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Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Limits of Free Thought

#20, p. 19-21 part II

Date and Place 10 Sivan 5665, the holy city of Yafo

Recipient: R. Dr. Moshe Zeidel (a close disciple of Rav Kook, from their time in Boisk. Dr. Zeidel was a philologist and philosopher, who asked Rav Kook many philosophical questions.)

Summary of Part I: There must be a limit to the propriety of free thought because it affects one’s actions and thus also his surroundings. The “location” of the “boundary” depends on the nature of different nations.

 Body: Israel is the only nation in the world for whom informing the world of Hashem’s Name as the G-d of the world who upholds His covenant, kindness, and all paths of justice is the foundation of the nation’s life and a special condition to be able to form an independent nation in its land. Therefore, there are elements of the nation that cannot be fulfilled without [the acceptance] of some of these great ideas.

Whenever there is greatness of the spirit, there are parallel lackings. Israel certainly has lackings, and it is these lackings that made it so crucial that the nation have the task of carrying on the Name of Hashem as a basic part of its national content.

Therefore, whoever causes a weakening of the resolve to follow this philosophy that gives life to the nation, whether by its thoughts and, all the more so, by means of actions, is a national criminal, whom it is immoral to forgive. There is no other example in the whole world [of such a mission]. There is no other nation in the world whose very nature is tied to knowing Hashem who is in their midst and having Him known in the world or for whom any other belief is such a foundational manner.  

If you will find a single nation who has a lowly belief and their belief is national, it is probably so small that if it were to spread, it would cause damage to the whole world and the nation itself would not be able to sustain itself. If so, this nation would be slated for destruction, and one could not complain to individuals if this happened.

This is the basis of our true zealotry for the ways of Hashem, which is the reason that Israel was fit to be given a covenant that gave it a special status as a nation of priests. This is different from imprudent zealousness that comes from the lack of knowledge and the weakening of spiritual strength.

In order to have the [Jewish] nation act with fullest force, all of its strengths need to be functioning at their fullest levels. But in any case, we cannot be prevented from functioning on some level, because the national spiritual character is always “alive,” as we say “David, King of Israel, lives and exists.”

It was a plan of Hashem, who has wondrous plans, that to the extent that our nation’s power is diminished, so will our abilities [to accomplish], which in turn is testimony to Hashem’s desire [for how we are destined to function]. There are many ways in which there is a diminishment of the nation’s capabilities that Hashem wants. Sometimes it is practical, such as the fear of the kingdom. Sometimes there is a spiritual diminishment, based on which we are instructed to not say that which will not be accepted (Yevamot 65b), (thus preventing spiritual leaders from trying to make others comply with the Torah way). We are satisfied when these lackings in ability exist because we know that it is Divine Providence’s desire at such times. We find this idea in the Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 7:2) – that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was happy that Jewish judges were unable to function fully at that time because we were not wise enough then.

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