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Shabbat Parashat Yitro 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: A Small but Crucial Amount of Mussar Study

Vol. I, #9

Date and Place: Thursday, 2 Sivan 5659 (1899), Boisk 
Recipient: Rav Kook’s younger brother, Shmuel Kook. 

Greeting: Shalom and blessing and a joyous chag (the upcoming Shavuot) and success in the Torah of Hashem, may He be blessed, and everything is included, to my dear brother, the young man who is outstanding, sharp, and of a dear spirit, Master Shmuel Hakohen Kook. May there be peace to you and to those who assist you. 

Body: Your letter arrived, which brought joy to my heart, as I have awaited it for a while, and I was surprised that you had not written in a while. Now too you wrote too short, and you did not tell me what massechet you are studying, and whether you are able to spend great amounts of time by the doorways of our holy Torah, as our hopes are for you with Hashem’s help.

On the matter of our brother, the honorable rabbi, Rav Dov Bear, may he live, it is not my opinion that we need to pay attention to those who criticize, especially about the matter of placing his hat on the aron kodesh from the outside. After all, according to the letter of the law, our brother, may he live, is correct, as I have clarified the matter for myself with Hashem’s help, based on clear proofs from the gemara, poskim, and clear logic. However, it is worthwhile to distance oneself from these type of things in places where there are many ignorant people. Also, it might be worthwhile to distance oneself from something that is similar to something that is similar to something that is unseemly in the eyes of the masses. I place my hope in Hashem, may He be blessed, that our brother, may he live, will constantly occupy himself with Torah and service of Hashem, and he will realize the fulfillment of the pasuk (Mishlei 4:8): “Be lovingly involved in it (Torah), and it will elevate you.”

I am adding in encouragement to one who is already diligent, as you are, that you should be constantly involved in Torah study and review intensively that which you studied, for this is the main fruit of your studies. [In a letter to another brother, which we skipped over (#6), he urged him to stop reviewing only three times, but to review each perek of gemara at least ten times before going on to the next perek.] Be careful to study mussar (ethics) and fear of Hashem, according to the amount of time you have for it, for that is the main point of everything. Although it is true that it is only possible to dedicate a small amount of one’s study time to such matters, it contains the fruit of the blessing of all of the other actions and studies that one is involved in. This is similar to the brain, which takes up a relatively small part of the body, but yet it determines the type of person one is. 

Sign Off: I am your brother, who is interested in your welfare and looks forward to seeing your success with the blessed Hashem’s help, Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook.

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