, but Rav Kook was vehemently against anyone changing their pronunciation. Rav Kook acutely felt that the issue of 12 gates/approaches to the Beis Hamikdosh, despite the concept of Shaar Hakolell (the 13th gate for those who knew not what their tradition was, and which the Ari felt was his Nusach, and which the B’aal HaTanya refined) was Kodesh Kodoshim.

If your father/grandfather pronounced things a certain way and/or followed a certain Nusach, Rav Kook was implacably against the Ben Yehuda approach of creating a universal style new pronunciation. This is known by anyone who spoke with Rav Kook.

Rav Kook preferred to speak in Loshon Kodesh. That’s another matter. I feel though that people need to understand that this icon of Jewish Rabbinic History was far less malleable despite his extreme and burning Ahavas Yisrael and Ahavas HaTorah and Eretz HaKodesh than people realise.

Certainly Poskim including Reb Moshe and the Minchas Elozor were authoritative in their machlokes and rulings on this matter, but it’s interesting to note Rav Kook’s view.

At Elwood Shule, I remember as a boy asking the older men (in Yiddish) what did your father say in Musaf, “Kesser or Nakdishach”. Invariably they said “Kesser” but once they moved to anglicised Melbourne, they simply went along with the English influenced Nusach of the regal Rabbinate. My father ע’’ה told me that he always said “Kesser” and a few times, I heard him mumble “Brich Hu L’Aylo Mikol Birchso Veshiroso” as opposed to Amen or Brich Hu. I keep this, and cherish the unadulterated Minhag Avoseynu.

The Hetter Mechira for Shmitta (Part 2)

[Hat tip from RDS]

If you can read Hebrew you will understand how they have taken Rav Kook and twisted his words, as they always have and always will. And why? Two reasons: he loved the Land, and he loved all Jews, both with a fiery enthusiasm. As I recall the Ridbaz below was from Tzfas Ir HaKodesh. The emphases in bold are mine.

ט.        משגלה העם היהודי מארצו, ובהיעדר חקלאות יהודית משמעותית בארץ בימי הגלות, כמעט שלא עמדה על הפרק – במובן לאומי אופרטיבי – שאלת השמיטה; עם זאת מוצאים אנו פולמוסים בעניינה בעת חידוש היישוב היהודי בצפת במאה הט”ז, וחילוקי דעות לא מעטים בין פוסקי הלכה (ראו הרב זוין, שם קי”ג-קט”ז). ואולם, משהחלה בשנות השמונים למאה הי”ט הקמתן של המושבות היהודיות (מושבות העליה הראשונה), שהתפרנסו מחקלאות ונתקיים בהן “ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא” (יחזקאל ל”ו, ח), עלתה שאלת השמיטה לראשונה בשנת תרמ”ב-1882, ובמלוא עוזה בשנת תרמ”ט-1888. המושבות, שחלק ניכר מאיכריהן היו שומרי מצוות, עמדו בפני השאלה הקשה כיצד יתפרנסו אם ישמרו על השמיטה כנתינתה. הרב יצחק אלחנן ספקטור, רבה של קובנה שבליטא, פוסק מרכזי בדורו, שראה את הסוגיה כהצלת נפשות, פסק בקשר לשמיטת תרמ”ט לטובת “היתר מכירה”, ובלשונו,

“להתיר על פי העצה למכור השדות והכרמים לישמעאלים, הגוף, והפירות, על משך שתי שנים בלבד, ואחרי כלות הזמן יחזרו הכרמים והשדות לבעלים”.

הסכימו עמו גם הרב יהושע מקוטנא, הרב שמואל מוהליבר מביאליסטוק (מראשי חיבת ציון) והרב שמואל זינויל קלפפיש מורשה. עם זאת ציין הרב ספקטור, כי המדובר בהיתר לשמיטת תרמ”ט “אבל לא לשמיטות הבאות, שאז יצטרכו להיתר מחדש ולעיין אי”ה, וה’ יהיה בעזר עמנו, שלא יצטרכו להיתר…”. קו הקושי מתבלט כבר מאז, קרי, הפער בין חזון שמיטה ככל משפטה וחוקתה לבין מציאות קשה, שהפתרונות לה מורכבים הלכתית. הרב ישראל מאיר לאו, הרב הראשי לישראל לשעבר, בחוות דעתו “שביעית בזמן הזה”, שו”ת יחל ישראל ג’, קמ”ז, שנכתבה בקשר לשמיטת תשס”א-2001, מבאר על פי הרב נפתלי הרץ הלוי – רבן של יפו והמושבות עד פטירתו בתרס”ב (במקומו בא בתרס”ד הרב א”י הכהן קוק) – כי היסוד להיתר היה בדברים שכתב הרב מרדכי רויו מחברון, בעל ספר שמן המור, בשנת תקנ”ג (1793). אבן יסוד קודמת לכך מצויה אצל בעל הבית יוסף, רבנו יוסף קארו מחבר השולחן ערוך, שהתיר פירות נכרים בשביעית, אף שגם עליו היו חולקים בדורו (ראו הרב זוין, שם, קט”ו-קט”ז). הצטרפו אל הרב ספקטור בהיתר גם מראשי הרבנים של הציבור הספרדי בארץ ישראל, ובהם הראשון לציון הרב יעקב שמואל אלישר, בעל ישא ברכה, והראשון לציון הרב רפאל פניג’ל, ובחו”ל גם הנצי”ב – הרב נפתלי צבי יהודה ברלין, ראש ישיבת וולוז’ין, וכן הרב יוסף דב סולוביצ’יק מבריסק. מנגד חלקו עליהם בארץ הרב יהושע לייב דיסקין, רבה של בריסק לשעבר שעלה ארצה, והרב שמואל סלנט, רבה של ירושלים.

י.        הרב הלוי, רבן של יפו והמושבות, נסמך לקראת שמיטת תרנ”ו על היתר המכירה – וזאת הפעם כנראה בהתיעצות עם הרב דיסקין והרב סלנט. לקראת שמיטת תרס”ג נפטר הרב נ”ה הלוי, וחתנו הרב יוסף צבי הלוי הוסמך על-ידי הרב אליהו דוד רבינוביץ תאומים (האדר”ת), אב בית דין בירושלים, ועל-ידי הרב סלנט, רבה של ירושלים, להמשיך בהיתר המכירה (ראו הרב מנחם ולדמן, “הוראות לשנת השמיטה תרס”ג”, תחומין י”ג (תשנ”ב) 47, 48, והפירוט שם; נאמר כי הכרעות הרב נ”ה הלוי היו בהסכמת הרב דיסקין).

י”א.     מי שביסס במיוחד את היתר המכירה הלכתית היה הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק, רבה של יפו והמושבות בשנים 1914-1904, ואחר כך רבה של ירושלים בשנים 1921-1919 ורבה הראשי הראשון של ארץ ישראל מאז 1921 עד פטירתו ב-1935, בספרו שבת הארץ שנכתב בשנת תר”ע לעת השמיטה דאז (תר”ע – 1910), תוך ויכוח חמור. הרב קוק ציין, כי

“מרוב דלות מצב יישובנו בארץ הכרח הוא אמנם להסתפק על פי רוב בהוראת שעה, כאשר הוסכם מאז על פי גדולי הדור, אשר נכנסו לעומק מצב היישוב החדש בארצנו הקדושה… ולדעת כי מאת ה’ היתה זאת, לתת ניר לעמו על אדמת קדשו… למרות הפקעת  המצוה אשר בהוראת שעה זו, ישנם כמה גופי הלכות הנדרשים לשמור ולעשות בפועל… שינון ההלכות יחקור בלבבות את חיובם בלב ומשמיטה לשמיטה יתווספו רבים, אשר בעז ה’ בלבבם ירחיבו את גבול המצוה בכל הרחבתה ופרטיה” (שבת הארץ – הלכות שביעית, כ”ה-כ”ו).

יסוד ההיתר, כפי שהסביר הרב קוק, הוא שבשביעית בזמן הזה מותר לעשות כל עבודה בקרקע של נכרי, וכמובן מי שרוצים לקיים את מצוות השמיטה בלא קוּלות, יש לברכם, ואילו על מי שיקיימו את המצווה במלואה “לדון לכף זכות בכל רגשי כבוד ואהבת ישראל, את כל אלה שמצבם בפרט, או מצב היישוב בכלל מכריח אותם להתנהג על פי סדרי ההיתר וההפקעה” (שם, עמ’ כ”ח. ראו גם איגרתו של הרב קוק אל הרידב”ז – הרב יעקב דוד וילובסקי, פרשן התלמוד הירושלמי שחי אז בארץ – בשו”ת משפט כהן הלכות שמיטה ויובל ס”ג (איגרת מיום ב’ דר”ח אייר תרס”ט) המדגישה (עמ’ קכ”ז, כ”ט) את שעת הדחק מזה ואת דחקות ההיתר מזה, וכן ח’ בן-ארצי, הרב קוק בפולמוס השמיטה תשס”ז (ושם גם התכתבותו עם הרידב”ז)). כאמור, ההיתר לא היה ללא מתנגדים, שעמדו על שמירת השמיטה כנתינתה; חלק מן ההשגות נסבו על השאלה אם ניתן למכור קרקע לנכרי בארץ ישראל, ולא נאריך.

The Heter Mechira in Shmitta

This may come as a surprise to the nidertrechtikte soinim of Rav Kook, but the common fallacy is that when he became Chief Rabbi of Yaffo-Tel Aviv, he introduced the Heter Mechira.

This is of course one of a string of lies and distortions that Israel/ZIONIST hating so called Frummer Hungarians in Israel would have you gullibly swallow to this day.

But their world isn’t a world of Torah even remotely approaching the supreme and holy Tzadik that Rav Kook was, so I am not surprised that they peddled and continue to peddle their outright lies and disrespect for a very holy Rov.

Who are the Gedolay HaTorah

The following is an editorial from Arutz Sheva in 2012 based on the view of Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of Har Bracha

Rav Eliezer Melamed

Occasionally, people from the hareidi community question or attack my articles. Even though they are well aware that I strive to follow in the path of Maran Harav Kook zt”l, nevertheless they argue: “Why don’t you accept the authority of the Gedolei haTorah (eminent Torah scholars)?” The simple answer is: I don’t consider them Gedolei haTorah.

They definitely are important talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) whose fear of sin precedes their wisdom, educate many disciples, and it is a mitzvah to respect them. But they are not Gedolei haTorah.

Gadlute beTorah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates an all-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv haaretz (settling the Land) and the on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and economic questions.

Technical Questions as Opposed to Fundamental Questions

It is important to note that merely addressing these questions is not sufficient, because it would be easy to settle for trivial answers offering technical ways in which an individual Jew could survive the changes and revolutions facing the nation and world in modern times. To accomplish this necessitates expertise, and the more complicated the situation, the greater the amount of competence required. But this does not demand gadlut beTorah.

The type of expertise leaders and public figures already possess is quite adequate; if they are loyal to the path of Torah as taught by their rabbis, and understand the social realities before them, they can find creative solutions to problems faced by different sectarian groups (hareidi or dati, Ashkenazic or Sephardic). This is presently the type of expertise required of Knesset members, ministers, and mid-level theorists. Clearly, they can take advice of rabbis who are familiar in this field, but this does not necessitate significant Torah input.

However, true Gedolei haTorah are required to deal with fundamental questions, in order to provide significant and important answers to the perplexities of the generation. They need not offer detailed plans for immediate implementation, but they must set a vision, thoroughly analyze the events and phenomena confronting them, distinguishing between the positive and negative points, and offer direction wherein the positive can triumph over the negative, and even rectify it.


What is Gadlute beTorah?

How this is determined is a weighty and important question indeed. Obviously, the mere fact that a person decides to tackle the important questions does not entitle him to the designation of gadol baTorah as long as he lacks the competence to do so. Likewise, it is clear that it is not determined by the degree of proficiency. Throughout all the generations there were talmidei chachamim famous for their great erudition, but nevertheless, their knowledge did not place them in the top row of gedolei haTorah, because that is determined by the degree of comprehension and penetration into the roots of the matter.

In very general terms, there are three levels of Gadlute beTorah:

The first level includes those who merit understanding the root of the svara (rational inference) of every individual halakha or agadah they learn – these are the regular talmidei chachamim.

The second level includes those who merit delving deeper, understanding the inner svara which clarifies several halakhot collectively, and thus know how to resolve various questions. For example, rabbis who present the important lectures in yeshivot, who are able to explain numerous sugiyot (issues in the Talmud) along the lines of one concept, and are great in lamdanut (erudition).

They can also be important poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who, out of their profound comprehension, understand numerous halakhot, and know how to contend with new questions, and usually are gedolim in a some fields of halakha. Some of those on this level merit comprehending the inner svara which clarifies various matters of aggadah, and they are gedolim in machshava (Jewish philosophic thought) and emunah (faith).

The third level includes those who delve deeper into the inner roots of the svarot, both in halakha, aggadah, and pnimiyut ha’Torah (the deepest aspects of Torah). Consequently, they understand the general rules of the Torah more profoundly, and as a result, the details of halakhot and midrashim are clearer to them; they know how to give comprehensive instruction and guidance in matters concerning the affairs of the clal (general public) and the prat (individual), the spiritual, and the practical. These are the true Gedolei haTorah. Naturally, there are also numerous intermediate levels, according to the extent of profound thought and inner orientation in the various areas of Torah.

Maran Harav Kook zt”l – The Gadol of Recent Generations

Maran Harav Kook zt”l was one of Israel’s unique Gedolei haTorah. He was gifted with tremendous natural talent and by means of his extreme diligence, righteousness, and virtue, merited delving into all areas of Torah to an inconceivable extent, particularly in general issues comprising both halakha and aggadah collectively, clal and prat, sacred and secular.

God performed an enormous act of kindness to His nation Israel, and the entire world, by sending us such a great and holy soul to illuminate our path in these extraordinary times – generations filled with highs and lows, tremendous scientific achievements and terrible moral confusion, the revealing of individual talents and the decay of national, societal, and family values.

In generations where all orders of life are shifting, it is essential to delve deeply into the Torah so as to instruct, correct, and redeem all that is continually revealed. In order to contend with such types of challenges, regular gadlute baTorah is not sufficient – not even of the third level. What is called for is the type of greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu and Ezra the Scribe.

Torah Scholars Who Do Not Understand the Teachings of Rav Kook

Needless to say, someone who does not understand the teachings of Maran Harav Kook zt”l cannot be considered one of the Gedolei haTorah of the generation. He can be an expert and well versed in numerous details from the technical side of halakha and aggadah. But he cannot truly be Gadol baTorah.

