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Shabbat Parashat Beha’alotcha 5781

Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook: Encouraging Torah Writers

#27 – part I

Date and Place Undated, the holy city of Yafo

: An open letter to our young, beloved brethren, students of Torah, living in the Holy Land 

Opening: Peace to you. 

: I am writing not because I have the strength to write but rather because I already lack the strength to remain silent.

Our (religious) situation is so horrible and painful that it does not leave respite for the heart. Every thought and idea must be brought forward, whether orally or in writing. May the spirit of Hashem lead us (Yeshayahu 63:14), and we shall breathe the spirit of life. We must discuss now matters that are very powerful and great, even though we are so downtrodden and weak and it seems to us as if we, of all people, are superfluous in the world, and everyone is pointing at us and shaking their heads in disbelief.

Within our inner beings, do we have spirit? Does power dwell within us? Why do we walk so bent over, wrinkled, crawling, and trembling? In truth, we should and must be full of courage and cloaked in bravery, for there is no power like the Torah.

The world, even the Hebrew one (primarily, secular Zionists), despite its lowly state, due to our great sins, still possesses movement and life. It is just we (the religious inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael, or “the Old Yishuv”) who are incapable of lifting a finger and displaying a sign of reawakening.

One might say: “We do not have to be jealous of powerful people’s ability to act. Just like they do not try to compete with us in our undertakings, so too we need not try to compete with theirs.” [However, that is incorrect.]

The brave of spirit (secular Zionists) stand up against us with an uncovered arm and with a scepter of fearful fire … The pen has captured the world, ruling over its thoughts, its emotions, and even people’s actions. It proceeds with confidence, with sharp arrows and penetrating swords, which it calmly sends forth.

Is it conceivable that we are permitted to be silent and not acquire for ourselves this modern form of weapon? The pen is like a body of water that swells from within (Shabbat 65b). It receives its strength from the reservoir of thought, and fruitful thought comes from deep investigation. This follows broad knowledge and is a product of exposure to material and its analysis, as they join together with emotion and life.

Why shouldn’t we (students of Torah) also acquire pens (i.e., publish impressive works of Torah scholarship and thought)? Have our minds dried up, Heaven forbid? Our minds should be like dew, full of the logic of truth and the knowledge of the sacred. Are we finished with all of the thoughts from the depths of our hearts?

Thank G-d, we occupy ourselves with Torah study, with essential halachic rulings. We must note that these are also gateways to inner thoughts and the hidden treasure of a storehouse of pure fear of Hashem, which is the beginning of knowledge and the source of wisdom.

We will continue next week.

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