Rav Kook on the Weekly Parsha
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The Kuzari - an ebook version of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi's classic work of Jewish philosophy.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) – the first Chief Rabbi of
pre-state Israel – was a mystic and a philosopher, a preeminent Talmudic scholar
and a Lurian Cabbalist, an original thinker and a saintly tzaddik.
Due to his poetic style and abstract thought,
his writings are often difficult to understand, even for
those fluent in Hebrew and well-versed in traditional Jewish sources. For the
English-speaking audience in particular, his books are hidden treasures
whose light has not been fully revealed.
I have not attempted to translate his works. Such an undertaking is
beyond my capabilities. I am doubtful if it is even possible to
lucidly transmit his ideas when constrained to a
literal translation. Instead, I have tried to take an idea
and present it in a clear, straightforward fashion.
Of course, I run the risk of over-simplifying and
even misinterpreting the author's true intent. Still, this
is a sincere effort that I believe to be faithful to the spirit of the Rav's
"Our master [Rav Kook] does not deal with the exegesis or the uncovering of
hidden meanings in verses. He rarely takes them out of their simple peshat
meaning. Nonetheless, they are revealed to the reader as
tremendous novelties. The innovation here is not in the elucidation of the
verse per se, but in the light that he pours over them."
Rabbi Hillel Zeitlin, Sifran shel Yechidim, p. 237
Rav Kook did not write a commentary on the Torah as such. I have
collected ideas from his writings – primarily from his commentaries on
Talmudic Midrashim (Ein Ayah) and the prayer book
(Olat Re'iyah) – and organized them according to the weekly Torah
readings and holidays.
Awakening the Holiness in Every Language
(from Kovetz Alef, section 887)
In an age when we witness a powerful attraction to the study of languages
and science, it is impossible to fight against all who are
drawn towards them. Indeed, the times and the signs of the day indicate
the necessity [for these studies]. The inner righteous, with their mystical service,
come to the rescue at this hour. With nobility of spirit, they
open up the blocked conduits and establish the mystical secret
of God in "His studies." These studies encompass all that is in
the universe, especially that which advances the world's progress.
The righteous awaken the holiness hidden in each language.
They utilize the power of Joseph, who incorporated all [of the physical
world] with the Hebrew letter hey.1
They apply the power of the
Divine word from Sinai, which illuminates with an ever-increasing light.
"Each Divine command split up into seventy languages"
find that Moses explained the Torah be'er heitev, "very clearly"
Moses uncovered the essence of good in every language, the
inner force that introduced it from holy Majesty.
The language itself is thus clarified and refined. Then
we may present a "language of clarity"
to all nations, so that "all will be able to call out in the
name of God" (Zephania 3:9).
In Psalms 81:6, Joseph's name is spelled with an extra letter, the letter hey.
"As a testimony for Jehoseph... when he went forth over the land of Egypt;
I understood a language that I had not known."
According to the Midrash in Sotah 36b, the angel Gabriel gave Joseph the letter hey
from God's Name so that Joseph
would be able to learn all seventy languages.
The Sages in Menachot 29b wrote that God created this world with the letter hey.
2 The Talmud in Sotah 32a explains be'er heitev
to mean that the Torah was translated to seventy languages.