Even among those who understood Rav Kook’s teachings, there are two main distinctions. There are those who accepted his general instructions regarding the importance of Eretz Yisrael in our times – the generation of kibbutz galyiot( Ingathering of the Exiles) and atchalta degeulah (beginning of the Redemption). Also, they agree with his teachings in relation to science and work, and the fundamental attitude towards Jews who abandoned Torah but identify with the values of the nation and the Land, or universal values. Owing to their identification with his teachings and luminous character, such talmidei chachamim merit being spiritually connected to the third level.

And then there are a select few who delve deeper in understanding the ideas, which genuinely illuminate life, and pave a path to redemption via the light of Torah guidance.

It should be noted that among the elder rabbis of the previous generation, whom the hareidi community consider as Gedolei haTorah as well, there were many who were significantly influenced by Maran Harav Kook zt”l. And although they did not follow his path of public leadership, they accepted some of his ideas, remained admirers, and honored his image all their lives. Among them: Rabbi Frank zt”l, Rabbi Aeurbach zt”l, Rabbi Eliyashiv zt”l, Rabbi Wallenberg zt”l, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, shlita, may he live a long life.

The Words of Rabbi Charlop

Similarly, Rabbi Kook’s great disciple, Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Charlop zt”l, wrote in his book “Mayanei Hayishua” (Chap. 9), that at the present time, Gedolei haTorahmust engage in the general rules of the Torah.

In that chapter he explains that the prophets dealt with general rules for life, because when the general rules are set right, all the details fall into place. However, as a result of Israel’s transgressions, the general rules deteriorated and the Holy Temple was destroyed; consequently, our main task in galut (Diaspora) was rectifying the details themselves. But when the beginning of salvation occurs, and as the world gradually recovers, the longing for the general rules increases (and when the general rules from the source of the Torah are not provided, consequently, they are sought after in alien places, and chutzpah (audacity) and lawlessness intensify).

“Israel’s gedolim must be deeply aware of this yearning, and pay heed to speak inspiringly, at length and in brief, about rectifying the general rules. In a way that not only will speaking about the general rules not obscure the details, but rather, will add force and strength, yearning and enthusiasm for the details and their rectification…”

“At that time, if narrow-minded people come forward, assuming to hasten the final redemption by speaking only about rectifying the details alone, failing to speak favorably about correcting the general rules, they fall into the category of ‘a student who has not reached the level of teaching, but nevertheless teaches’, disarranging all the spiritual conduits, because the hidden light is best revealed through illuminating the general rules, and uplifting the worlds.

“It is appropriate to make vigorous efforts against such thoughts. The true gedolim wrap themselves with might and strength to stand at the head of the nation, guide them in the correct path, and know that truth and God are with them.”

The Chief Rabbinate

As a continuation to the vision of revealing Torah in its greatness, Rav Kook viewed the establishment of the Chief Rabbinate as a nucleus from which a significant and united Torah leadership could develop. However, after Rav Kook zt”l passed away, the independent status of the Chief Rabbinate steadily deteriorated. From a rabbinate which presented a vision emanating from a totally autonomous position, devoid of subordination to public institutions or to public circles, the rabbinate grew to be a subordinate public institutions, subject to the present legal establishment.

No longer was the focus on offering a comprehensive vision, but rather finding halakhic solutions for presented situations, shaped by public and political leadership. Even the attempt of Rabbi Herzog zt”l to suggest an alternative constitution for the State of Israel, was not an effort to propose an all-inclusive constitution, rather, to find ways to ‘kasher’ the norms of the country’s leaders, within the framework of halakha.

Still the Chief Rabbis and the members of the Rabbinical Council were for a long time,  the greatest talmidei chachamim of the time in Israel. Gradually, this status eroded, with the rabbinate recently becoming a supervisory department for a handful of religious matters, such as marriage, conversions, and kashrut.

In such a situation, although the rabbinate plays a very important role in managing these affairs, we are no longer talking about a supreme, moral, and spiritual Torah authority of mara d’atra (lit. “master of the house,” i.e. Israel’s authority in Jewish law). Rather, the role of the Chief Rabbi became at best similar to that of a director of religious affairs, and at worst – the spokesperson for religious affairs.

This  underscores just how much we must continue studying, delving, and identifying with the great vision of Maran Harav Kook zt”l, in order to increase and glorify the Torah and elevate the status of its bearers, so the light of the redeeming Torah can illuminate the entire world.

Dvar Torah for Shoftim

Tomorrow, is Rav Kook’s ז’ל Yohr Tzeit, so it is fitting that the Dvar Torah includes his thoughts, The Dvar Torah is from one of the Roshei Yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh (my alma mater), Rav Motti Greenberg.

Ironically, last night at Ma’ariv, there were a few international Tzedoka collectors from Israel in Shule. I was in my usually “straight ahead” mood, and asked one of them (a Chossid, with peyos)

What are your thoughts on Nachal Charedi

His responded with a pained look and said

Anyone who supports Nachal Charedi should not be allowed to enter a Shule

The problem with people like that is that they think that when they go to the toilet, it doesn’t stink. They live in la la land.

He effectively stated that I had no place davening Ma’ariv in Shule if I thought Nachal Charedi was a valid approach.  I said,

well, I support them, and you don’t come up to the level of their shoe laces, with a hateful comment like that

I don’t expect he will visit me for a donation. His paid driver heard the interchange.

Anyway, the D’var Torah … 

As part of the laws of warfare, it is written, “What man is afraid and fainthearted? Let him go away and return home.” [Devarim 20:8]. According to Rabbi Yossi Hagelili, this refers to a man who is afraid because of the sins in his hands. However, this seems backwards – to be afraid because of sins is a good trait and not a bad one, why should the man be sent away?

In Chassidic texts it is written that one time there was a delay in the construction of the succah of the Rebbe, the author of Beit Aharon. In the end, one of the Rebbe’s followers made a great effort and finished building the succah the day before the holiday, thus giving the Rebbe great pleasure. As a reward, the Rebbe offered the man his choice – he could either sit next to the Rebbe in the world to come, or he could become very wealthy. The man chose wealth. He explained to the astonished Chassidim who asked about his decision that to want to spend the world to come close to the Rebbe is a matter of selfishness, but if he had great wealth he would be able to help many other people.

Rabbi Shimon Shkop wrote in the introduction to his book Shaarei Yosher, “The foundation and the root of the goal of our lives is that all of our labors should always be geared and dedicated to the good of the community.” Rav A.Y. Kook wrote, “A person must always extricate himself from the private frameworks which fill his entire being, such that all of his ideas are centered on his own fate. This brings a person down to the depths of being small, and there is no end to the physical and spiritual suffering that comes about as a result. Rather, his thoughts, desires, his will, and the foundation of his ideas must always take into account the general – the world, mankind, Yisrael as a whole, and the entire universe. And this will also establish his personal status in the proper way.” [Orot Hakodesh volume 3, page 147].

To be “afraid of the sins in his hands” means that the person is concerned with his own sins and not with the sins of others. This is a man who lives only for himself. This is similar to what the sages taught us: “Why is it [the stork] called a ‘chassidah’ (one who is kind)? It is because it is kind to its companions.” [Chulin 63a]. But a question is asked: The Rambam teaches us that the reason birds are considered impure is because they are cruel, why then is the stork an impure bird? Chidushei Harim explains that this bird is kind, but only to its own friends.

The soldiers in King David’s army would give their wives a divorce before going out to battle. Rav Kook explains that the reason was not only to avoid a woman being “chained” to h er husband if he would be lost in battle. The Gentiles would bring their wives and children to the battlefield in order to give the soldiers greater courage, as if to say, look for whom you are fighting. But in David’s army the men would divorce their wives in order to disassociate themselves from any personal interests and to fight for the good of Yisrael as a whole. This is as the Rambam wrote, that a soldier must stop thinking about his own family and be aware that he is fighting in a Divine war. Anyone who is afraid only because of his own individual sins and does not think of the general public during the war is not worthy of fighting in the Army of G-d.

When a dead body is found abandoned on the roads, the community elders declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood” [Devarim 21:7]. “Would anybody even consider that the elders of the Beit Din are murderers? Rather, they are declaring that they did not see him and send him away unaccompanied, witho ut any food.” [Sotta 45b].

As the month of Elul begins, we should remember the hint of the month’s name, an acronym of “I belong to my lover and my lover belongs to me” [Shir Hashirim 6:3]. This is a hint of the relationship between man and the Holy One, Blessed be He. But the letters of Elul are also an acronym for another verse, “Every man gave to his colleague, and also gifts to poor people” [Esther 9:22]. This refers to concern for other people.

In connection with the above, we note that all the prayers of the Days of Awe refer to the needs of the community as a whole and not to personal requests.

Yair Lapid goes too far

I don’t feel programmed to reject everything Yair proposes, nor do I feel that I should accept his proposals because “democracy is a religion”. With that in mind, the article below from Yediot, if reported accurately, demonstrates poor arguments. Using Grandad as an example, is nice emotive politics but it doesn’t make it a better argument.

  • Yair, what you need to tell us is what Sabbath does mean in the context of a Jewish State albeit in a Secular neighbourhood.
  • Does it mean that children can’t pick up their grandfather?
  • Does it mean that grandparents should come over and stay with their families and vice versa on Sabbath
  • Does it mean that in a Secular area Sabbath is no different to any other day when one walks out on the Street?
  • Does it mean that in a country where there is no Sunday, [I am a very strong supporter of a Sunday in Israel, as this not only will enhance Shabbos, but will give families a chance to bond better] Shabbat needs to morph to a Xtian Sunday in some neighbourhoods?
  • Does it mean that Israel is to become like a restaurant we have opening up in Melbourne, “Kosher” in the morning on weekdays and Trayf the rest of the time and shabbos! That is, a chameleon state depending on which street one walks into? Everyone can see through that style of “opportunity” and “strategy”
  • What are the Ghetto creating implications of your proposal?
  • Do you not want Religious and not-yet-Religious living in the same area? I think that is an absolute must for Israel’s character.
  • I don’t agree with forcing people to do Mitzvos, but I do think that the State needs some red lines which define its Jewish character. These lines cannot be of the morning kosher, afternoon trayf variety. That is just opportunism engendered by politics or money.
  • The argument about the grandfather “with funds” versus the grandfather “without funds”, and their State right to do something equal is a very slippery slope which, if I was in the Knesset, would use against you in many debates. Don’t use the “equality” card, when it doesn’t exist! You don’t have a bill of rights, but we do have a document which defines the Jewish people.

Here is the article:

“We need public transportation on Shabbat in secular neighborhoods and in secular cities,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday evening during a live chat on Facebook. However, he said, more time was needed to sense the changes regarding this issue and economic issues.

“I think there should be public transportation on Shabbat. I said this during my (election) campaign and I’m saying it again – not in religious areas, but in secular neighborhoods and secular cities – because this issue is not related to religion and state; it is a simple social matter,” the Yesh Atid chairman wrote on Facebook.

“There is no reason that a grandfather who has money is able to take a taxi to visit his grandchildren while a grandfather who does not have money cannot because there is no bus to take him to his grandchildren,” Lapid said. “Everything cannot happen in three months. We will fight for this cause; there will be wars we will win and wars that we won’t (win), but we’ll have to wait until we win.”

According to Lapid, the Israeli economy is transitioning from a culture of stipends to a culture of work. “If you work and do not earn (money) then you should be offered help; if you do not work because you don’t feel like it, we should make certain that Israeli society tells you: Not in our house. It is not decent and it is not fair. The working man is at the center of the financial plan,” he said.

Perhaps the thing that upsets me the most about views similar to Yair Lapid, and for the record, he doesn’t upset me with the things that he says most of the time, nor do I harbour any hate whatsoever towards him, is that we, the religious community, have effectively created many Lapids.

We (both in Israel and abroad) use language that divides and not unites. We rarely invite our not-yet-religious neighbours. We don’t say hello in the street and often don’t act civilly. We don’t make an extra special effort to be inclusive. If we were all lit with the powerful atomic fuse of Ahavas Yisrael that burned so fiercely inside Rav Kook ז’ל I sense there would be less division in Israel.

Yes, outside of Israel, Chabad do a great job. They have their agenda, it’s true, but that agenda doesn’t worry me. It’s results that matter. It’s ironic, though, that so many Talmidim and Talmidim of Talmidim of Rav Kook, many became hermetic Charedi Leumi types than those who embraced the Klal, quite literally. Alternatively, they would hold onto a clod of soil with their lives, but not do the same for a Jewish soul.

I hope the new Chief Rabbis are able to re-ignite the fire of Rav Kook and spread the Ahavas Chinam, unadulterated love of a fellow Jew, throughout Israel (and beyond).

We need to move well beyond the cartoon below

New Science and Prophecy

“If the New Science brags that it has been liberated from Theology, it must know that by the same token, Theology has been freed of Science, which bound her in human chains. However, certainly a new name is required for the sublime subject, not a name coined by men, but a new name given by God.

Theology freed of the fetters of Science is Prophecy, the treasure of Israel, which will be revealed to us soon”

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ז’ל, ‘Arpiley Tohar’, page 40.

The Cloud of Torah and Geulah (Redemption)

The following Dvar Torah is from the current Rosh Yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh, Rav Motti Greenberg. Back in the day’s when I was at KBY, Rav Motti was a Ram and senior member of the Kollel. I remember that he never sat up top near my Rosh Yeshivah Rav Goldvicht ז’ל because Rav Goldvicht insisted that those who sat on the מזרח wall near him, had to wear the clothing of a Talmid Chacham (which included a hat). Rav Motti felt that either a hat had passed its used-by-date as a Levush (piece of clothing) or that he wasn’t sufficiently a Talmid Chacham. The rumour was that the former was the main reason. I recall that in those days he wore a suit on Shabbos but always had an open neck (without a tie) and the collar was folded out over the outside of his suit lapel. When I met him a few years ago after many years, that’s exactly how he remained. Rav Motti was and remains infused with the Torah of Rav Kook ז’ל. Rav Goldvicht was a different type of man, having come through Etz Chaim, R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer ז’ל (who was his Mesader Kiddushin) R’ Aryeh Levin ז’ל and the Chazon Ish. Rav Goldvicht was rumoured to be a Boyaner Chassid, and whereas Rav Motti is always quoting Rav Kook, Rav Goldvicht was always quoting the Sfas Emes and Rav Tzadok HaCohen ז’ל. Anyway, enough of my reminiscing (great song by LRB, by the way, for those who know …)

Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ז’ל

One source used by Rav Motti is the Sefer מעיני הישועה by the famous, R’ Ya’akov Moshe Charlap ז’ל, who was a famous Talmid/Chasid of Rav Kook. Charlap is a actually an abbreviation in Hebrew of חייא ראש לגולי פולין in memory of Rav Chiya from Poland, who was the head of the Polish and Portugese Communities in exile. Rav Charlap’s grandson is Rav Zevulun Charlap, who is one of the current Roshei Yeshivah at YU, and who occasionally mentioned trips to Israel when he was a boy to visit his Zeyda.

