Saturday, March 27, 2004

Speaking Torah to Power; Rav Kook;

"It is our desire to observe the command to 'love thy neighbor as thyself' not only with regard to individuals but also concerning the nations, so that the nations of the world also should have no grievance against us" (Orot HaKodesh, vol.3, p.326; elsewhere, Rav Kook stipulates that the *commandment* to love ones neighbor may include non-Jews who are righteous and faithful;
Maamarei HaReAYaH, p.252).

"The love of fellow man has to break forth from the source of loving-kindness, not as a matter of law, for then the clearest part of its brightness would be lost, but as a mighty inner movement of the soul. and it will have to stand up against very difficult trials, to overcome many contradictions scattered like stumbling rocks in isolated teachings, in the superficiality of several laws and numerous conceptions that arise from the limited expression given to the part of the Torah and the national morality that is revealed" (Orot HaKodesh, vol.3, p.318; trans. Rav Y. Amital).

Here, however, he states that love of mankind should not even begin from within the Halachic rubric, but rise from a general sense of "natural ethics", one that he even the Fear of Heaven is forbidden to "push aside" (Orot HaKodesh vol3, p.27; his understanding of natural morality happens all over the place, so I can mention only some of the ones I find in translation). Even "the turmoil of Atheism, so long as it is concerned with ethical tendencies, is literally a seeking after G-d" (Maamrei HaReAYaH, vol.1, p.41; trans. R.S. Rosenberg). The "stumbling rocks in isolated teachings", I think may be a reference to various halachot and opinions that have accumulated over the centuries of exile, that, taken without context or qualification, are the source of the accusations that Judaism is "anti-Gentile", etc. several good websites regarding such sources are and . Ironically, various facets of the Torah World have made room for very similar interpretations of Jewish Law ...from within Judaism, upholding anti-Gentile attitudes as an ideal of some kind, more on that later I"H. (a very good recent work around these and other themes is "Eyes to See" by Rav Yom Tov Schwartz, a survivor of the Shoah, who relates Israel's continued Galut to rampant Hillul Hashem on the part of Torah Jews, attitudes toward Gentiles, etc).

"The love of people requires much nuturing...which must be fulfilled always with all the chambers of the heart. The highest position in the love of people must be taken by the love of man, and it must extend to all men, despite differences of opinion, religion and faith (R.Yoel Ben-Nun trans), despite all distinctions of race and climate. It is right to penetrate the mind of the various peoples and collectives, to learn as much as possible their character and qualities, in order to know how to establish human love on foundations that are close to realization...the narrow-mindedness that leads one to see whatever is outside the bounds of the unique people, even the bounds of Israel, only as ugly and defiled, is a terrible darkness that causes general destruction to the entire edifice of spiritual good, the light of which every refined soul hopes for". (Musar Avicha, pp.96, 98; trans. R Yoel Ben-Nun, Italics mine).

I hope to accumulate other unabashedly beautiful Torah from Rav Kook and others as I can, maybe essays as well.

One last translation italics mine, from "Rav Avraham Itzhak HaCohen Kook: Between Rationalism and Mysticism" by Benjamin Ish Shalom, SUNY 1993, page 17; apparently now also in "Orot HaEmuna").

"The enslavement of the intelligence and its stupefaction result from certain influences, and the more holy the influences, the greater the damage done, amounting to the corruption of prophecy in God's name, actions of wickedness and impurity, idol worship and abomination. Thus when the attempt to stupefy the intelligence is presented in the name of faith, of fear of Heaven, or diligence in Torah and fulfilling of mitzvot, it becomes a terrible lie and a filthy impurity ....And thus souls stumble and fall, and human beings live the lives of beasts, degradation without knowledge or understanding, without human honor, that most basic element in recognizing the honour of Heaven that fills the world, that gives life to all, and animates spirit and soul". (some context is necessary; this was composed apparently at a time when attempts were made to establish institutionalized secular learning in coordination with Talmud Torah in Jerusalem, a practice Rav Kook was defending).


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