Rav Kook Torah

Breishit: The Torah of Eretz Yisrael


“And the gold of that land is good...” (Gen. 2:12)

Why is the Torah suddenly interested in the quality of gold? Was this verse written for prospectors of rare metals?

The Midrash (Breishit Rabbah 16:4) explains that the land referred to is Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), and the precious commodity is none other than the Torah itself. The Midrash then declares,

“This teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel.”

This is a pretty remarkable statement. Is there really a different Torah in the Land of Israel? And in what way is it superior to the Torah outside of Israel?

Details and General Principles

According to Rav Kook, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael is fundamentally different in its method and scope. The Torah of the Diaspora focuses on the details — specific laws and rules. The Torah of the Land of Israel, on the other hand, uses a more holistic approach. It connects those details with their governing moral principles.

This approach is particularly needed in our time of national renascence. We must reveal the truth and clarity of our divine treasure. We must demonstrate the beauty and depth of practical mitzvot, by endowing them with the light of the mystical and philosophical side of the Torah. And the true depths and foundations of Torah can only be experienced in the Land of Israel.

The Individual and the Nation

The contrast in Torah between the prat and the klal, the details and the whole, also exists on a second level.

The Torah of the Diaspora concerns itself with developing the spiritual potential of the individual. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, relates to the nation as a whole. This Torah deals with physical and spiritual needs of a nation who, as an organic whole, sanctifies God’s holy Name in the world. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael occupies itself with a long list of national institutions belonging to this special people, including kings and prophets, the Temple and Sanhedrin, Levites and Kohanim, Sabbatical and Jubilee years.

All of the ideals and philosophies that are dispersed and diluted in the Diaspora, become relevant and united in the Land of Israel. In Eretz Yisrael, the life of the individual derives its existential meaning from the nation’s crowning destiny and is uplifted through the nation’s spiritual elevation.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 26-27. Adapted from Orot HaTorah, chap. 13)