Anyway, the Dvar Torah is beautiful and I hope you enjoy it.

לזכר נשמת אבי מורי הריני כפרת משכבו ר’ שאול זעליג בן ר’ יהודה הכהן בלבין

The title “the cloud of torah and redemption” was the name of an article that Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook published a year before he passed away. He based his essay on the verse (Shmos 19:9) in this week’s Torah portion of Yisro

And Hashem said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people hear when I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.” And Moses relayed the words of the people to Hashem. ט. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָּא אֵלֶיךָ בְּעַב הֶעָנָן בַּעֲבוּר יִשְׁמַע הָעָם בְּדַבְּרִי עִמָּךְ וְגַם בְּךָ יַאֲמִינוּ לְעוֹלָם וַיַּגֵּד משֶׁה אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָעָם אֶל יְהוָֹה

The Rambam feels that the momentous events at Sinai and not the grandiose miracles that took place are the foundation of our faith (Hilchot Yesodai HaTorah 8). One question that we can ask is why it was necessary for this glorious revelation to appear in a cloud, from within a fog, and not as a clear vision.

Rav Kook’s answer is that Divine light is different from the physical light with which we are familiar. When we want physical light to do something we increase its intensity. The brighter the light the less darkness remains. But this is not true for Divine light. It is so powerful that the only way it can be seen is for its intensity to be decreased. Only then can the human eye perceive it.

“The weak eye of a human being and his limited and shaky intellect is not capable of looking at the awesome shine of the Divine light. Therefore humanity in its confusion flees from G-d, as a bat flees from the sun… The only way for the Divine light to become visible is for it to be diminished in a known way. Covering the light, decreasing it, and hiding it – t hese are the ways to reveal it.”

And just as the Divine revelation at the time of the giving of the Torah was through a thick cloud, so is the revelation of Hashem through history.

One of the phenomena through which the Divine light appears is linked to the light of the Mashiach. This light will be revealed to the world through darkness and from hiding. The first spark of Mashiach appeared in Sedom.

“‘I found my servant David’ [Tehilim 89:21]. מָצָאתִי דָּוִד עַבְדִּי בְּשֶׁמֶן קָדְשִׁי 

Where did I find him? In Sedom.” [Bereishis Rabba Lech Lecha]. As is written [Bereishis 19:15],

“your two daughters who are here” . וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתֶיךָ הַנִּמְצָאֹת

Mashiach begins to take shape in the darkness of Sedom, through an act of illicit sex. David says [Tehilim 69:9],

“I was a stranger to my brothers”, מוּזָר הָיִיתִי לְאֶחָי 

created in an illegitimate act! This process continues with the events of Yehuda and Tamar, in the immodest meeting between Boaz and Ruth, and in the story of David and Batsheva.

This same effect was seen in the building of the Second Temple, which was founded with the help of Koresh, who also had a hidden spark of the Mashiach [Yeshayahu 45:1,4]

“This is what G-d says to his Mashiach Koresh… I will call out to you by name, I give you a nickname but you do not know Me.”

כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה לִמְשִׁיחוֹ לְכוֹרֶשׁ…  וָאֶקְרָא לְךָ בִּשְׁמֶךָ אֲכַנְּךָ וְלֹא יְדַעְתָּנִי

Rav Kook notes that the same principle applies in modern times, when the leaders of the movement include “some people who do not know their worth with respect to the role within the exalted guided process. They have been called out by name, but they do not know who is calling them.”

“Just as the light of Mashiach appears in ugly envelopes, now that the footsteps of Mashiach are beginning to appear it is necessary for the same thing to happen… People like this have been chosen for the process, and everything is part of the wonders of the One who is Perfectly Wise.” [Eim Habanim Semeicha, from Rav Teichtal]. As it says in Yeshayahu 51:16

And I placed My words into your mouth, and with the shadow of My hand I covered you, to plant the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion [that] you are My people.

טז. וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ וּבְצֵל יָדִי כִּסִּיתִיךָ לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי אָתָּה

Rav Charlap in Mayanei Hayeshua, page 103: “Because of the awesome power of its bright light, it states in Shir Hashirim 2:6

His left hand was under my head, and his right hand would embrace me. שְׂמֹאלוֹ תַּחַת לְרֹאשִׁי וִימִינוֹ תְּחַבְּקֵנִי

 and this is the shadow, as it states in Yeshayahu 51:16

And I placed My words into your mouth, and with the shadow of My hand I covered you, to plant the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion [that] you are My people.

טז. וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ וּבְצֵל יָדִי כִּסִּיתִיךָ לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי אָתָּה

Drinking on Purim

Rav Kook gave the following Dvar Torah in his Siddur, עולת ראי’’ה  :

The Talmud in Megillah 12a states that the near destruction of the Jews in the time of Ahasuerus was a punishment for participating in the royal banquet and bowing down to the Persian idols. What led them to perform these disloyal acts?

The Jews of that era thought that the root cause of anti-Semitism was due to xenophobic hatred of their distinct culture and religion. As Haman explained his rationale for destroying them:

“There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people; neither do they keep the king’s laws.” (Esther 3:8)

In order to overcome this hatred, the Jews decided it would be prudent to adopt the customs of their idolatrous neighbors. They demonstrated their allegiance as loyal Persian subjects by attending the royal banquet and bowing down to the Persian idols.

However, the Jews soon discovered that their efforts were futile. They were dismayed to learn of Haman’s plot to annihilate them, despite their best attempts at integrating into the local culture.

Accepting the Torah Again

With the realization that assimilation was not the answer, and that their only true protection from enemies is God’s providence, the Jewish people reaffirmed their commitment to keep the Torah and its laws.

“‘They confirmed and took upon themselves’ (Esther 9:27) — they confirmed what they had accepted long before” (Shabbat 88a).

The Talmud teaches that the renewed commitment to Torah at Shushan complemented and completed the original acceptance of Torah at Sinai. What was missing at Sinai? The dramatic revelation at Mount Sinai contained an element of coercion. Alone and helpless in the desert, the Jewish people could hardly refuse. The Midrash portrays this limited free choice with the threat of burial beneath the mountain, had they refused to accept the Torah. In the days of Ahasuerus, however, they voluntarily accepted the Torah, in a spirit of love and pure free will, thus completing the acceptance of Torah at Sinai.

Effusion of Good Will

This appears to be the explanation for the unusual rabbinic requirement to become inebriated on Purim (Megilah 7b). It is ordinarily forbidden to become drunk, since without the intellect to guide us, our uncontrolled desires may turn to immoral and destructive acts.

But on Purim, the entire Jewish people was blessed with an outburst of good will to accept the Torah. On this special day, every Jew who respects the Torah finds within himself a sincere yearning to embrace the Torah and its ways. For this reason, we demonstrate on Purim that even when intoxicated, we do not stray from the path of Torah, since our inner desires are naturally predisposed to goodness and closeness to God. Even in a drunken state, we are confident that we will not be shamed or humiliated with the exposure of our innermost desires. As we say in the “Shoshanat Ya’akov” prayer on Purim,

“To make known: that all who place their hope in You will not be shamed; and all who take refuge in You will never be humiliated.”

We can ask a few questions here. It is understandable that drink and merriment caused the Jews of that time to try to become more like the Nochrim of that generation. We understand this. That attitude, or mistaken belief, was at the root cause of the enlightenment in Germany and elsewhere. Jews thought that they could behave like Nochrim in the street, and like Yidden at home. They falsely relived what the Jews of Persia already found out. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. You cannot escape from that. Your pin tele Yid will shine somewhere, sometime. There will be a descendant of Amalek who will resent that countenance. That descendant will threaten your physical and/or spiritual existence.

What is the response? One response is that of extremes. Chassidim have decided that they will adopt measures which go beyond Halacha. Halacha does not mandate that Jews  are forbidden to wear the same style clothes as non-Jews. A male Jew fulfils a positive command if he wears Tzitzis, and according to some Acharonim, fulfils a Rabbinic command if he wears a Yarmulke. Both males and females should guard the laws of Tzniyus in their attire (and demeanour). Some Chassidim, however, don’t consider this enough. They would like to look “like Jews” (as in a Uniform) in the street. This is an extreme reaction in the same vein as those who take the opposite extreme and dress to look specifically like Nochrim.

What does drinking achieve? Far be it from me to claim that I don’t know. Drinking is a poisoned chalice. It can be liberating, in that it removes inhibition. It can be liberating, in that it unburdens one’s stress and worries. It is an artificial time-bound expediency. How much does one drink? Unlike all other Mitzvos, we are specifically not given an amount. Why? Is it a Reviis, is it ten Reviis? It is neither. The amount one drinks is subjective. It is precisely the amount that leaves a person free to the extent that they are unstressed by the fact that they are not troubled by the concept of a blessed Haman. How can a person not be troubled by that? Surely, the thought of God looking favourably upon the Hamans of this world is distressing in the extreme?

That depends on where one’s feet are. If one is sober, one’s feet are planted in this Earth at this time, in the Golus leading to Geula state that we are in. Inebriated, one is able to rise above that sunken reality and levitate, albeit for only a short period, into a Utopian reality where וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם השם נקרא עליך … that even the Nochrim will see that God’s name is inscribed on our foreheads.

How though do we understand the idea that we can confuse Mordechai as being cursed? My understanding of this is that it is only in our sober state that we mistakenly only see our perfection, only occasionally focussing on those cursed areas of our free will which cause us to stray off the Holy path. We know only too well, that once a person has their veneer lifted, when they have had a few shots, they often become very willing to introspect and describe their failings and indeed seek to consider them afresh.

I feel that this is a meaning of עד דלא ידע in the context. But, like everything in our world, שם שמברכים על הטוב, כך מברכים על הרע, in the same way that one can bless over good things, one blesses over bad things. Alcohol can also be abused. If a person is already in a state where they do not appreciate the difference between a blessed Mordechai and a cursed Mordechai, because they have diluted Mordechai, or they already don’t understand the difference between a cursed Haman or a blessed Haman, then that person will gain nothing by drinking the Alcohol except a headache and an unwanted expectoration. Alas, these types of people need to have a Purim party, but only when they understand the Purim in the party. If there is no Purim, it’s just another party; a Goyishe party. ודו’’ק

This should happen once a month

I applaud R’ Metzger for this initiative, although, I believe that this was originally the journey undertaken by Rav Kook ז’ל in 1913. Bridging gaps is efficacious; spitting and sending to the back of the bus, breeds resentment. Just to name drop, R’ Metzger sat a few rows behind me at Kerem B’Yavneh, although he was in fifth year, as I recall.

The story is told of how Rav Kook, upon one of his visits to an anti-religious kibbutz, was approached by one of the leaders who greeted him as follows: “With all due respect Rabbi, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to convince us to be religious. It’s not that we don’t know what Torah is, most of us were raised in observant homes. We know Torah, rabbis, mitzvot and we don’t like them!” Rav Kook questioned,”Why?” The kibbutznik replied: “We simply can’t stand your old-fashioned, meaningless, outdated rituals!” Exclaimed Rav Kook, “I agree”. “What?”, asked the surprised rebel. Explained the Rav, “I also hate the “religion” that you describe. But the dynamic, idealistic and deep Torah is so beautiful that anyone who is exposed to it cannot but love it!”.

On the יום הילולא of Rav Kook זי’’ע

מורינו ורבינו הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק זצוק’’ל

The following is republished without permission from OROT Vol. 1 5751/1991 by Joshua Hoffman

In March, 1924, Rav Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook came to America as part of a rabbinic delegation whose purpose was to raise funds for Torah institutions in Eretz Yisrael and Europe. The other members of the delegation were, Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein,

Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein ז’’ל

head of the Slabodka Yeshiva, and Rav Avraham Dov Baer Kahana Shapiro, the Rav of Kovno (Kaunas) and president of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim of Lithuania. The three rabbis were brought to America by the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War, better known as the Central Relief Committee (CRC).

The Central Relief Committee was founded by leaders of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim, the Union of American Orthodox Congregations, and other Orthodox Jews on October 8, 1914, to raise funds for the assistance of the masses of Jews overseas left homeless and impoverished as a result of the upheavals of World War I. On October 25, 1914, the American Jewish Relief Committee was formed by a more heterogeneous religious group1 The committees decided to pool the funds they collected into the joint Distribution Committee, formed on November 27,1914 to act as a disbursing agency. In mid-1915, the labor groups formed the People’s Relief committee, which also joined the JDC. In 1922, the JDC decided that each of its three committees take over the obligation of supporting those overseas educational institutions which they aligned with. Accordingly, the CRC supported all the Orthodox institutions previously funded by the JDC2.

Rav Avraham Dov Ber Kahana Shapira, the Kovno Rav

Many European yeshivot and talmud torahs had been exiled during World War I and were now in the process of returning to their original homes, some of which had to be rebuilt, or of reopening at new locations, and the cost involved in these operations was tremendous. Funds were also needed to support the students attending these institutions. By 1923, the CRC realized that to continue functioning, it must launch an emergency fund-raising campaign, and for this purpose, began plans, late that year, to bring to America a group of the most prestigious rabbis of the time, to help encourage Jews to contribute3. Rav Kook, being Chief Rabbi of Palestine, was an obvious choice. Because of the many duties which his office demanded, he requested that someone else be found, but the CRC convinced him of the necessity of his participation, and so, in February 1924, after a mass send-off, he sailed for America4. The major leaders of European Jewry-the Hafetz Hayyim and Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski-were unable to come5. Instead, Rabbis Epstein and Shapiro, both outstanding figures in their own right, were asked to join the delegation.

