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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Need to Be Connected to our Past

Letter #18 part II

Date and Place: Adar 5665 (1905), the holy city of Yafo


Recipient: An open letter


Summary of Part I: Last time we saw the beginning of Rav Kook’s public rebuke of the editor of the Hashkafa periodical. The latter had written that the Zionists for Zion who accused the Ugandists of turning their back on their pasts were hypocrites because all Jews, except the extreme religious, turned their backs on their past, and he is proud of that.

: I am judging in a meritorious light our “hanging limb” (i.e., one who is not properly connected to the “body” of the nation), the editor of Hashkafa (Eliezer Ben Yehuda). His dreams are purely a function of the musings of his heart. His Jewish name perhaps already has rotted by him, and it may be that he already does not feel any connection to our past. Perhaps he can comfortably say that he has turned his back on it (in truth, when withering leaves like these fall from the tree, it does not cause great loss to the “orchard of the House of Israel”).

In his type of outlook, there is no other [legitimate] viewpoint in the world other than his own, and whoever opposes him must be a member of the “Searching for Sin” (a term Ben Yehuda used for zealous religionists), whom he portrays as monsters and the symbol of people who do not fit in with society. Let us leave him to dream as he wishes. However, when he comes to testify that all of us are hanging limbs like he is and that we all say that we have turned our back on our past, which is the source of our life that is connected to our present and our future until eternity, then we are required to protest. We must announce that this is not in our hearts, but that these ideas that blaspheme “ma’archot Yisrael (the term Goliat used in mocking the G-d of Israel – Shmuel I, 17:10) emanate from his heart.

I am not at all getting involved in the argument between the “Zionists of Zion” and the “Ugandists.” There are certainly, in both factions, people who are honest and truly love their nation, who do not at all turn their back on the past, just as there are such people among those who oppose the Zionist movement as a whole. It is a bad sign for a faction if it thinks that only within it is there a “source of life,” or that it contains all of the wisdom and the integrity, and that anyone else is full of vanity and bad spirit (based on Kohelet 2:17).

Therefore, there is no need whatsoever for the Ugandists to defend themselves with this pronouncement, i.e., that they turn their back on their past. They are Ugandists without that claim. It is only the imagination of the editor of Hashkafa and the few who “drink his water” to find support for their desire to turn their back on the past, like “writing on the horn of a bull that they have no part in the G-d of Israel” (what the Greeks demanded of the Jews to do – Yerushalmi, Chagiga 2:2).

We continue next time from this point.

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