Shabbat Parashat Balak | 5768
Introduction to the Series
We have proudly presented the writings of our teacher and mentor, Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli z.t.l., from the inception of Hemdat Yamim. Over some eight years and 400 editions, our reading community has gotten a good look at some of the breadth and depth of his scholarship and worldview, according to our capabilities in this forum. As we have mentioned, Rav Yisraeli was a talmid of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, the legendary first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of [pre-state] Eretz Yisrael and visionary of the Dati Leumi (National Religious) community. We, therefore, would like to spend time spreading Rav Kook’s teachings in this forum. We do not find a need to present a biography of the renowned Rav Kook, which fortunately abound in Hebrew and English. We will present the briefest look at his works and explain our choice of presentation.
Rav Kook was a prolific writer, not only in terms of volume but also of variety. His halachic works (primarily, responsa and relatively short topical works) are an important part of any serious library (that doesn’t believe in censoring based on “political” affiliation). But perhaps his deep, profound philosophical works left his most lasting “literary” mark. These works, often containing either the word Orot (lights of) or Re’iyah (an acronym of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen), are mostly organized and published by his disciples, prominent among them his son, Harav Tzvi Yehuda, a legend in his own right. These works have guided generations of devotees.@@
The problem with these sefarim is their accessibility to the overwhelming majority of those who would want to learn them. The ideas upon which they are based are often connected to Kabbalah, in which Rav Kook was steeped and few of us are. Secondly, they are written in an esoteric style, disconnected from texts and clearly defined topics. Therefore, different readers/teachers may have widely varied understandings of, applications of, and lessons to learn from a given piece. The rich Hebrew is difficult to translate, because of the depth and the mixture of classical rabbinic, Kabbalisitic, and modern Hebrew. Only an expert in his writings can confidently reach a reasonable understanding. Therefore, most of his philosophical writings are not fit for independent study, but are channeled to the public by promulgators of his viewpoint. This editor does not feel qualified to capture their essence in our forum.
The one work that can be translated and greatly (if partially) appreciated with a (free) translation and adaptation is Ein Ayah, a work that Rav Kook intended for a relatively broad audience. Besides the phrase’s appearance in Iyov (28:7), meaning the eye of a certain bird, “Ayah” is apparently an acronym of Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen and “Ein” hints at the work Ein Yaakov. Ein Yaakov is a compendium with commentaries on all of the aggadic (non-halachic – Biblical exegesis, philosophy, advice, and stories) sections of the Talmud Bavli. Many of these sections are difficult to appreciate because they contain concepts that, when taken at face value, seem hard to believe or simplistic. Unfortunately, many read through these Talmudic passages sources without delving into their deeper meanings. Rav Kook successfully set out to find deep meanings, often in an allegorical manner, to passage after passage. Sometimes his fascinating explanations seem to be the intention of the Rabbis. Sometimes, Rav Kook intends his explanation not as p’shat (simple explanation) but as an additional level of meaning, whose “light” Hashem inspired Chazal to infuse in their statements (see Rav Kook’s introduction).
We are confident that our readers will appreciate the depth, originality, and profundity of Ein Ayah, even behind the curtains of translation and adaptation.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.