Rabbi Epstein arrived in New York on January 30, 19246, accompanied by Rabbi Ya’akov Lessin, a founder of the Slabodka Kollel, and later the Mashgiah Ruhani (Spiritual Advisor) of the Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in New York7. Rabbi Epstein arrived early in order to raise funds for his own yeshiva. He spent part of his time in Chicago, where his brother, Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, was spiritual leader of the Knesset Israel synagogue. Rabbi Shapiro, accompanied by Rabbi Avraham Faivelson, secretary of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim of Lithuania8, met Rav Kook in Cherbourg, France, from where they sailed together on the S.S. Olympic to America. They arrived in New York on the evening of March 18, 1924.

On the morning of March 19, the two rabbis were greeted by thousands of Jews, among them hundreds of rabbis, singing HaTikvah. This being Rabbi Kook’s first trip to America, his appearance provoked great excitement. When he stepped off the ship, the impression he made was so striking that it led one non-Jewish reporter, not content with giving him the title “Chief Rabbi of Palestine,” to dub him, “the Jewish pope”. He was, however, quickly informed the Jews don’t have such a position9.

The two rabbis were met by Rabbi Epstein, and the three of them were then driven at the head of an automobile procession to City Hall, where they were officially received by Mayor John P. Hylan and other public dignitaries. An enthusiastic reporter wrote that this was probably the greatest honor given a rabbi by a public official since Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel visited London and was greeted by Oliver Cromwell! Mayor Hylan made a short welcoming speech, and presented the rabbis with the “Freedom of the City”. Rabbi Kook then delivered a message in Hebrew, which was translated by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein. In his message, he thanked the American People for supporting the Balfour Declaration. He was referring to a resolution passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Harding in 1922, recognizing the Declaration. Rabbi Kook also told the mayor that the honor being shown the rabbinic delegation was really an expression of honor towards the Jewish People and its Torah, which is the light of the world. This expression of honor, he added, was an indication that America was holding true to its ideals of equality and brotherly love. The mayor then shook hands with Rabbi Kook, who proceeded, to the mayor’s surprise, to converse with him in proper English. The rabbis were then taken to their quarters at the Hotel Pennsylvania10. They stayed at that location for a few weeks, and then relocated to a private home on West 76th Street, which Mr. Harry Schiff had put at their disposal. That house was their headquarters for the duration of their stay in America11.

During their eight months in America, the rabbinic delegation visited ten major cities, several smaller ones, and various neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan New York area. The basic pattern of their reception in New York was followed in all the cities they visited. There was a large crowd greeting them on their arrival, followed by an automobile procession to City Hall, where they were received by local officials and given the key to the city. During their stay in the city, the rabbis would visit the local talmud torahs or yeshiva and attend rallies and banquets, where they would speak of the CRC’s relief efforts and appeal for funds. Invariably, Rav Kook received the most attention and generated the most enthusiasm12

Rav Kook’s predominance in the delegation, despite the tremendous stature of his two colleagues, was partially engineered by the CRC itself. The committee had designated him as the spokesman for the group and the other two rabbis agreed to this move. Simply as a fund-raising tactic, the CRC felt that emphasizing the appearance of Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Palestine, in America, would create a greater response and lead to a larger contribution of funds. When the CRC asked prominent public officials including President Coolidge, to send greetings to the rabbinic delegation to be read at major fund-raising events, they pointed out that it was especially important to mention Rav Kook13. There was a great deal of Jewish pride aroused by the phenomenon of the Chief Rabbi’s visit, and the CRC tried to utilize it to the utmost in the interest of the Torah institutions of Europe and Palestine.

There was, however, more behind Rav Kook’s predominance, beyond the significance of his rabbinical position. His personality and intellect were unique even among such rabbinic giants as Rabbis Shapiro and Epstein, and this was immediately perceived by those who came in contact with him or heard him speak14. His reputation for demonstrating love and appreciation for all Jews, even those estranged from tradition, was well known. As early as 1912, a writer for the Boston Jewish Advocate had suggested that Rav Kook, then Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, come to Boston to serve as chief rabbi, to replace Rabbi Gavriel Ze’ev (Velvel) Margolis, who had moved to New York in 1911. The writer felt that Rav Kook’s ability to appeal to all segments of Jewry in Palestine, would enable him to unite the various elements of Boston Jewry15. By 1924, many of Rav Kook’s works had already been published, and he was known as a poet and philosopher who incorporated elements of modern, secular thought into his Jewish world-view, a rare occurrence among Orthodox rabbis of his time16.

The special attention which Rav Kook received in America was highlighted by a reporter for the Jewish Daily Forward, who went to the Hotel Pennsylvania to interview the rabbi. When the reporter approached the information desk in the lobby, he was immediately asked, “Are you here to see the rabbi?” He received the same query from members of the hotel staff on the fifth floor, where the delegation was staying. At their suite, it was Rav Kook who was surrounded by reporters and visitors, although all three rabbis were staying there17. Rav Kook himself had an ambivalent attitude towards the honor shown him. In a letter to his son, R. Zevi Yehuda, he wrote that he was suffering from afflictions of honor, which involve loss of time from prayer and Torah study18. In another letter, however, he wrote that the honor shown him by public officials as a representative of the rabbinate, was a positive development, which could be used to advantage by the American Jewish community in the future19.

On April 2, at the Hotel Astor, a reception was held for the rabbinical delegation, officially launching the Torah Fund campaign. All three rabbis addressed the gathering, with Rav Kook being the last speaker. He spoke of Zion and Jerusalem in a manner so deep, noted one observer, that many listeners had a difficult time understanding him. He also noted that one could ascribe to Rav Kook what the sages ascribed to Queen Esther, namely, that he had a special appeal for each group present. Members of Mizrahi, Agudat Yisrael, Hasidim, Zionists and others, all felt that Rav Kook’s remarks supported their particular philosophy20. Another reporter wrote that the speech projected an unusual, superhuman love for Eretz Yisrael, one which only Rav Kook, the chief rabbi of the land, could display21.

On April 3, Rav Kook began a series of shi’urim at RIETS. The content of the shi’urim was not transcribed, but it was noted that he discussed the nature of court testimony, the laws of Eretz Yisrael, and Jewish culture. One of the concepts he developed was that of the corporate, metaphysical entity of Israel, i.e., its “zibbur” aspect22. One commentator was astonished by Rav Kook’s ability to deliver a traditional-style Talmudic lecture, including all the elements of in-depth analysis, in a fluent Hebrew. He then submitted Rav Kook’s shi’ur as an argument for the use of the Ivrit be-Ivrit system in American Hebrew schools!23 Another writer noted the fusion of halakha and aggadah in Rav Kook’s shi’ur, as well as the great love he expressed for Jews, Torah and Eretz Yisrael. Sitting in New York, listening to Rav Kook, he wrote, one felt he had been transported to Jerusalem, because Rav Kook brought Jerusalem with him to New York24.

On April 15, Rav Kook met with President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. Although the President had a meeting with his cabinet that same day, and it wasn’t his usual day for receiving visitors, he considered it a great honor to meet with the chief rabbi of the Holy Land, and therefore broke with his usual custom and granted him an audience25. At the meeting, Rav Kook thanked the President for his government’s support of the Balfour Declaration, and told him that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will benefit not only the Jews themselves, but all mankind throughout the world. He quoted the Talmudic sages as saying that no solemn peace can be expected unless the Jews return to the Holy Land, and therefore their return is a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Rav Kook also expressed the gratitude of Jews throughout the world towards the American government for aiding in relief work during the war. He said that America has always shown an example of liberty and freedom to all, as written on the Liberty Bell, and that he hoped that the country will continue to uphold these principles and render its assistance whenever possible. The speech, written in Hebrew, was delivered in English by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, executive secretary of the CRC. Rav Kook answered “Amen”, and explained that since he wasn’t fluent in English, he had Rabbi Teitelbaum read his message. By answering “Amen”, he indicated that he consented to every word that had been read. The President responded that the American government will be glad to assist Jews whenever possible26. Before leaving Washington, Rabbis Kook and Teitelbaum held a meeting of local rabbis and community leaders to raise money for the Torah Fund27.

Rav Kook’s remarks to President Coolidge on the universal significance of the Jews’ return to their homeland are typical of remarks he made to public officials throughout his stay in America. As mentioned, he told Mayor Hylan that the Torah is the light of the world. While in Montreal, he told the mayor of that city that “the ultimate return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem will not only be for their good, but for the good of the world at large28.” Towards the end of his stay in America, he met, in New York, with the President-elect of Mexico, and expressed his hope that Jews would continue to prosper in his country. He added that all countries which have favored Jews have enjoyed prosperity and Mexico, by welcoming the wandering Jews, would now also prosper29. Rav Kook’s practice of publicly expressing Jewish pride was earlier displayed in England in 1917, after the Balfour Declaration was passed by the British Parliament. At a public gathering celebrating the event, rather than thanking the British government, Rav Kook congratulated it for having been privilege to assist the Jews in returning to Palestine30. The dynamic relation between Israel and the other nations of the world which Rav Kook referred to in speaking to government officials, was elaborately formulated by him in his writings31.

The image of the Liberty Bell and the verse engraved upon it, evoked by Rav Kook in his message to the President, was again referred to by him in a speech on June 22 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the bell is located. Rav Kook said that the bell was one which rang out the freedom of America. He explained that the verse engraved on the bell, “And you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants,” spoke of liberty achieved after forty-nine years of work. Freedom is so important, he said, that one must work forty-nine years to achieve it. This is true for the individual, to whom the verse is addressed, and much more so for a nation. He then placed a wreath of flowers on the bell and said that freedom can be a crown of thorns or a crown of flowers, depending upon how it is used. In America, freedom is used properly, and therefore, it is a crown of flowers32.

Rav Kook’s praise of American freedom may have been more than mere rhetoric. In his philosophical writings, freedom is a central conccpt32a. He writes that the creation of the world is grounded. in the notion of divine freedom of action, and Man’s task is to link himself to this freedom and thereby actualize his inner essence33. Rav Kook may have felt that the freedom enjoyed in America would enable its citizens to realize this wider sense of the concept. As we will see, Rav Kook, shortly before his departure from America, discussed his view of the country’s Jewish community. When he first came to the country, he wrote to his son that it was a difficult exile for the Jews, despite its outer amenities34. As he saw more of the country and its Jewry, however, his views began to change. In one city, he told his audience that America is the best exile for the Jews, because of its concept of liberty. He added, however, that it is still better to be in Eretz Yisrael, because, elsewhere, the Jew is ultimately a stranger, while in Eretz Yisrael he is in his own land35.

Rav Kook himself, as we have seen, was very reluctant to travel to America. Besides the fact that he had many pressing matters to attend to in Palestine, his strong attachment to the land made it very difficult to leave. In New York, he told a reporter that Eretz Yisrael was part of his very soul, and leaving it was akin to having part of his soul removed36. This feeling was apparently so strong that it projected itself onto Rav Kook’s visage. One reporter, describing his impressions of Rav Kook when he first arrived in New York, wrote that he was a very outgoing person, very eager to meet people and involved in the world, yet, at the same time, looked like a stranger, really wanting to be somewhere else37.

Despite Rav Kook’s physical distance from Eretz Yisrael during his stay in America, the land was uppermost in his thoughts. He urged American Jews to buy land and build industry there, and, if possible, to emigrate38. He also attended to Palestine affairs while in this country. A major issue of importance at that time was the effort of the chief rabbinate of Palestine to gain the right to decide on matters of constitution and administration of wakfs, or properties donated for religious purposes in Palestine. Rav Kook had been working on this matter before leaving for America, but the official decision was still pending. While in Washington, he discussed the matter with the British ambassador39. In May, 1924, an ordinance was passed giving the chief rabbinate the control they sought. This ordinance strengthened the power of the chief rabbinate and was vigorously opposed by both leftist, anti-religious factions, and by the old community of Jerusalem, led by Rabbi Hayyim Sonnenfeld. Rabbi Sonnenfeld sent a cable to the British Colonial Office, asking that the right of decision concerning the wakfs should remain with the Moslem Religious Court, as it had until then, rather than with the “Zionist Chief Rabbinate”. The Colonial Office, however, rejected the appeal, saying that the ordinance could not be annulled40.

While in America, Rav Kook also spoke of the yeshiva he was in the process of creating in Jerusalem. In 1922, a small group of young Talmudic scholars began to study in his bet ha-midrash. From this core group, he hoped to develop a Torah institution which, together with the institution of the chief rabbinate, would turn Jerusalem into the spiritual center of world Jewry. The group was referred to as “Merkaz Ha-Rav”, because Rav Kook felt it was not large enough to merit the title of “yeshiva”. He hoped to name it eventually the Central Universal Yeshiva, to which young scholars from all parts of the world would come to study. The physical aspect of Eretz Yisrael, Rav Kook said, constituted Zion, while its spiritual aspect constituted Jerusalem. He insisted that Zion has significance only if it culminates in Jerusalem. He called his campaign to realize this goal of developing the spiritual nature of Jerusalem, Degel Yerushalayim, “Banner of Jerusalem”, a movement which he actually started during his years in London, from 1917 to 1919. In interviews and public addresses he gave during his stay in America, he spoke enthusiastically of this project41. At an OU convention, he said that he envisioned joint cooperation between his projected yeshiva and RIETS, including exchange of faculty, the sending of RIETS students to his yeshiva for a certain period of time, and contributions of RIETS students and faculty to a future Torah journal42. In a letter to his son, he wrote that his central purpose in coming to America was to gain support for the yeshiva43. However, because of his obligations to the CRC, he did not make a formal effort to raise funds for his own yeshiva until a few days before he left the country, when the business of the Torah Fund had already been concluded. At that time, he set up an American committee to aid the yeshiva, headed by Rabbis Aaron Teitelbaum, Israel Rosenberg, Bernard Levinthal, and others44.

Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav (from wikipedia)

Although the rabbinical delegation was in America primarily to raise funds for Torah institutions overseas, they dealt with other issues, as well. Rabbi Shapiro, for example, made an appeal-through the politically active Rabbi Simon Glazer of New York-to Secretary of State Charles Evan Hughes, to permit prospective haluzot entrance to America, despite recently passed laws which severely limited foreign immigration45. The delegation was often called upon to arbitrate conflicts between rabbis and rabbinical organizations. Rav Kook was again the spokesman for the group in these cases. Their efforts in this area met with mixed success. In Pittsburgh, a peace agreement adopted through the mediation of the delegation by two rabbis in the city, made front-page headlines in the local Yiddish press46. In Montreal, on the other hand, the delegation was unable to find a solution to a conflict involving kashrut supervision, as one of the factions refused to submit to their authority47. In Newark, Rav Kook proposed a rapprochement between two rabbis who had been disputing the rights to supervision of certain slaughterhouses in the city. When one of the rabbis refused to make peace, Rav Kook in turn refused to attend his installation as spiritual leader of a local synagogue. Rabbi Shapiro also declined the invitation, while Rabbi Epstein, having been the teacher of that rabbi in Slabodka, did attend. He went, however, only as a private individual, not in his official capacity as a member of the rabbinical delegation48. The importance of rabbinic unity was constantly stressed by the delegation while they were in America49. Rav Kook felt that Jerusalem should serve as a unifying factor in this area. By establishing a universal rabbinic organization there, such unity could, he felt, be achieved50.

