Shabbat Parashat Behar Bechukotai 5781
Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook: Improving Education in Yafo
Date and Place 10 Menachem Av 5665 (1905), Rechovot
Recipient: Not specified.
Body: The general situation regarding education and especially that of religious studies teachers, requires fixing. There is a lot of work to be done, and there is a need for much good council and valor, with Hashem’s help. Therefore, I am very happy about the spirit of purity and grandeur that was awakened in the hearts of special individuals in the Holy Land, to call for a meeting of all the religious studies teachers of the holy city of Yafo and the surrounding agricultural settlements (of which Rav Kook was then the rabbi), may they be built firmly, to arrive at wise ideas to raise the situation of education and educators. I pray that Hashem will ensure that this meeting will be a good start in the effort to set proper systems and standards in the approach to education. This will give honor and a good reputation to Torah and Torah education in Israel. May Hashem give success to our actions with great power, to create a proper and honorable stature for the education of our children by teachers who fear Hashem and give proper regard to His Name. They should be fit to stand in the breaches and fix the fences in Yehuda (i.e., deal with religious challenges in society - see Yechezkel 13:5) to raise the status of fear of Hashem in the Holy Land. Therefore, I agree with all my might to take part in what the distinguished organizers want me to do, and I am prepared bli neder to take part in this distinguished meeting.
The Need to Take Steps to Keep the Rabbi – Letter #22
Date and Place 12 Iyar 5665 (1905), the holy city of Yafo
Recipient: The respected council of Ekron (the first agricultural settlement financed by Baron Benjamin Rothschild, founded by religious new immigrants in 1882; its name was later changed to Mazkeret Batya. Presumably, Ekron was within Rav Kook’s regional jurisdiction).
Greeting: My beloved brothers …
Body: I have been told that the honorable rabbi and illustrious head of your rabbinical court, may he live, is leaving you to return to his original place, the holy city of Jerusalem, may it be built firmly. I also heard that the reason is that he lacks proper lodging in the settlement.
It is superfluous for me to write at length about the importance of the holy mitzva and benefit of having a rabbi and a giant in Torah and fear of Hashem living in every Jewish community, especially in the Land of Israel. This is especially true if he is a great and important rabbi, who is truly a beloved man to a rare degree.
I am certain that the feelings of love of Hashem and of the holy Torah in the midst of your pure hearts will be aroused by the situation and that you will try as well as you can to remove this impediment and exert yourselves so that your congregation’s crown and pride not move away from you. Hashem should assist you, as Chazal’s promise, “Subsequent to [having a] Torah scholar in your midst comes a blessing” (Berachot 42a), should help, so that your stature will be raised and you will be successful. “Whoever gives honor to the Torah will be honored by others” (Avot 4:6). You shall see good coming from your actions, and your honor should be great. I am confident that the force of your reliable spirit toward Hashem and His Torah will succeed in providing much honor to Torah and lively love in your midst.
I hope that my short words will suffice to bring you to the necessary actions, so that your community will not backtrack in the sanctity that it worthily attained, i.e., having a great rabbi live permanently among you, to adjudicate and rule on matters of Hashem’s laws for Israel.
Sign Off: I sign with a blessing and with great love, Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the holy city of Yafo and the settlements.
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