Abraham Yitzchak Kook
The first chief rabbi of what was then
Palestine, Rabbi Kook was perhaps the most misunderstood figure of his
Born in Latvia of staunch Hasidic
and Mittnagdic stock, he retained throughout his life a unique blend of
the mystical and the rational. He was a thorough master of the entire Halachic,
Midrashic, philosophic, ethical, and Kabbalistic
literature. But more important, he brought to bear the entire tradition
upon the contemporary scene. He saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as not
merely a political phenomenon to save Jews from persecution, but an event
of extraordinary historical and theological significance. Rabbi Hutner
once said that Rav Kook peered down on our world from great heights and
hence his perspective was unique.
Above all, Rav Kook pulsated with a sense
of the Divine. And, he sought to reach those who had strayed. He once
quoted the rabbinic dictum that one should embrace with the right hand and
rebuff with the left and commented that he was fully capable of rejecting,
but since there were enough rejecters, he was fulfilling the role of
embracer. On the other hand, he was never tolerant of desecration of
Torah, as will be clear to any objective student of his life and works.
Though keenly aware of the huge numbers of
non-observant Jews, he had a vision of the repentance of the nation. His
concept of repentance envisioned in addition to the repentance of the
individual, a repentance of the nation as a whole; a repentance which
would be joyous and healing. He refused to reject Jews as long as they
identified themselves as Jews. In a noteworthy exchange with his great
friend, admirer, and opponent, Rabbi Yaakov David Willowski, Rav Kook
explained the two components of a Jew: his essential nature -- the pintele
yid, and the path he had chosen in exercising free will. Even if the
second element were weak, as long as the first was not repudiated, there
was still hope.
He called for and envisioned a spiritual
renaissance where "the ancient would be renewed and the new would be
sanctified." His vision of repentance disdained fear and apprehension
and looked forward to "the poet of Teshuva,
who would be the poet of life, the poet of renewal and the poet of the
national soul waiting to be redeemed."
Perhaps he was that poet.
Rav Kooks printed works to date are in
excess of 30 volumes with many works still in manuscript. There are a
number of translations into English of a small fraction of his works.
(Based on a biographical sketch, by Matis Greenblatt)
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.