A difficulty encountered by the CRC in its Torah Fund was its convergence with the campaign of the Keren Hayesod, the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization. In connection with this campaign, Hayyim Weizmann had come to America around the same time as the rabbinical delegation. The coincidence provoked wide-scale criticism. The Hebrew weekly Hadoar, for example, wrote that despite the importance of the Torah institutions of Europe and Palestine, they felt the campaigns for the Tarbut schools overseas and for the Keren Hayesod, both already underway, should take precedence, and that the CRC should delay the beginning of its Torah Fund campaign until the others are completed51. Other voices suggested that the conflict in scheduling was a deliberate attempt by the CRC and the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim which helped coordinate the campaign, to undermine the Keren Hayesod because of it irreligious character52. Whether or not this allegation was true, the conflict worked to the detriment of the Torah Fund, which fell short of its one million dollar goal53.

The irreligious nature of the Keren Hayesod was, indeed, an issue being raised in Orthodox circles in America at the time. In 1923, Rabbi Simon Glazer, an ardent Zionist worker, who had almost single-handedly brought about the joint congressional resolution recognizing the Balfour Declaration54, sharply criticized the Keren Hayesod at the 1923 convention of the Knesset Ha-Rabbanim, a rabbinic organization run by Rabbi G.Z. Margolis together with Rabbi Glazer. The result of this criticism was the organization’s withdrawal of support for the Keren Hayesod, and its official alignment with the Agudat Yisrael World Organization55. In 1924, the Morgen Journal ran a series of articles critical of the Keren Hayesod, and at the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim convention in May of that year, one participant suggested a move similar to that of the Knesset Ha-Rabbanim. Rav Kook, who was present at the convention, spoke against the proposal, and vigorously defended the work of pioneers in Eretz Yisrael, who were selflessly dedicated to rebuilding the land. He also warned the rabbis not to engage in overhasty zealousness56. It is possible that some of the rabbis present knowing of Rav Kook’s recent protest against public Sabbath violation in Palestine57, and his support of a law in Tel Aviv making such violation a civil crime58, felt that the rabbi would approve of withdrawal of support for the Keren Hayesod. In actuality, they totally misread Rav Kook’s position. One reporter, present at the convention, wrote that he had spoken to many of the rabbis present there about Rav Kook, and discovered that they really knew very little about his views59.

Rav Kook’s support of the Tel Aviv Sabbath legislation provoked quite a different reaction from the previously cited reporter for the Forward. He wrote with anger that Rav Kook wanted to impose religious rule in Palestine, and that such an approach was in opposition to the ideals of democracy, socialism and free thought60. This criticism was echoed in other Jewish socialist papers and reflected that movement’s attitude towards religion. As spelled out in one of the papers of the time, they were willing to tolerate religious Jews as long as they did not attempt to impose their religion on others61. The reporter for the Forward, in fact, also interviewed Rabbi Shapiro, and was much more satisfied with his remarks than with Rav Kook’s. Rabbi Shapiro told him that, although he was not happy with the Jewish cultural schools being built in Lithuania, he would never complain to the government about them, since it was an internal Jewish issue. The reporter felt that it was this approach, rather than Rav Kook’s, which had enabled the Jewish people to survive throughout its long period of exile62.

Because of the conflict with the Keren Hayesod campaign, the CRC cancelled its original plan to have the rabbis visit Chicago near Pesah time and make appeals in synagogues during that holiday. The CRC had hoped that a generous response in Chicago would serve as an example for the other cities which the rabbis were to visit. However, the Keren Hayesod, which had already designated the last day of Pesah as a day to make appeals for their campaign in Chicago, protested the projected appearance of the rabbis, and prevailed upon the CRC to arrange a different date for their Chicago campaign. They decided that the rabbis would visit other cities first, and come to Chicago for Shavuot63.

The first major city visited by the rabbis as a group was Montreal. On their arrival in the city on May 5, they were greeted by more than two thousand Jews at the train station. From there, they were driven in an automobile procession to City Hall, where they were greeted by Mayor Duquette. The mayor spoke highly of the Montreal Jewish community, and wished the rabbis success on their mission. Rav Kook, in his reply, referred to Montreal as one of the greatest British cities outside of England. He said that Canada was a sister country of his, since Palestine was under British protectorate rule, and that he was, therefore, a British subject. He praised the British government for helping the Jews build a home of their own. He added that, “When all is said and done, the difference of religious belief is only on the surface, the fundamentals being, to do good to all mankind, live up to the teachings of the Bible and carry out the precepts of the Golden Rule.” At a fund-raising banquet the next evening, Rav Kook said that the Torah is the source of the Jew’s past and future. A reporter present wrote that the speech revealed a wealth of scholarship and erudition, and that hearing it was like watching the flow of a placid stream, whose source is inexhaustible. Six thousand dollars were pledged that evening to the Torah Fund64.

The next city visited by the rabbis was Pittsburgh. They were in the city on May 18 and 19. While there, they visited the Hebrew Institute, where Rav Kook addressed the children in Hebrew. As mentioned earlier, the delegation was able to make peace among the local rabbis. One Pittsburgh resident, Mr. Charles Levin, was so pleased with this development that, in appreciation, he gave one hundred dollars to Rav Kook, to use for the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem65.

The next stop for the rabbis was Cleveland, which they visited from May 20 to 22. Although there was a large reception for them at the train station when they arrived in the city, there was a very poor turnout at the banquet held the next evening, at which only $1,500 was raised for the Torah Fund. Before leaving, the rabbis criticized the community for its poor response, and suggested that a fund be set up in the city to help support the CRC66. Interestingly, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in describing Rav Kook, noted that he had a reddish beard, wore a squirrel cap, and spoke the Hebrew which Jews in Palestine had spoken two thousand years before.

The rabbis next visited Detroit, from May 27 until June 2. At a banquet on May 29, Rav Kook spoke of the essence of Jewish nationality, and the essential unity in moral purpose of the various elements among the Jewish People. In discussing the significance of the galut, he said, “The past, present and future form a constant stream of the history of our people, and constitute one process. “The redemption of our people,” he said, “both in a physical and spiritual sense is determined by the manner in which the Jewish will asserts itself . . . American Jewry constitutes that phase of present Jewish life which makes possible the necessary adjustment in life of our people as a whole. The present sufferings of the Jewish People in Eastern Europe, on the one hand, and the Zionist activities, on the other, are the signs of the coming Jewish rebirth67.”

One Detroit reporter, in describing his impressions of Rav Kook, wrote of the importance of his rabbinic position and his impeccable scholarly credentials. However, he wrote, the rabbi was most of all a poet-philosopher, whose large, kind eyes contained a suggestion of the mystic, and that his sympathy for his people and for the world, dominates his outlook upon the problems of the Jewish People, the strangeness of its historical evolution, its sufferings and its efforts to achieve a more or less cohesive adjustment. Like an ancient prophet, wrote the reporter, Rav Kook sees a final resolution of his people’s and humanity’s problems on the basis of reason, justice and enlightenment. The reporter, Abraham Caplan, concluded that, “as close as Rav Kook is to his people, whom he loves with such a love few others have, he moves in a lofty mental sphere and detaches himself from the maddening crowd68.”

After leaving Detroit, the delegation went to Chicago, arriving there on June 2, and remaining there for a week, through Shavuot. Chicago was their major stop outside of New York City, and they raised over fifty thousand dollars there, of which the local press was very proud69. While in the city, Rabbis Kook and Epstein delivered shi’urim to the students and faculty of the Hebrew Theological College.

From June 2 to 24, the rabbis visited Philadelphia. Speaking at Independence Hall on June 22, Rav Kook expressed his hope that the freedom and equality of humanity, which the Liberty Bell proclaimed, might continue to be the inspiring message of America70. At a mass rally held at the Academy of Music on June 24, Rav Kook said that the Jewish religion is the hope of the world, and Jerusalem the hope of the Jewish People. “We do not forget our bond with Zion,” he said, “and we do not permit the world to forget it71.”

From Philadelphia, the delegation proceeded, on June 25, to St. Louis, and from there to Boston, where they arrived on July 1. A local Boston reporter, writing on Rav Kook’s speech at a banquet held in the city, noted that when he spoke of Zion and Jerusalem, one felt that he really meant what he said, and even those who couldn’t understand the speech itself sensed the holiness of his words72.

The rabbis next visited Baltimore, from July 6 to 8. The local Jewish press wrote enthusiastically of their cause, and urged the city’s Jews to contribute73. Rabbi Israel Miller of Yeshiva University, recalled Rav Kook’s visit to the local talmud torah which he was then attending. After he addressed the student body in Yiddish, the students filed past him individually to receive his blessing. Rabbi Miller particularly remembered the kindness projected through Rav Kook’s eyes74, a feature also mentioned as we have seen by Abraham Caplan of Detroit.

On July 8, the rabbis returned to Chicago, where they remained for a few more days, and then finally returned to New York, in anticipation of their departure from America. They did not personally travel to cities further west, but representatives of the CRC went to cities such as Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles and San Francisco to raise money for the Torah Fund75. In addition, the Agudat HaRabbanim had its members pledge to spend two weeks each, traveling to smaller cities which did not have rabbis, in order to raise funds76.

Throughout their stay in New York, special receptions were held for the rabbinical delegation in various communities of the city, including Brownsville, East New York, Harlem, Boro Park, and others. They also occasionally visited private individuals. For example, the delegation visited the home of Rabbi Israel Rosenberg, a leader of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim and the CRC, where a special meal was prepared in their honor77. This was one of the few places where Rav Kook ate anything other than what was prepared for him by his private cook, or by his son-in-law, Rabbi Israel Rabinowitz Teomim, who had accompanied him on his trip to America78. Another home in which Rav Kook consented to eat, was that of Dr. Samuel Friedman, popularly known as “Shabbos” Friedman, because of his rare status as a Sabbath-observing physician. Dr. Friedman’s son, in his biography of his father, described an interesting incident that occurred while Rav Kook was visiting his parents’ home in Edgemere, New York. A distraught man interrupted a conversation between Rabbi Kook and Dr. Friedman, and told the doctor that his ailing daughter had no chance to live, and that, therefore, Dr. Friedman was her only hope for survival. Rav Kook told the man to pray, but the man said he couldn’t, because he was a Sabbath-violator. Rav Kook told him that if he wanted his child to live, he must repent and decide to observe the Sabbath. He then told Dr. Friedman to tend to the child, who, in the end, survived79.

The rabbis had originally planned to stay in America for about three months80. However, because their fund-raising efforts were not as successful as had been hoped, they remained for eight months. In the end, they raised a little over $300,000, far short of the one million dollar goal which the CRC had set. Before leaving, the rabbis helped set up a membership drive for the CRC, which it was hoped, would bring in more funds81. In any case, in May, 1925, the executive committee of the JDC decided to reorganize its work for all spheres of relief, and thus, the CRC rejoined the organization, thereby considerably relieving themselves of fund-raising burdens. The money raised by the rabbis, therefore, proved to be quite helpful for the short period of time during which it was needed82.

The rabbinical delegation left America on November 12,1924. During their last few days in the country, farewell receptions were given them by various organizations. At a banquet held on Sunday evening, November 9, by the CRC, the rabbis thanked American Jewry for its help in saving the Torah centers in Europe and Palestine. Rav Kook, in his speech, said that the CRC campaign should not be taken in isolation from other campaigns, because all Jewish spiritual efforts are interconnected, and lead to Israel’s ultimate redemption83.

On Tuesday afternoon, November 11, a special farewell ceremony for Rav Kook was held by the Zionist Organization and the Keren Hayesod. The event was attended by about five hundred of the leading Zionist and Keren Hayesod workers of Greater New York. The famed orator, Reverend Zevi Hirsch Masliansky, opened the ceremonies by praising Rav Kook for his spirit of tolerance towards people with whose religious views and practices he differed most radically. Another speaker Gedaliah Bublick, editor of the Yiddish daily, the Tageblatt, declared that Rav Kook represented the inseparable union of the Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. In his farewell address, Rav Kook spoke of recent events in Jewish history, of the first steps in the great redemption, and predicted that “in the final structure, the material and the spiritual will be harmoniously blended in truth to the fundamental character of the Jewish People.” He also spoke of the haluzim, the Jewish pioneers in Palestine, and predicted that the workers for the spiritual redemption of Palestine and they will ultimately say “Amen” to each other, united in common purpose84.

On November 12, at 9:00 A.M., the rabbinical delegation was met at Pier 59 by thousands of Jews, wishing them a safe journey. The rabbis issued a letter of farewell to American Jewry, wishing them the blessings of the Torah, and asking them to become members of the CRC and thereby continue to support Torah institutions over-seas. Their ship, the Mauretania, departed at 11:00 that morning85.

Reporters were very interested in the impression the rabbis had of America, and especially in those of Rav Kook. In an exclusive interview he had with the Morgen Journal, Rav Kook referred to American Jewry as a hidden treasure, and enumerated three qualities they had which, if developed, could make them one of the most important Jewries in history. These qualities were a deep feeling for religiosity, a sense of Jewish nationalism, and a sense of social responsibility. He attributed the last quality to the excellent human material of which the Jewish communities consist, as well as to the civil liberties enjoyed by American Jews as free citizens of a republic under a generous and democratic government. He also noted the importance of the civic education which American Jews receive through their unhampered participation in their country’s political affairs. In order for American Jews to develop their potential, Rav Kook said, it is necessary for them to provide a proper Jewish education for their youth. To this end, he felt that parochial schools should be built by the Jewish community. He felt that American Jewry would eventually surpass Jewries in other lands of the diaspora and serve as an example for them, and ultimately, would be able to transfer its talents to Palestine to help rebuild the Jewish homeland86. These last remarks echoed those he made at an OU convention in June, where he said that, just as in the past, there were two great centers of Jewry, Palestine and Babylonia, so today, there are two great centers of Jewry, Palestine and America87.

