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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5781

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

Letter #18 part IV

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


Recipient: An open letter


Summary of previous parts: We are in the midst of Rav Kook’s public rebuke of the editor of the Hashkafa periodical (Eliezer Ben Yehuda). He 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.

: Let me return to my purpose. Although I love to learn and teach the foundations of our beliefs, it is far from me to demand control over the opinions of any person. In our days, this is something that is not accepted. If the editor of “Hashkafa” had presented his ideas in his own name, it would not occur to me to argue with him. But now he emerged as speaking in the name of the whole community, and he refers primarily to the young people here in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, it is impossible to let the matter pass quietly.

This event should remind us of the following story, found in the aggadic section of the last chapter of Berachot (63a-b). At the moment that Rabbi Chanina the nephew of Rabbi Yehoshua desired to set leap years and to set the monthly calendar in the Diaspora, messengers from Eretz Yisrael  announced to the whole nation: “If you do not listen to us [to stop Rabbi Chanina from usurping the authority of the community of Eretz Yisrael], you will all be committing blasphemy and be saying that you do not have a portion in the G-d of Israel.” They answered back: “Heaven forbid! We have a portion in the G-d of Israel.”

So I hope that all of you will answer in open protest of this lowly accusation that the editor of Hashkafa made against you. He spoke for you about what is within your conscience without knowing the soul of the people in whose name he spoke. You shall answer and say: “Heaven forbid that we should turn our back on our past, in whose shadow we have lived and continue to live.” In the face of those who blaspheme the ranks of the living G-d (like Goliat did), you will say with full conviction before the whole world that you do have a portion in the G-d of Israel.

With pride and a bold spirit, my dear brothers, let us carry the flag of our Torah and of our nation, and let us support (nidgol - using a play on the word for flag) the Name of our G-d and our nation. “The Eternal One of Israel will not lie and will not regret, and His good word will not come back empty.” “You will not now be embarrassed, Yaakov, nor will your face turn white when seeing his children whom he produced within his midst. They will sanctify Hashem’s Name and they will sanctify the Holy One of Yaakov, and the G-d of Israel they will extol” (Yeshayahu 29:22-23).

Sign Off
: I am the servant (of the nation) who looks forward to the joy of our nation as we will rejoice with the Land of our Heritage, Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, a servant of the holy nation in the Holy Land, here in the holy city of Yafo and the surrounding settlements, may they be built up speedily in our times, Amen.

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