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Hardcover,
368 pages

 
Gold From the Land of Israel

A New Light on the Weekly Torah Portion
From the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook

Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2006
By Rabbi Chanan Morrison

Reviewed by Rabbi David Sears

One thing that is always welcome in a Jewish home is a new book on the weekly Torah portion. Open its pages, and its radiance illuminates the delicacies and good company of the Shabbat table. Such a volume is Rabbi Chanan Morrison's bouquet of Torah insights, spiritual flowers from the Holy Land, adapted from the inspired, but often recondite works of Rav Kook.

The publisher's blurb tells us that "Gold From the Land of Israel" started out as a series of online essays on the weekly Torah portion written by a devoted young teacher to his students, which in the course of time grew into a book. As a result, Rabbi Morrison’s number of students has increased exponentially. This is not just because he has made these teachings more available, but because they are so timely. “Gold From the Land of Israel” fills an urgent need in the English-speaking Jewish community for an introduction to Kookian thought that speaks to spiritual seekers on both sides of the yeshiva world's walls. The ideas that Rabbi Morrison’s essays communicate are deep enough to open the eyes of benei Torah -- while being constructed and phrased so simply and elegantly that one does not need to be a scholar to understand and be uplifted by them.

Rav Kook’s key ideas are arrayed before the reader like a royal banquet. The book's contents range from "modern" topics, such as evolution and the age of the universe, to more general issues in Jewish thought, such as universalism vs. particularism, the nature of evil, the natural and the supernatural, integration vs. separation, and ethical vegetarianism. The collection also highlights the teachings for which Rav Kook is best known: the divine call to the spiritual life, the teshuvah of the nation and the individual, the return of prophecy and its prerequisites, and Israel's unique and holy mission throughout human history, culminating in our return to the Holy Land and the fulfillment of our destiny.

Rabbi Morrison shows the reader that Rav Kook's world view, far from being merely political or ideological, is an essentially spiritual vision. As another prominent translator and interpreter of Rav Kook’s works, Rabbi Bezalel Naor, once remarked: "Rav Kook possessed what might best be called ‘cosmic consciousness.’ " This cosmic consciousness – this vivid intuitive perception of the unity of all creation within the Divine -- permeates Rav Kook's sensibility and is evident in all of his writings. Yet it is a vision that not all can readily grasp, and one which may be easily misunderstood – as the old controversy surrounding Rav Kook has shown again and again. It is hoped that the present volume will help to dispel this misunderstanding.

Chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once said of the discourses in his magnum opus, Likkutei Moharan: "I cannot bring down my ideas any lower than this." It took his disciple, Reb Noson, to do so. Something similar applies to the thought of Rav Kook. It required the special gifts of his disciples to bring down their master’s lofty light. With this engaging collection of divrei Torah, Rabbi Chanan Morrison has shown himself to be among the foremost contemporary teachers of Rav Kook's thought who possess this distinction.

Gold from the Land of Israel (368 pages, hardcover) is available at http://gold-israel.co.nr.


Rabbi David Sears is the author of The Path of the Baal Shem Tov and The Tree That Stands Beyond Space: Rebbe Nachman on the Mystical Experience, among other books. Since 1997 he has directed the New York-based Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth (www.breslovcenter.com).