Rav Kook maintained contact with the American Jewish community after returning to Eretz Yisrael, largely in connection with the committee he had set up in New York to aid his yeshiva. He planned a return trip to this country to raise funds for the yeshiva, but was never able to make it88. He was occasionally asked for his opinion of events on the American Jewish scene89, and one of his last acts before he died, was to send a telegram to the Agudat HaRabbanim of America expressing his opposition to proposed changes in the ketubah sponsored by the Conservative movement90.

Rav Kook’s trip to America came at a watershed period in Jewish history. Immigration laws passed in 1921 and 1924 had in effect put an end to the mass influx of Eastern European Jews to America, a process which had begun in the 1880’s. A time for consolidation had come, and Rav Kook’s visit with his two colleagues gave American Jewry an opportunity to take stock of itself, and consider its strengths and weaknesses. The appearance of the rabbinic delegation in America helped bolster the community’s self-image, and the honor shown the rabbis by public officials greatly strengthened Jewish pride. The message received from the rabbis, and especially Rav Kook, was that America, which had been considered earlier a “treife medinah”, was now beginning to emerge as a major center of Jewish religious life. It was widely felt that the rabbis’ visit did more for American Jewry than for anyone else91. Rav Kook’s unique contribution was his promotion of love for Eretz Yisrael and support for its physical upbuilding, especially at a time when voices of opposition were beginning to be heard in the religious community.

What follows are the impressions a writer for the English section of the Tageblatt, Jean Jaffen had of Rav Kook upon meeting him at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

“It is impossible to speak of Chief Rabbi A. I. Kook without becoming sentimental, at times even maudlin.

“I witnessed the hardy reception tendered to the rabbi by Mayor Hylan of New York. I was moved by the occasion for, literally speaking, his patriarchal countenance and prophetic mien brought tears not only to the eyes of his fellow rabbis present, but to the eyes of many a transient street gamin as well as the municipal officials.

“I read of Rav Kook’s versatility. I heard of his rare spirit. I knew of his literary work. I heard of the numerous titles conferred upon him. I was familiar with the rabbi’s achievements in the spiritual and physical development of Palestine. When I went to meet him I therefore awaited a spiritual bulwark, a gigantic mind. And I found much more.

“I was admitted into an attractive reception room at the Hotel Pennsylvania where a host of people, from indifferent newspapermen to rabid enthusiasts and disciples of the rabbi, were eagerly awaiting him. I admit that my short knowledge of Hebrew, to which I immediately resorted, made me feel more at ease (I was the only woman present) and made my presence more desirable.

“Rabbi Kook was ushered in from the adjacent room. I sincerely hoped that it were possible for me to remain silent throughout. I wanted to sit, look and listen.

“I managed to be the last one confronted, so that I might have time to stay. I looked at the calm, celestial face illuminated by the large, Semitic eyes, which spoke of sorrow and impression, of poetry and hope-and of wisdom. I noticed his white, well-kept hands as he removed his massive headgear to the surface of a skullcap. I looked at his beautiful, immaculate garb, black velvet and white. I followed up closely his consistent resort to the Talmud which he brought in under his arm and from which he would raise his eyes only to answer questions, which were provoked by his own replies.

“It is quite a revelation to hear a well-constructed, well-modulated English come from so aged a man (Rabbi Kook is about sixty) who has spent his life in Russia and Palestine. He later accounted for it by saying that frequent meetings with Herbert Samuel led him to make a study of the language. He did it by a thorough study of an English translation of the Bible92. Rabbi Kook speaks German, Russian, French and Chaldean, besides Hebrew and English.

“His tone was quite jovial for he mostly answered questions about the things nearest to him, the Torah and Palestine. But when putting questions, his tone was grave, for he asked of the galut, of the desecration of the Bible, of the violation of the Sabbath. He would often abandon the topic under discussion and with the intellect of a father would ask personal questions of each respective guest. He was able to discuss freely modern phenomena and types and phases of modern life.

“Rabbi Kook was most impressive when he struck the lyric chords. He turned poet in expression and ardor when he spoke of the great number of Jewish colonies springing up in Palestine, of the development of industry and natural resources. Then his face beamed all the more as he told of a railroad between Tel-Aviv and Lod, which is not operated on the Sabbath.

“The words ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘inspiration’ constantly echo in his conversation. “Jewish children must be inspired to the Bible and by the Bible,” was one of his frequent remarks. Another was, “The building up of Palestine must be with dignity and religion.”

“I came away from this venerable man with a vision of all that I ever knew and heard of the Jewish race, with an intense feeling for the things he conveyed and with a feeling of annoyance against all the pettiness of everyday life which surrounded me upon my departure93.”


1 The Sefer Ha-Yavel shel Agudat Ha-Rabbanim: 1902-1927 (New York; Agudat Ha-Rabbanim, 1928), p.125, states that the AJRC was started by “reformed Jews” who called for a general meeting, led by bankers and leaders of the American Jewish Committee. This group asked the CRC to join with them to form one united relief committee; The CRC, however, insisted on retaining its separate existence, in order to assure that the needs of the Orthodox world would be attended to. Oscar Hardlin, in The Continuing Task (New York, 1964), p.25, writes that the American Jewish Committee had asked forty national organizations to meet in October, 1914. At that meeting, Oscar S. Strauss, Julian V. Mack, Louis D. Brandeis, Harry Fischel and Meyer London were charged to select one hundred people to act as the AIRC, with Louis Marshall serving as president and Felix M. Warburg as treasurer. Harry Fischel also served as treasurer of the CRC, while Louis Kamicky, publisher of the Yiddish daily, the Tageblatt (Jewish Daily News), served as its President. See also Aaron Rothkoff’s article, “The 1924 Visit of the Rabbinical Delegation to the United States of America,” in Ha-Masmid (New York, 1959), p.122. Rothkoff incorrectly identifies Kamicky as publisher of the daily, Morgen Journal.

2 Yeshiva University Archives, records of the Central Relief Committee, 198/8.

3 Ibid. 140/1.

4 Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, p.177, no.1212, and CRC, 140/2.

5 The Hafetz Hayyim was in his eighties, and too ill to travel, while Rav Hayyim Ozer had recently lost his wife. Rav Kook wrote R. Hayyim Ozer a letter of condolence shortly before leaving for America. See Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, p.185, no.1222. Until then, he had tried to convince R. Hayyim Ozer to join him in the trip. See, for example, Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, p.175, no.1207. The Morgen Journal, April 16,1924, published a letter from R. Hayyim Ozer, expressing his regret that he couldn’t come, and referring to the members of the delegation as being the greatest geonim of the generation.

6 Morgen Journal, Jan.31, 1924, p.1. That paper reported that 150 rabbis attended a reception for Rabbi Epstein.

7 Rothkoff, op. cit., p.123.

8 Ibid.

9 Morgen Journal, March 21, 1924, p.9.

10 Ibid, March 20, 1924, pp.1 and 2, and Tageblatt, March 20, p.1. The Tageblatt article included a Yiddish translation of Rav Kook’s Hebrew speech.

11 Rothkoff, op. cit., p.124.

12 See, for example, Der Tag, April 3, 1924.

13 Y. U. Archives, CRC, 140/6.

14 See, for example, the report in the Tageblatt, March 20, 1924, p.1.

15 Boston Jewish Advocate, March 1, 1912, p.6.

16 Tageblatt, March 20,1924, p.1. See also The Jewish Forum, March, 1924, pp.173-176 (and also June, 1924, p.367, for corrections of errata in the March article).

17 Forward, March 26, 1924, p.7.

18 Iggrerot Rayah. vol. 4, p.189, no.1229. Rav Kook was referring to the passage in Talmud Bavli, Berakhot 5a which states that afflictions can be identified as “chastisements of love”, if they do not cause loss of time from prayer or Torah study. See also the quotation in Rothkoff, op. cit., p.125. Rabbi Israel Tabak, who came to America on the Olympic at the same time as Rabbis Kook and Shapiro, related his impressions of these rabbis in his memoirs. Of Rav Kook he wrote, “Rav Kook impressed me as particularly serious, steadfast of purpose, and always deep in thought; he invariably held a sefer close to him, and was constantly engaged in study or contemplation. His face reflected his strong character, his determination to get things done, to make every day count. In spite of his fame and his important position as Chief Rabbi, he was modest and reserved and never assumed an air of superiority.” (Three Worlds, A Jewish Odyssey, by Rabbi Israel Tabak, Jerusalem, 1988, p.93). Rabbi Tabak erroneously states (ibid.) that Rabbi Epstein was on the Olympic together with the other two rabbis.

19 Ibid, pp.195-196, no.1241.

20 Das Yiddishe Licht, April 18, 1924, p.19.

21 Tageblatt, April 3, 1924, p: i

22 Ibid, April 6, 1924, p.7 

23 Das Yiddishe Licht, May 2 1924 pp.4-5

24 Tageblatt, April 3, 1924 p 1

25 Morgen Journal, April 16 ‘924 p 1

26 CRC, 140/7. The CRC records contain an English translation of Rav Kook’s entire speech, and fragments of President Coolidge’s speech. 

27 Morgen Journal, April 16 1924 p 2

28 Canadian Jewish Chronicle, May 9, 1924, p.5.

29 Jewish Daily Bulletin, Oct. 30,1924.

30 Alexander Carlebach, Men and Ideas (Jerusalem, 1982), p.109.

31 See, for example, Orot. pp.15-17.

32 The Philadelphia Jewish World (Yiddish), June 23, 1924.

32a. See e.g. Eder Ha-Yeqar, p.28; Iggerot Rayah, vol.1, p.53; no.44; Orot ha-Qodesh, vol.3, p. 40; vol.4, p.423; Arpiley Tohar, bot. p.57; Eretz: Tzvi [Tzvi Glatt Memorial Volume] (Jerusalem, 1989) p.183, par. 2; Rabbi M.Z. Neriyah, Sihot ha-Rayah (Tel -Aviv, 5739) note bottom p.342.

33 Orot Ha-Qodesh, vol.3, p.26.

34 Iggerot Rayah, vol.4. p.190, no.1231: “Galut kevedah hi, ela she-me’uteret bi-zehuvim” (“It is a heavy exile, but adorned with gold coins”).

35 Philadelphia Jewish World, June 23, 1924, and Baltimore Jewish Times, May 23, 1924. See also, Orot, p.11(6).

36 St. Louis Jewish Record (Yiddish), June 13,1924.

37 Morgen Journal, March 23, 1924, p.4

38 Ibid, March 20, 1924, p.2.

39 Ibid, April 16, 1924, and CRC, 140/6.

40 Chicago Chronicle, June 13, 1924, and Morgen Journal, June 10,1924, p.9, which carries a report from Jerusalem, dated May 10. See also Iggerot LaRayah (Jerusalem, 5750) p.257.

41 Morgen Journal, April 29,1924, p.6; Das Yiddishe Licht, July 25 and August 8,1924.

42 Das Yiddishe Licht, May 30,1924, English section, p.12, and sources in note 40. See also Iggerot La-Rayah (second, enlarged edition, Jerusalem, 5750) pp. 325-326, no.215.

43 Iggerot Rayah, vol.4 p.190, no.1231.

44 YU Archives, CRC, 124/1 and 5.

45 The Glazer Papers, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. The prospective haluzot were widows whose husbands had died childless, and were survived by a brother. The woman could not remarry unless halizah was performed with the surviving brother. Often, the brother was in America and the widow overseas.

46 The Jewish Indicator (Yiddish), May 11, 1924, and Der Tag, May 23.

47 The Canadian Eagle (Yiddish), May 11, 1924, and Der Tag, May 23. On the entire controversy, see Ira Robinson, “The Kosher Meat War and the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, 1922-1925,” in Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. XXII, No.2, November 30, 1990.

48 Ya’akov Mendelssohn, Mishnat Yavetz (Newark, 1925), p. 72. Rav Kook is referred to as “rosh ha-medabrim’; the spokesman of the group.

49 See, for example, Morgen Journal, May 14, 1924 and Nov. 10,1924, p.1. Rav Shapiro attributed the failure to reach the CRC’s one million dollar goal to the lack of unity among American Jewry.

50 See sources in note 40.

51 Hadoar, March 21,1924, p.2, and March 28, p.1. In its Nov.14 issue, the journal further criticized the delegation for not having rebuked American Jewry on account of its low level of religious observance.

52 Newspaper article by B.Z. Goldberg, dated March 24, 1924. The article is included in a collection of press clippings in CRC, 206. The newspaper is not identified, but appears to be Der Tag.

53 In a letter to the Chief Rabbi of South Africa (CRC, 124/5) Rav Kook wrote, that despite all the honor shown him in America, he was unable to raise enough money to establish a firm foundation for the yeshivot.

54 See his work, The Palestine Resolution (Kansas City, Mo., 1922). He sent a copy of it to Rav Kook. See Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, pp.155-156, no.1169.

55 Das Yiddishe Licht, July 27, 1923, p.8

56 Der Tag, May 20,1924 (in CRC, 205).

57 Das Yiddishe Licht, April 4, 1924, English section. p.10.

58 Forward, March 26, 1924, p.7, and Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, p.160, no.1179.

59 Der Tag, May 20, 1924. Also, see Ha-Doar, May 30 and June 6. The article in the May 30 issue gave the impression that many members of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim backed the proposal in question. In a letter to the editor in the June 6 edition, R. Hayyim Hirschenson explained that it was the proposal of only one person, who himself was an outsider, and not a member of the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim. The article in Der Tag seems to corroborate the May 30 Ha-Doar version. Later, in the winter of 5686 (1925-1926), Rav Kook was criticized by a group of Hasidic rabbinic leaders for his support of the Keren Ha-Yesod. See article by R. Ya’akov Filber in Ha-Zofeh, 3 Ellul, 5750, p. 8 and Iggerot La-Rayah (Jerusalem, 5750) pp.303-306, no.199.

60 Forward, March 26, 1924, p.7.

61 Der Wecker, April 12, 1924 (in CRC, 206).

62 Op. cit.

63 CRC, 140/9 and 11.

64 Canadian Jewish Chronicle, May 9,1924, pp.5 and 9.

65 The Jewish Indicator, May 27, 1924.

66 The Cleveland Jewish World (Yiddish), May 23, 1924.

67 Detroit Jewish Chronicle, June 6, 1924.

68 Ibid.

69 Chicago Jewish Courier, June 11,1924. In an article on June 4, the Courier suggested that the rabbinic delegation meet with the directors of Chicago’s Hebrew Theological College (now located in Skokie) to determine the direction the institute should take, and what balance should exist in the curriculum between Talmud and other Jewish studies.

70 The Philadelphia Jewish World (Yiddish), June 23, 1924.

71 Ibid. June 25, 1924.

72 Clipping from a Boston Yiddish newspaper, in CRC, 206, dated July 3,1924. Rav Kook was accompanied on his trip to Boston by Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel Charlop, who had come to New York to deliver the money collected during a Shavuot appeal for the Torah Fund in four synagogues in Omaha, Nebraska, which he served as rabbi. See the Omaha Jewish Press, July 10, 1924, and Mikhtevei Marom (Jerusalem, 5748) p.63. That work contains letters sent to Rabbi Charlop by his father, R. Ya’akov Moshe, who was a very devoted student of Rav Kook. In a conversation (Nov.14, 1990) Rabbi Zevulun Charlop of RIETS, a son of R. Yehiel Mikhel, related that in an unpublished letter, his grandfather prompted R. Yehiel Mikhel to make the trip from Omaha to New York. In other unpublished letters, R. Ya’akov Moshe wrote to his son of his attempts to dissuade Rav Kook from traveling to America, and of Rav Kook’s attempts to persuade Rav Charlop to accompany him on the trip.

73 Baltimore Jewish Times, July 4, 1924, p.10.

74 Conversation, September, 1990.

75 Denver Jewish Times, August 14, 1924.

76 Sefer Ha-Yovel shel Agudat Ha-Rabbanim, p.62.

77 Conversation with J. Mitchell Rosenberg (Rabbi Rosenberg’s son) on December 17, 1989. Mr. Rosenberg recalled that Rav Kook told him of a meeting he once had with President Wilson (sic). Rav Kook said that he had explained to the President the Jewish concept of the Messiah, and that the President had understood what he was told.

78 Leonard Seymour Friedman, in The Angel Cometh (New York, 1986), p.136, mentions this precaution taken by Rav Kook. The other members of the rabbinic delegation also seem to have acted in this manner. See CRC, 140/11, telegram from Rabbi Teitelbaum to B. Horwich, dated April 17, 1924.

79 Ibid. pp.113-115.

80 Morgen Journal, March 21, 1924, p.9.

81 CRC, 124.

82 CRC, 198/8.

83 Morgen Journal, Nov.10, 1924, p. 1

84 The New Palestine, Nov.14, 1924, p.323. See also Ma’amrey Ha-Rayah Jerusalem, 5744) pp.94-99.

85 Morgen Journal, Nov.13, 1924.

86 Ibid, Nov. 12, 1924, p.2, and Jewish Daily Bulletin, Nov. 13, 1924, p.2. See also The Jewish Forum, September, 1924, p.558, and Iggerot Rayah, vol.4, p.201, no.1149.

87 Das Yiddishe Licht, May 30, 1924, English section. p.12.

88 CRC, 124/6.

89 Ibid.

90 See London Jewish Chronicle, Sept. 6, 1935, p.12, and Hayyim Karlinsky, Divrei Yosef (New York, 1947), introduction, p.39. The proposal provided for an authorization by the husband, at the time of marriage, to allow his wife to appoint an agent to write a get and another agent to deliver it. This authorization was to be spelled out in the text of the ketubah. The proposal was made by Rabbi L. Epstein, who claimed that Rav Kook approved it, In his telegram, Rav Kook expressed his opposition to the proposal. In a letter to R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski, also cited by Karlinsky, Rav Kook wrote that he had never heard of Epstein. An account of the proposal and the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim’s campaign against it, is given in Karlinsky’s work, introduction, pp.31-44, and in the work Le-Dor Aharon, published by the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim in New York, 1937.

91 Editorials in newspapers at the time of the delegations’ departure.

92 Rav Kook received English instruction while a resident of London. In a letter to the London Jewish Chronicle, Sept. 13,1935, p.12, Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman writes: “It was my never-to-be-forgotten privilege to be his disciple in Talmud and Poskim and also to become his first English tutor. A more brilliant pupil could not be imagined. Together we read also the classics of other European languages, of which he possessed such an excellent knowledge.”

93 Tageblatt, March 28, 1924, English section.

Gedolim and Rav Kook ז’ל

I received an email from a reader who asked if all that stuff mentioned in a comment by Yisroel was true. We need to understand the times. The difference between the secular zionists and the haskolo was miniscule, except that the latter were not nationalistic. Accordingly, they removed themselves from the yoke of heaven, tried to assimilate and removed themselves from their land. Rav Kook was wise and spiritual enough to understand that the secular zionists, by virtue of still being associated with the land, were associating with Kedusha. Once a Neshama is touched by such Kedusha there is every chance it can be further stirred and influenced. Rav Kook, accordingly, never turned his back on secular zionists. Many other Gedolim, and here it spans most groups including Chabad via the Rashab, thought that the secular zionists were a dead loss and one had to fight them with polemics and protestation.

Rav Kook fought them with love; he overcame many of them with unadulterated אהבת ישראל (and that is not because his mother was from kapust 🙂

Yisroel would know that the Rayatz came to Rav Kook soon after he arrived in Israel and before leaving Rav Kook visited the Rayatz.

Here is a collection of material from other web sites and blogs (mainly via R’ Aviner).

“R. Yitzchak Gerstenkorn, the founder of B’nei Brak, told this story: In 5694 (1934), the Rav [i.e., Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook] was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Beit Yosef (Novardok) Yeshiva in B’nei Brak…At the ceremony, which the Chazon Ish also attended, Rav Kook spoke at length…Throughout the Rav’s address, the large crowd sat quietly in their seats–everyone but the Chazon Ish. He remained standing throughout the speech, listening attentively to every word. He only sat down when the Rav finished speaking and took his own seat.”

“R. Tzvi Kagan, who was present at the event, added this revealing piece of information: When the Rav’s address began to draw out, people approached the Chazon Ish and suggested that he sit down. The revered rabbi refused, however, saying, ‘The Torah is standing!’”

from An Angel Among Men, by Simcha Raz, p.375; translated by Rav Moshe D. Lichtman

It’s worth noting that, in his review of this work, Rav Berel Wein stated, “There is so much about Rav Kook that is misunderstood and misportrayed in the Jewish world, that a book that portrays him accurately is invaluable and necessary. This is such a book.”
In a letter from the Chazon Ish to Rav Kook that is seen on p. 374 of this work, we see that the Chazon Ish opened by saying, “HaRav HaRoshi HaGaon Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Hod K’vod Maran Shlita.” (“The Chief Rabbi, the consummate Torah-scholar, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the glory of the honor of our Master, may he live a long and good life.”)

“Rav Shlomo Zalman, in his earlier years, enjoyed a warm relationship with Rav Avraham Yitzchak [HaKohen] Kook, the first [Ashkenazi] Chief Rabbi of Israel. He would visit with him, observe his actions, and learn from him. Their relationship was so close, in fact, that Rav Kook officiated at Reb Shlomo Zalman’s wedding… Reb Shlomo Zalman’s respect for Rav Kook was evident from the numerous stories he would tell which highlighted the brilliant and charismatic attributes of the Chief Rabbi… Reb Shlomo Zalman never ceased to speak of him with the very highest admiration.”

“Reb Shlomo Zalman’s classic work Me’orei Esh contains approbations from Rav Abba Yaakov Borochov, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. The approbation which appears first is that of Rav Kook.”

“Considering Reb Shlomo Zalman’s aversion to matters of a political nature, it was startlingly unusual when he intervened in the internal affairs of a particular organization. Needless to say, the Gaon’s advice was always sought and welcomed, but in the area of organization politics, no one had ever succeeded in eliciting his response in the past. The issue at hand was whether to accept a certain candidate for a key position in this Torah organization. Reb Shlomo Zalman had recommended not to accept the nominee. His unprecedented intervention was triggered by the fact that the candidate in question always referred to Rav Kook as simply ‘Kook.’”

“Once the Gaon was riding in a taxi with one of the rabbanim from Kol Torah. His companion began to relate that he had found the explanation of a complex subject under examination at the yeshiva, in a particular book. But when he mentioned the name of the sefer, Reb Shlomo Zalman stopped him and refused to hear the explanation, saying that the book contained denigrating remarks about Rav Kook.”

from “And From Jerusalem, His Word,” by Rav Hanoch Teller, pp.196-198

I take issue with what Rapoport writes on p. 92, that when R. Kook passed away, R. Abraham Isaiah Karelitz, the Hazon Ish, declared that he would have no portion in the World to Come. The source for this is Aharon Rosenberg, Mishkenot ha-Ro’im (New York, 1997), vol. 3, pp. 1120-1121, who cites a well-known London anti-Zionist. This is hardly an unimpeachable reference. (This same source also claims that the Hazon Ish insisted that R. Ben Zion Uziel’s Mishpetei Uziel be left on the floor, since it is muktseh mei-hamat mi’us. See ibid., p. 1198; Elyakim Schlesinger’s haskamah to Aharon Rosenberg, Torat Emet [Monsey, 1992]). The truth is that while the Hazon Ish asserted that R. Kook’s philosophical works should not be read, he saw nothing objectionable about his halakhic writings and certainly did not regard as R. Kook as a heretic. See Shelomo Kohen, Pe’er ha-Dor (Jerusalem, 1969), vol. 2, p. 34.  Indeed, one of the first things the Hazon Ish did when he arrived in the Land of Israel was to write R. Kook a letter, asking him to decide a halakhic problem he was confronted with. See R. Ben Zion Shapiro, ed., Iggerot ha-Reiyah (Jerusalem, 1990), pp. 448-449. Even with regard to R. Kook’s philosophical writings, the Hazon Ish sometimes expressed a more positive view, depending on whom he was speaking to. See Binyamin Efrati, “Shenei Bikurim Etsel ha-Hazon Ish ZT”L,” Morashah 6 (1974): 62-63.

from “Of Books and Bans” by Prof. Marc Shapiro

The Netziv – Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva – said about Maran Ha-Rav Kook: “He is equal to everyone else [in the Volozhin Yeshiva]”, “There was never a student like this in Volozhin” and “If the Volozhin Yeshiva was established only for this great student – it would have been enough.” Ha-Rav Reuven Bengis – Av Beit Din of the Edah Charedit – similarly said that the most important [student] in the Yeshiva is the son-in-law of the Rav of Ponevezh (Ha-Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, Ha-Aderet – Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s father-in-law).
[Tal Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 59-60, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 45 and Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet p. 189]

The Chafetz Chaim: Know that he is holy and pure and anyone who impinges on his honor will not go unpunished.

The Chafetz Chaim once came to Ponovezh in his effort to organize Torah scholars who were Cohanim to learn matters relating to “Kodashim” (the sacrifices in the Temple), since the Temple would soon be built and therefore there would be a need to know the practical Halachah. He turned to Maran Ha-Rav, who was a Cohain (and who was stayed in his father-in-law’s house), and asked him to focus on the laws relating to the Temple and sacrifices. A few days later, Maran Ha-Rav visited the Chafetz Chaim in the place where he was staying. The Chafetz Chaim said to him: “I have a request of you, but promise me from the outset that you will fulfill it.” Maran Ha-Rav responded: “Since I trust that his honor will not request anything which is inappropriate from me, I promise to fulfill your request.” “This is my request” – said the Chafetz Chaim – “When a Rabbinic offer comes before you do not refuse to accept it.” Maran Ha-Rav, who had decided not to involve himself with the Rabbinate, found himself in a difficult position, and wanted to free himself and said: “In order to accept a Rabbinic position I would have to involve myself with the halachic authorities who discuss the issues involved, and I already promised his honor to involve myself with ‘Kodashim.'” Chafetz Chaim thought hard and said: “I give up on your first promise, your Rabbinate is more important”…
[Bisdeh Ha-Re’eiyah p. 218, Sichot Ha-Re’eiyah p. 122, Tal Ha-Re’eiyah p. 90, Moadei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 231 and 550, Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim pp. 32-33 and mentioned in Bishelosha Be-Elul vol. 1 p. 35]

After Maran Ha-Rav Kook had served a while in the Rabbinate in one of the holy communities in the Exile, he received an invitation from the Chafetz Chaim to help him prepare a work on the service of the Cohanim when the Temple is standing. Maran Ha-Rav replied: If his honor permits me to remove the yoke of the Rabbinate which is upon me, I can fulfill the request which is extremely dear to me. The Chafetz Chaim answered: I have not found an individual as talented as you in administering a Rabbinate in Israel!…
[Ha-Re’eiyah Kook ztzvk”l of Ha-Rav Shmuel Baruch Shulman p. 36]

At a huge Rabbinical Conference in Vienna in 5683, one of the Rabbis made disparaging remarks about Maran Ha-Rav, the Chafetz Chaim (who was sitting at the dais) stood up shocked and said: “You insulted the Mara De-Atra (Rabbinic authority) of Eretz Yisrael.” He left the conference and decided not to return to it. The Chafetz Chaim waited in his hotel to return to his city, and many people came to visit him or receive a blessing. When the members of delegation from Eretz Yisrael wanted to enter, he said: “I will not say ‘Shalom’ to those who caused dispute with the Rav of Yerushalayim (Maran Ha-Rav)!” And he added: “Know that he is holy and pure and anyone who impinges on his honor will not go unpunished.”
[Bisdeh Ha-Re’eiyah p. 225-228, Sichot Ha-Re’eiyah p. 26-127, Malachim Bivnei Adam p. 211 and for additional information on the subject see Sichot Ha-Re’eiyah chap. 11 and Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim chap. 4]

In the year 5681, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook (Maran Ha-Rav’s son) traveled to Poland to meet with Rabbis and Chasidic Rebbes to convince them to join the “Degel Yerushalayim” movement which Maran Ha-Rav established to infuse the Zionist movement with Torah and holiness. At that time, the Chafetz Chaim came to Warsaw, and our Rabbi, who yearned to see the splendor of the most righteous person of the generation, went to where he was staying. He found him surrounded by people. After over an hour, our Rabbi approached to take leave from him. The Chafetz Chaim asked: “Are you a local?” Our Rabbi responded: “No, from Jerusalem,” and he added: “Your honor was close with Reb Eliyahu David (the Aderet), father-in-law of my father.” When the Chafetz Chaim heard whose son was standing before him, his face lit up and he joyfully said: “Your honor is the son of the Rav of Zimel, the Rav of Boisk, the Rav of Yafo, the Rav of Jerusalem? Then why does he speak about his grandfather? Tell me about your father! How is he? We are long-time, dear friends.”
[Bisdei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 221, Sichot Ha-Re’eiyah p. 126, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 157-158, Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet p. 97, Tzvi Kodesh p. 146 and Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim pp. 36-37]

See Bisdei Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 217-231, Sichot Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 120-133 and the book “Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim” which discuss the special relationship between the Chafetz Chaim and Maran Ha-Rav Kook

On Shavuot morning after davening Vatikin, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was walking in one of the alleyways near the Kotel and met Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld. Ha-Rav Sonenfeld blessed him that he should merit serving as the Cohain Gadol in the Temple.
[Moadei Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 303-304 and see another blessing of Ha-Rav Sonenfeld to Maran Ha-Rav ibid.]

It once happened that Ha-Sonenfeld was honored to be a Mohel at a Brit Milah and Maran Ha-Rav was honored to act as the Sandak. The two Rabbis met at the door of the apartment where the Brit Milah would occur. After they exchanged friendly greetings, a problem arose: Who would enter the house first? Maran Ha-Rav respectfully suggested that Ha-Rav Sonenfeld enter first. But he responded: “His honor is a Cohain and the Chief Rabbi [of Jerusalem] – and the basic halachah is that he should enter first.” Maran Ha-Rav humbly answered: “But his honor is greater in Torah than I am.” They stood at the door without a decision as to who should enter first. The older houses in Jerusalem were built in such a way that there were two doors in each doorway – the left one was bolted closed and the right one opened and closed, allowing one person to pass through it. Maran Ha-Rav approached the opened door, struck his arm through it and unbolted the left door – and both of them entered at once!
[Melachim Kivnei Adam p. 64]

When the Chazon Ish left Vilna to make aliyah, Rav Chaim Ozer sent a letter to Maran Ha-Rav requesting his assistance. He began the letter: “The Glory of Honor, My Dear Friend, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One… The Prince of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook Shlit”a…”
[Bisdeh Ha-Re’eiyah p. 236, Chayei Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 388-389, Igrot Le-Re’eiyah #316 and Melachim Kivnei Adam pp. 106-107. Maran Ha-Rav’s response is found in Shut Da’at Cohain #223]

There was a wedding in Elul 5696 in which Rav Chaim Ozer, Ha-Rav Shimon Shkop and many other great Rabbis attended. When news arrived that Maran Ha-Rav had died, Rav Chaim Ozer instructed Ha-Rav Shmuel Markowitz, Av Beit Din of Turatz to eulogize him. And this is what was done.
[This is quoted by Ha-Rav Tzvi Markowitz in Kovetz “Achiezer” #2 from the year 5628 and Davar Le-Dor – Kovetz Hespedim Al Rav Kook ztz”l p. 89]

See Igrot Le-Re’eiyah where there are tens of letters by Rav Chaim Ozer to Maran Ha-Rav with great respect and honor, and where it is possible to see the close relationship which existed between them.

Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer: We are Gedolim until we reach his doorknob

Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rosh Yeshiva of Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem, said: “I was young when I arrived in Volozhin, and I looked with great respect at the greater students who sat on the eastern wall, and among them were prodigies who would become Gedolei Yisrael. But I remember well that looking at him [Maran Ha-Rav Kook] was completely different – even among the special he was distinguished by his uniqueness!”
[Tal Ha-Re’eiyah p. 71, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 101 and the booklet “Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem” p. 13]

Ha-Rav Meltzer once visited Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, and Ha-Rav Meltzer said about Maran Ha-Rav: “We are Gedolim until we reach his doorknob.”
[Mi-Toch Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet vol. 2 p. 170, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 2 p. 101, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiah p. 202, Bisadeh Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 274, Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 430 and the booklet “Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem” p. 22]

Ha-Rav Meltzer said many times: “If only I could daven during Ne’eilah on Yom Kippur, with awe of holiness and feeling, like Ha-Rav [Kook] davens during weekday Minchah.”
[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah #51, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 2 p. 102, Orot Ha-Tefillah of Ha-Rav Y. Epstein (student of Ha-Rav Meltzer) p. 26, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 200, Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 256 and the booklet “Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem” p. 29]

In the eulogy which Ha-Rav Meltzer delivered for Maran Ha-Rav in the Churva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, he said: “The True Torah was in his mouth” and “With the passing of Ha-Rav – the spine of Klal Yisrael is broken.”
[Moadei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 12, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol 2 p. 101, Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 15, Bisadeh Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 275 and Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 430]

Ha-Rav Shabatai Rapaport, Ha-Rav Feinstein’s grandson, related that in the year 5739, during Sukkot in Monsey, NY, Ha-Rav Feinstein was involved with writing a contrary view to a responsa of Ha-Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer). Ha-Rav Rapaport showed his grandfather a statement from Maran Ha-Rav Kook (relating to the issue) which Ha-Rav Rapaport found amazing. Ha-Rav Feinstein responded: “What is surprising, he was the Gaon of Geonim!”
[Likutei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 59]

Ha-Rav Nisan Alpert, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi of Agudat Yisrael, author of “Limudei Nisan” and Ha-Rav Feinstein’s student for forty years, was one of those who eulogized his Rav in New York. He also spoke at a memorial evening for Ha-Rav Kook, on the 50th anniversary of his passing. When he was asked about the connection between his Rav and Ha-Rav Kook, he answered that Ha-Rav Feinstein was a “Chasid” of Ha-Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Feinstein said to learn his books and one will find great things. He also added, rhetorically, that he did not understand what people wanted from Ha-Rav Kook ztz”l.
[Likutei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 60]

Maran Ha-Rav Kook was the Mesader Kiddushin at the wedding of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Ha-Rav Auerbach’s brother-in-law, R’ Shemuel Zelig, recalls how Maran Ha-Rav was honored with officiating at the wedding in the Jerusalem neighborhood of “Sha’arei Chesed.” Although there were zealots who did not look upon this kindly, the groom’s father – Ha-Rav Chaim Leib Auerbach – did not give in, because of the close relationship and deep respect between them.
[Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat p. 41 and Sefer Rabbenu p. 140 from the newspaper “Ha-Tzofeh”]

Ha-Rav S.Z. Auerbach said: If I say to you ‘Maran’ in Yiddish [Der Rov – Ha-Rav], know that I am referring to Ha-Rav Kook zt”l. I only use the term ‘Der Rov’, Maran, for Ha-Rav Kook.
[Sefer Rabbenu ibid. and the booklet “Or Shlomo” p. 24 and see note 34 where various testimonies to this fact are quoted]

Ha-Rav Auerbach honored Maran Ha-Rav with being the Sandek at the Brit Milah of his eldest son, R’ Shmuel, who today serves as the Rosh Yeshiva of “Maalot Ha-Torah” in Jerusalem.
[The booklet “Or Shlomo” p. 21]

Maran Ha-Rav’s picture hung together with pictures of other Gedolei Yisrael in Ha-Rav Auerbach’s sukkah.
[The booklet “Or Shlomo” p. 28]

Ha-Rav Chaim Shteiner related that someone once published a book about Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector which also included disgraceful words about Ha-Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Auerbach said that it is forbidden to buy this book until it is corrected, and he also wrote a letter to the author asking him to fix it. He also met the author a few times and would always ask if the book was being fixed.

Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal related that Ha-Rav Auerbach would not hear the rulings of a particular Torah scholar because he besmirched Ha-Rav Kook’s honor.
[Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat p. 308 and the booklet “Or Shlomo” p. 30]

Ha-Rav A. Yehoshua Zuckerman related that when someone mentioned in a talk about the horrible behavior of certain individuals against Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Ha-Rav Auerbach responded with great distress: I recommend that those who were brazen and dishonored Ha-Rav should go to his grave and ask forgiveness.
[Ve-Alehu Lo Vibol vol. 1 p. 83 and the booklet “Or Shlomo” p. 30]

And see further in the booklet “Or Shlomo” by Amichai Kinerati for the close relationship between Ha-Rav Auerbach and Maran Ha-Rav.

R’ Aryeh Levin, who often visited Ha-Rav Shlomo Eliyashuv, the author of “Leshem Shevo Ve-Achlama,” met the latter’s young grandson there – R’ Yosef Shalom. Even then, R’ Areyh recognized the unique greatness of R’ Yosef Shalom. R’ Aryeh once spoke with Maran Ha-Rav Kook about his sorrow that there was a wonderful, righteous, young Torah scholar who would a great match for his (R’ Aryeh’s) daughter, but the young man did not respond favorably to his suggestion (either because he thought he had better options or he was not ready to marry). Maran Ha-Rav asked for the identity of the young man, and told that is was R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Maran Ha-Rav called for the young man and spoke to him. The younger R. Eliyashuv then accepted the proposal and the couple married. Maran Ha-Rav Kook served as the Mesader Kiddushin. When Maran Ha-Rav’s name comes up, Ha-Rav Elyashiv often said that he was honored that Maran Ha-Rav performed his wedding.
[Parashah Sheet “Shevet Ha-Re’eiyah #31] 

Ha-Rav Yosef Buxbaum, the director of the journal “Moriah” and student of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related:
It once happened that one of the editors of the “Otzar Mefarshei Ha-Talmud” (Treasury of Talmudic Commentators) included a ruling of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, but another editor removed it. I asked him why he removed the ruling: was it because he raised a difficultly with it and it required further study? He answered: “I didn’t even look into the issue. I just think that a ruling of Ha-Rav Kook is not appropriate for ‘Otzar Mefarsehi Ha-Talmud.'” I said to him: “From this moment, you are fired!” The editor did not accept his decision, and they went to Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Ha-Rav Elyashiv was shocked and said to the editor: “Did you know Ha-Rav Kook?! You should know – he was holy. He did not belong to our generation, and in his generation, they did not properly understand him. Reb Yosef was certainly permitted to fire you. I would have done the same thing.”
[Weekly parashah sheet “Shevet Ha-Re’eiyah #31 and #50]

It is related that Rabbanit Elyashiv once heard words which impinged upon Maran Ha-Rav’s honor, and it caused her so much pain that she physically suffered from it for many days.
[Tzadik Yesod Olam p. 232 and Parashah Sheet “Shevet Ha-Re’eiyah #50]

Ha-Rav Elyashiv once wrote a halachic ruling, and after he finished someone showed him a different opinion which Maran Ha-Rav had written on the subject. Ha-Rav Elyashiv immediately ripped up his ruling and changed his opinion to that of Maran Ha-Rav.
[Parashah Sheet “Shevet Ha-Re’eiyah #50]

Ha-Rav Elyashiv once mentioned a particular teaching of Maran Ha-Rav. Someone who was present said that Rabbi so-and-so, one of the greatest Rabbis of the generation, sayid otherwise. Ha-Rav Elyashiv simply responded: Ha-Rav Kook was greater than us!
[Parashah Sheet “Shevet Ha-Re’eiyah #50]

I highly recommend Simcha Raz’s book. Things have changed, but people’s understanding of history and the present is in a time warp. As the Rav used to say, history has a way of paskening for us. I submit that history has paskened quite clearly that those who considered R’ Kook outside of the pale, were simply wrong.

יהי זכרון האי גברא רבא איש קדוש ותמים—ברוך

Is this why the Geula is delayed?

This never ceases to shake me up. I did a nice wedding last night. There were  a number of members of the local Adass Israel congregation present. Most were the modern/litvish type but a number were your run of the mill hungarian chassidim from Adass. They are unmistakeable because they stare. They stare and stare at you. Their kids stare at you. Only their wives don’t stare, but that’s because you can’t see 🙂

I went outside to have a breather during the main course (and to hear the cricket score) and two young guys, probably abut 25 years of age were standing nearby. I asked them what type of chassidim they were: the first was Satmar and the second was Munkacz. I asked the Satmar guy if he had read any of the rejoinders to ויואל משה the well-known critique of Zionism by the first Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel ז’ל.   He said he had heard of them but hadn’t looked. I asked him why would he not engage in Torah and delve into the item from the point of view of someone who had an alternative view, if only to make sure that one had a rounded perspective. Looking at me uncomfortably, his offsider from Muncaz, who was much more aggressive, decided to chime in and interrupt my comments.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ז'ל

We spoke about a number of things. I told him some stories and then he told me some. He was more widely read than his Satmar friend. Our discussion though was about to face an abrupt end. He acquainted me with a story about “Kook”. I said,

“I beg your pardon, are you referring to Rav Kook”.

At which point he said “who gave him Smicha.” I had a mental blank and could not recall, but I told him that he should read what the Netziv said about him in Volozhin and ask himself why the Aderes chose him for an Eidem. He persisted and said, do you want to hear the story about “Kook” or not. I looked at him and said,

“you can disagree with someone, you can even completely disagree with someone, but don’t ever drop a title from a Rav who so many held and hold in the greatest esteem. This is not Kavod HaTorah. Do I call your Rebbes, “Yoel or Eloozer? God forbid. Don’t you have any simple manners. Can you just talk like a Mench?”

His response: “You either hear it the way I say it or ” … I walked off.

I was sad, very sad. Here you have 2 guys who have been fed a one tracked line all their lives. Fine. It’s their business. They have an intense feeling of Yiras Shomayim which they define as following the path of their Rebbe without deviating even one micrometer.

Rav Kook was consumed by an incredible level of אהבה.  Everyone knows that Rav Kook’s love for the Holy Land of Israel was passionate in the extreme. He saw it bound up with אהבת התורה in a vigorous symbiotic relationship. What many forget, however, is that Rav Kook’s simple love of every Jew was extraordinarily vehement. His love of Yidden stemmed from his acute spiritual sensitivity to Elokus. Rav Kook felt the Tzelem Elokim reflected in every Yid whom he saw. It wasn’t a campaign or some hachlata (decision) or a daily utterance that inspired him. His was an innate automatic attachment to anything exuding spirituality. Rav Kook would have loved those two Mevinim. He would have been Mochel his Kavod. He would never have been offended by them. He would have seen them, and their Rebbes as items of Kedusha. Yet, these miniscule proverbial warts have the temerity to show a level of disrespect that is offensive to me, in the extreme.

Imagine Hakadosh Baruch Hu looking down and observing. The estrangement of so many shpitz yidden from kedusha is astonishing. If they had any semblance of kedusha they could not ever speak in the way they did about an איש אלקי, a Gaon and Tzaddik, Rav Kook z”l? Why should he send Eliyahu HaNovi to come and announce ובה לציון גואל to us? If we continue in this path of שנאה the only way we will be redeemed is through Yisurin God forbid and through בעתה as opposed to אחישנה.

Woe to us. We have no common language of respect.

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